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Rick_C_'s avatar
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Southern California poor PBS transmission

The Southern California digital transmission of PBS programming is fraught with video tiling and freeze framing with audio garbling. This is due to Cox inability to decipher the PBS feed correctly. Is this a problem with other networks in other parts of the country?

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  • Buhl's avatar
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    Yes, in Phoenix, AZ.  Network MeTv channel 93 in Phoenix suddenly started tiling and freezing about 2 weeks ago.  This happens on 2 different televisions in 2 separate rooms with 2 separate Cox receiver boxes in my home.  All the other channels are fine.  I've contacted Cox several times and keep getting the run-around.  I've rebooted, reset, and anything else you can think of and the station continues to tile and freeze.  How did you learn of the "inability to decipher feed correctly"?  Did Cox tell you that?  They haven't told me anything.  Can it be fixed?

  • Rick_C_'s avatar
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    No, of course Cox didn't tell me anything. They have a pretty effective firewall between customers and technical support (as opposed to customer support) staff. Admittedly the huge majority of callers for support have easy connection questions that can be handled by simple reset instructions. I'm not one of those and neither are you. We handle the easy stuff ourselves and are disappointed not to get better technical support for the hard questions.

    My memory is getting foggy on this because it’s been going on so long (months). Plus the problem seems to wax and wane, which I don’t think is my imagination or related to my viewing habits. My Cox TV reception suffers from video freezing followed by momentary pixilation. Initially this occurred while the audio continued unaffected; the video would catch up. Because I watch primarily PBS, that's where I notice it most often. This has gone on since at least May, maybe longer. 

In the early months I'd complained to Cox but usually gotten the response that the problem was in the PBS feed, not a problem with Cox distribution to Santa Barbara customers. Or that my problem was local to my own home and the cables or setup I had.

    So I scheduled a Cox technician to check my cables and splitters and boxes, etc., just to take that variable out of the equation. When he came he was on time, courteous, seemed knowledgeable, and thorough. He checked the cable boxes for my 2 TVs and spent most of his time in the crawl space under my house working on the cables. He tightened a number of connections and replaced a splitter or two. He checked the Cox box at the top of the pole across the street where the cable comes to my property. He said he'd follow-up the next day. I began watching cartoons (not my usual) on PBS to see if the problems persisted. They did. So I decided to phone PBS in Orange County to give them (another) heads-up about the viewing problem here in SB. Because PBS relies on donor subscriptions, acceptable reception is important to viewer satisfaction and financial support. I got an interesting story from their chief technician, Kim Tien.

    In the previous months PBS SoCal had upgraded their transmission equipment and protocols. This was with the full knowledge of Cox, which needed to know specifics in order to decode the signal for distribution to Santa Barbara and other California subscribers. I was told the Cox system is not as current as the PBS SoCal system but Cox said they could deal with it. Since the time of the upgrade, PBS SoCal has received dozens of complaints about picture quality. No complaints from DirectTV customers and none from TimeWarner customers. No complaints from any customers other than Cox subscribers. He reported there have been many discussions between Cox and PBS SoCal about this and the Cox technicians admit the signal "does not look right," but they cannot figure what the problem is.

    Because I'd left a detailed voice message for the PBS SoCal technician, Kim knew my problem before he returned my call. At the end of our conversation where he described their ongoing tango with Cox, he told me, "This was the last straw. Just before I called you, I switched our signal back to the older outdated version that Cox seemed to be able to handle. It should be okay for you and other Santa Barbara customers now." 

As soon as I got off the phone I turned on the cartoons again to check for improvement. I know he did something because now there was no audio. The video looked good. This time I called Cox Customer Support and spoke to Kendra in Houston. While reciting my story, the audio suddenly came back on and Kendra admitted she recognized something she could fix and did it. I don't know if it was a problem for me alone that she fixed or all SB Cox subscribers.

    Later that night watching the PBS NewsHour, I paid attention to disturbances in picture quality and noted 7 screen-freezes during a 7 minute story. They were irregularly spaced, some as long as 2 minutes apart but one stretch with 3 interruptions each 6 seconds apart. The good news is I got a great education about TV distribution. The "feed" is sent to Cox in a standard format (maybe scrambled or coded) that must be decoded for distribution by Cox to its subscribers. The suggestion that customers of no other distributors except Cox are having problems with PBS SoCal is pretty suspicious. I know I'm buying into the story of just one of the parties but I'd previously bought into the story from Cox that it was not their fault, too.

    As a result of the Cox technician visit to check my cables, I got an email inviting me to take an online survey about my satisfaction with the Cox service call. In addition to rating the service on 10-point scales I also described at length (like all my post here) the problem and my suspicions, i.e., Cox unable to handle upgraded PBS feed. As a result I got a phone call from Gloria at Cox in San Diego asking if the problem had been resolved. It was no random follow up. She told me Cox IT personnel had been working feverishly to repair the PBS distribution for several days. Coincidentally - or not - the Cox effort had begun the evening PBS switched back to the older equipment to produce their feed. Now Cox thought they had it right. Was my reception still freezing? she asked. No, I replied, it seems much improved, maybe back to normal.

    That was in July. Now the freeze frames – with audio stuttering - and video tiling have returned. My intent with this post is to tell the story in another venue, hoping to break through. I’d be pleased with some transparency on this issue. Right now it’s a he said/she said scenario. Ideally I’d like to be part of a customer test group that watched the Cox transmission of the PBS feed during certain hours and logged glitches as they occur. I’d like to be reassured that Cox and PBS SoCal are talking to each other, not just reacting to customer complaints like mine.

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  • Hi Rick and Buhl,

    Freezing, tiling, and audio drop-out are all symptoms that normally point to a signal issue. If the cable signal getting to the receiver isn't as strong as it needs to be, lots of odd symptoms can occur. Most of the time, this is caused by something as simple as a loose connection, a dying splitter, or perhaps a piece of our equipment outside the home that needs to be replaced.

    Rick, I appreciate the information you provided. I've reached out to our CA video team to get more information and an update on the PBS transmission/decoding issue.

    Buhl, I don't think the symptoms you're experiencing are related to the PBS/Cox equipment issue in southern California. It sounds like you have done some good troubleshooting on your own. Have you had a service call in the last 2 weeks? If not, the next step would be to schedule a service call so an on-site technician can take a closer look at what's happening. If you'd like my team to schedule that for you, email us at

  • Hi Rick,

    We’re still working with KOCE to resolve the tiling issues on channels 10/1010. I’ll update you as soon as we receive further details! 

  • Hi Rick,

    I just wanted to let you know that we are actively working with KOCE to ensure the tiling issues do not reoccur. Please feel free to reach out to us here or email us ( if you notice any tiling in the future.