10th anniversary of Dude, Where’s My TV?

TVO’s CICO-DT-92 tower serving Cloyne, Ontario. Photo taken in April 2020.

Dear Minister Guilbeault,

May 15, 2010 marked the first post to this blog. At the time, I was primarily concerned about how Canada’s approach to its 700 MHz spectrum auction and transition to digital over-the-air (OTA) television might affect household access to OTA Canadian television.  10 years on and I’m still concerned about household access to OTA Canadian television, although this time it’s related to Canada’s auctioning and repack of the 600 MHz band.

While the past decade has seen the slow decline in cable and satellite TV subscriptions in Canada and rise of internet television streaming (thanks in large part to the launch of Netflix Canada at the end of 2010), OTA television viewing has held its own in Canada. While Media Technology Monitor reported 8% of Anglophone and 9% of Francophone Canadian households watched OTA television 10 years ago, by February 2020 7% of Anglophone and 8% of Francophone Canadian households were viewing OTA television. In addition, by 2020 MTM was also reporting that 76% of Anglo OTA TV viewers and 60% of Franco OTA TV viewers were supplementing their antenna television viewing with over-the-top (OTT) internet television viewing.

If Canadian OTA TV viewing has remained relatively steady over the past decade, why have Canadian television broadcasters such as CTV (Bell Media) and Global Television (Corus) requested (and received) permission from the CRTC to shutdown dozens of OTA television transmitters rather than moving them out of the 600 MHz band? The answer is that OTA television advertising revenue in Canada continues to decline. It’s important to remember then that while OTA television viewership has remained steady in Canada, the parent companies that own most of Canada’s OTA television stations aren’t making as much money via OTA as they used to and that’s why they’re reducing their number of transmitters following the 600 MHz repack.

That OTA television is no longer bringing in the sort of revenue that for-profit ownership groups (and their shareholders) expect from their Canadian media properties highlights the importance of public and educational television broadcasters such at CBC/Radio-Canada, Télé-Québec and TVO continuing to operate their OTA television transmitters. Public and educational television broadcasting serves the viewing public, not ownership groups.

After decimating its network of more than 600 OTA television transmitters down to just 27 following Canada’s 700 MHz transition, CBC/Radio-Canada has seemingly come to embrace the notion that the continued operation of its (or rather, Canada’s) OTA television transmitters serves the public interest.   While CBC/Radio-Canada has yet to announce any plans to commence OTA multiplexing or ATSC 3.0 testing, the public broadcaster did note in its 2020 licence renewal request to the CRTC that it has no plans to shut down any of its television (or radio) transmitters during its next licence period.   When asked to expand on this shift in attitude toward OTA, CBC/Radio-Canada’s Directeur, Ingénierie de la Transmission Charles Rousseau noted the following via email last week:

Over the air television is 100% free whereas internet and bandwidth cost money to people, we believe we better fulfil our role keeping those transmitter in the biggest
market in Canada and have the CBC/Radio-Canada signal available for everyone. With what happen internationally with COVID19 brings live news each day, it is a very good example on how linear TV is still relevant. Cord cutting is also happening in Canada, I
(personal opinion here) believe that people will not throw their tv set away but will simply connect a small antenna to it. All that said, I’m sure you have also observe that we are already full speed ahead in all digital platform.



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Roger and Out (Good Buddy)

Dear Minister Guilbeault,

Congrats on your new appointment.

As you may know, Shaw Direct commenced the shutdown of its wildly successful no fee Local Television Satellite Solution (LTSS) program starting ~ November 5. By Shaw Direct’s ledger this represented more than nine weeks of bonus Groundhog Day TV for LTSS subscribers.

My hunch is that many Canadian households always knew it was a limited time offer but they took it anyway after Canada botched its 2011 digital television transition. As Graham Longford noted in 2008, spectrum matters.

According to a Twitter DM reply from Shaw Direct, the company’s target is to complete the LTSS shutdown by early December 2019.

Once settled into your new digs, if you’re able to please reach out to J.R. Shaw and see how your government might not only help to maintain but enhance television access to tens of thousands of LTSSers it would be greatly appreciated.



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LTSS Groundhog Days?

Dear Minister Rodriguez,

As noted in my previous post, Broadcasting Decision CRTC 2019-267 suggested that Shaw Direct’s LTSS would continue until at least November 30, 2019.

After congratulating the CRTC and Shaw on the move, both replied that in fact the LTSS would end August 31, 2019. The CRTC then doubled-down with a special post on its website.

It’s now September 3 and (last I checked) the LTSS has yet to end. There’s been radio silence from the CRTC and Shaw on the matter.

Are these LTSS Groundhog Days? If so, what are we learning each day about how to regulate our broadcasting system in the digital age?

Please advise,


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Shaw Direct’s LTSS extended until at least November 30, 2019

Dear Minister Rodriguez,

Writing to advise that the CRTC administratively-renewed Shaw Direct’s licence today until November 30, 2019, “subject to the same terms and conditions as those in effect under the current licenc(e)”. This means that Shaw’s no-fee Local Television Satellite Solution (LTSS) program will continue until at least Nov 30th since the LTSS is part of the terms and conditions in effect under Shaw Direct’s current DTH (Star Choice) licence scheduled to expire August 31st.

This decision will help to maintain TV access to the 30,000+ Canadian households that subscribe to the no-fee LTSS. Still curious to hear what your plan is to maintain such no-fee household access to TV if changes are made to the LTSS after November 30.

Please advise,


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Shaw Direct planning to “terminate” its no-fee Local Television Satellite Solution (LTSS) August 31, 2019

Homemade LTSS sign in a New Brunswick corner store.

Homemade LTSS sign in New Brunswick. Photo credit: Fenwick McKelvey’s parents

Dear Minister Rodriguez,

Congrats on your 2018 appointment as Minister of Canadian Heritage.

Writing with regards to CRTC Broadcasting Notice of Consultation CRTC 2019-107 that includes the licence renewal request by Shaw Direct (Star Choice Television Network).

As part of Shaw Direct’s licence renewal request, the direct-to-home (DTH) satellite distribution undertaking aims to terminate its no-fee Local Television Satellite Solution (#LTSS) by the end of August 2019.  Shaw Direct’s application notes that more than 31,500 Canadian households will be affected by the change.

Shaw Direct’s LTSS was approved by the CRTC in 2010 in order to allow Canadian households that lost access to over-the-air (OTA) television signals as a result of Canada’s 2011 digital television transition to continue to access Canadian television programming for no-fee.

What is your plan to maintain such no-fee television access by more than 31,500 Canadian households if the CRTC approves Shaw Direct’s plan? Will the Government of Canada fund the no-fee LTSS service instead?

Please advise,


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Part 2: Canada and ATSC 3.0

By TRauMa - Own work, CC0

By TRauMa – Own work, CC0

Dear Minister Joly,

Figured I’d follow up my previous post about how small Canadian television broadcasters are planning (if at all) for ATSC 3.0 with a post about what the Canadian television broadcasters “owned by large English ownership groups” are planning.

While the 2017 CRTC decisions regarding these broadcasters are currently being “reconsidered” by the CRTC, as you know, I imagine their ATSC 3.0 plans will remain unchanged.

Once again, these large Canadian television broadcasters are looking to the CRTC and ISED to take the lead on if/how they should be planning for ATSC 3.0.

Source: Call for licence renewal applications – Submission of renewal applications for television licences owned by large English- and French-language ownership groups that will expire in 2017.

Rogers: (City, OMNI 1, OMNI 2)

“Rogers currently has no immediate plans to transition to ATSC 3.0 as this new standard is currently undergoing testing. There will be a variety of impacts on Rogers as a broadcaster and on our viewers with the upcoming transition to ATSC 3.0:

  • The current standard (ATSC A/53) is incompatible with ATSC 3.0, which means that our viewers will need to buy new television sets when they become available.
  • There is a lack of readily available ATSC 3.0 devices in the market such as television sets and smart mobile devices.
  • There is currently a limited supply and selection of ATSC 3.0 broadcasting equipment.
  • Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED) will need to develop a transition plan to support the migration to ATSC 3.0 as broadcasters will need to run both ATSC and ATSC 3.0 transmitters. This will be challenging as ISED also plans to repack the spectrum with the highest density.
  • Operational costs will double as broadcasters will be required to run both ATSC and ATSC 3.0 transmission facilities during a transition period to accommodate viewers.
  • It will be technically difficult and costly to retro-fit existing transmitter sites to support ATSC 3.0.”

Corus: (Global TV)

“ATSC 3.0 offers new opportunities in the delivery of scalable content to mobile and other devices. The ATSC 3.0 standard has not as yet, been finalized and as such Corus has no plans to transition. ATSC 3.0 is expected to be incompatible with the current ATSC 1.0 broadcast system. This will render obsolete any existing television receivers in the marketplace and require a significant new investment on behalf of the consumer. Corus participates in the CAB Technical Coordinating Committee (TCC) and the North American Broadcasters Association (NABA) and closely monitors the development of ATSC 3.0.

Furthermore, any near-future timeline for implementation of ATSC 3.0 standard completion would come soon after, or during, the time when Corus and other broadcasters would be implementing changes resultant from the release of a new channel and coverage plan prompted by the repacking of the 600 MHz spectrum, changes which themselves require significant recent spending of money and resources for transmission upgrades from analog to digital.

This issue is one that will need to be carefully managed by all industry stakeholders if the introduction of this new technology is to be successful.”

Bell: (CTV, CTV Two)

“We recognize that the next-generation ATSC 3.0 digital broadcast standard will offer enhancements and opportunities to meet consumers viewing habits across Bell’s various platforms. The over-the-air standard will enable Bell to transmit higher-quality 4K UHD video and immersive audio in the beginning with possible 8K support later in the future. It will give Bell the option to offer multiple channels within that single 6 MHz bandwidth.

As the standard is IP-based, ATSC 3.0 has the capability of broadcasting broadband content to smartphones and tablets as well as providing greater interactivity between the consumer and Bell by permitting viewers the chance to customize the type of content they want delivered, watch on-demand video, alternate video angles, audio language support and more. This will allow Bell to create new hybrid services and augment regular TV broadcasts with greater interactivity.

We also recognize that through ATSC 3.0, this will take emergency alerting to the next level by broadcasting features such as device wake up, maps, evacuation routes, video clips and more. These new capabilities will certainly enhance the current method that is limited to a text crawl on the bottom of your screen and an audio overlay.

Once ATSC 3.0 becomes an official standard, more effort will be placed on realizing its full potential on Bell’s existing platform. ATSC 3.0 will complement Bell’s existing services to our subscribers/viewers.”



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Canada and ATSC 3.0

Dear Minister Joly,

A number of small Canadian television broadcasters have recently submitted requests to renew their licences.  As part of their applications, the CRTC has asked each broadcaster to share their plans (if any) for the new ATSC 3.0 television broadcast standard. The Commission has also asked if broadcasters will use ATSC 3.0 to broadcast programs in “Ultra High-Definition 4K and High Dynamic Range”.

The CRTC describes the new standard (currently in use in the U.S. and South Korea) as follows, “ATSC 3.0 aims to provide improvements in performance, functionality and efficiency compared with the current standard (ATSC A/53) so that video and data content can be viewed on any device (e.g. tablets, cellphone) and delivered using various platforms (e.g. over-the-air (OTA), Internet)”.

If OTA television broadcasting is going to have a future in Canada, where powerful wireless cell phone/internet providers are hungry to exploit valuable electromagnetic radio spectrum (owned by Canadians),  the approval and use of a new IP-based OTA TV standard capable of 4K/UHD TV delivery, mobile delivery, and interactive features will be key.

Here’s an edited, non-exhaustive list of the plans for ATSC 3.0 and 4K delivery shared by small (non-vertically integrated) Canadian television broadcasters. In summary, no ATSC 3.0 testing has been reported by the following broadcasters and all (other than CHEK in Victoria, B.C.) are waiting until the CRTC finalizes the ATSC 3.0 standard.

Thunder Bay Electronics Limited (CHFD-DT)

“We have no plans at this time to transition to ATSC 3.0. As such there will be no impact on our conventional television station and the station’s viewers.”

RNC Média inc. (CKRN-DT/CJDG-DT)

“CKRN-DT does not intend at the moment to invest in the new ATSC 3.0 standard, especially as we mention in response to the 600 MHZ question, CKRN-DT will have to make changes to five retransmission transmitters.”

2190015 Ontario Inc. (CHCH-DT)

“Once the ATSC 3.0 standard is finalized, we will evaluate it and see how it
would benefit the communities that we service. With mobile viewing considered a fundamental aspect of the specification, we are excited by the prospect of our viewers having more options to view CHCH. Currently, our HD sites are not equipped to broadcast the ATSC 3.0 signal.”

“There would be as-yet-unknown costs to upgrade these sites once hardware is available. The type of programming that we currently broadcast does not have a lot of
4K inventory available on the market. We would also need to upgrade our news production facilities to 4K. These facilities were just recently upgraded to HD, and until that investment is amortized it would not make a great deal of sense to replace it.”

0859291 BC Ltd dba CHEK Media Group (CHEK-DT)

“Since we will be required to transition to a new frequency as part of the 600 MHz
repurposing, we expect to upgrade our transmission equipment so that we will be ATSC
3.0. The impact to our station will be capital investment for the associated transmission
equipment, antenna and our ATSC local encoders which will need to support the
HEVC/H.265 video compression. Signal transport capabilities from our broadcast centre
to our transmit site will also likely require modification. We believe that the impact of
ATSC 3.0 on our current viewers would be positive as we would be able to expand the
access to our programming and enhance its offering by utilizing all of the advancements
that that the technology provides.”

“4K is of interest to our organization and in our opinion even more so HDR as it offers
dramatic enhancements to current picture quality. As we continue to upgrade EOL
hardware, where possible, we are upgrading our technology to support 4K. Continued
trajectory of our upgrades will put us in a likely future position to support and launch in
4K, as long as there are no unforeseen associated costs that are out of scope for our


“CKES/CKCS/CITS will be closely watching market uptake and regulatory conditions for
opportunities to take advantage of capability of Next-Generation OTA technology to
provide a superior audience viewing experience. ATSC 3.0’s versatility would allow
us to explore new business models to give consumer new ways to consume digital
content in a manner more in tune to how they wanted it. There would also be the
opportunity to provide content that supplement the main broadcast, bringing even
more value to the consumer.”

“Yes, where the content is available, CKES/CKCS/CITS would pass [4K programming] through to our ATSC 3.0 transmitter. Broadcast Distribution Undertakings (BDUs) should also be encouraged to develop the technology required to properly handle this picture
quality and pass it on to their subscribers for the must carry OTAs on their


For the time being, over a three to five year horizon, we do not expect to migrate to ATSC 3.0. We will start the analysis in about 3 years. Several advanced features will be put forward. The ATSC 3.0 standard allows a flexible and robust distribution system. Greater data transmission capacity per channel and greater flexibility for the allocation of these data. When Télé-Québec makes the transition, we intend to deploy the Ultra High Definition associated with high definition audio. The two handsets will give the television experience a level of immersion never equaled in television distribution. The other feature we will be highlighting is the ability of a point-to-multipoint high-speed IP Internet broadcast. This feature will allow the exploitation of new value-added interactive applications for our audiences.

Jim Pattison Broadcast Group LP (CHAT-TV)  *Still broadcasting in analogue

“We support the concept but have no short-term plans to implement ATSC 3.0.
Implementing ATSC 3.0 would be a significant capital investment at the same time as we
must make substantial investments because of the 600 MHz spectrum changes.
Current television sets are not compatible with ATSC 3.0 so consumers must first replace
their television sets which are not readily available in the market. Plus there is no incentive
for consumers to consider purchasing an ATSC 3.0 compatible television in Canada.
Both the current system and ATSC 3.0 systems would have to be maintained for a
considerable length of time effectively doubling costs. Once ATSC 3.0 becomes an official standard, JPBG will place more effort on realizing its full potential on our existing platform.”

Southshore Broadcasting Inc. (CFTV)

“Our play out system currently is encoding our signal via an AVWELLDMP 900 we can provide multicast IP compressed or uncompressed signal MP2 or MP4 and are currently testing a streaming application from our server for Android and Apple devices.”

“No, [4K OTA] will not be leveraged.”

Newfoundland Broadcasting Co. Ltd. (CJON-DT)

“CJON-DT has no immediate plans to upgrade its facilities to ATSC 3.0. The upgrade from analog to HD saw all of our older NTSC studio plant completely replaced. Further, a complete new transmission facility was installed to accommodate the upgrade to HD. Beyond those upgrades required to maintain operational efficiency, the financial resources required would not yield any benefit to NTV, especially with conventional TV revenues declining. We prefer to adopt a wait and see attitude to this new standard since standards have a nasty habit of changing especially in their infancy. We also note that new television sets will be required and while consumers are likely to buy these newer sets once their existing sets fail we maintain that the public will be slow to adopt new sets when their existing digital TV’s are working just fine. The transition is unlike the requirement
to switch to digital from analog. Further, programming is slow to respond to newer formats, even today, we find old programs which are not HD. This is especially true of any archival footage we may have and certain programs which are simply not available in HD. Increasing resolution beyond current levels will only make these programs look worse to the viewers. We note that despite our efforts to make CJON-DT HD which was completed on August 3, 2011, Bell Satellite have not yet seen fit to establish a spot in their HD offerings for NTV. Our over the air picture quality on Ch21 -1 is pristine. The cable companies and Shaw direct have upgraded their services, but Bell satellite has not.”

“CJON-DT has no immediate plans to distribute the latest Ultra High-Definition 4K and High Dynamic Range picture quality and as we have stated in the question answered above, this would require substantial upgrades to our studio and transmission equipment. We believe at this time since conventional broadcast revenues are generally on the decline, this has caused many smaller conventional broadcasters pause on further technological upgrades beyond those that are absolutely required. Newfoundland Broadcasting shares this view. ”


“The transition to ATSC 3.0 standards involves significant impacts because it will lead to changes, such as equipment replacements, both on the broadcaster side and on the viewer side (set-top box, television). As the standard is not completed to date and equipment is not yet available, it is difficult to quantify the costs and benefits, both at the broadcaster and at the viewer level.

We do not intend for the moment to invest in the new ATSC 3.0 standard. Currently, all transmitters and rebroadcasters in CKRT-DT (total of 7) have been converted to HD digital broadcasting. This important investment was made in 2011, it is still very recent and meets the needs of our audience.

We believe that television viewing in our regions through the Internet is still very marginal, but we concede that there is some upward trend.

It would cost about $ 20,000 per transmitter to convert our 7 transmitters to the new ATSC 3.0 standard.”


Same response as CKRT-TV but with the following changes:

Some BDUs, including Videotron, offer certain television channels, including the CIMT-DT signal, to their subscribers via the Internet, including mobile phones and mobile phones. But, at the latest news, the results of listening to this service were far from expectations.”

“It would cost about $ 20,000 per transmitter to convert our 8 transmitters to the new ATSC 3.0 standard.




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Camp Fortune. Chelsea, QC.

Dear Minister Joly,

Today is the day that TVO, Ontario’s educational public television broadcaster, had originally scheduled to shut down eight of its nine over-the-air (OTA) digital television transmitters. At the time of the announcement in January 2017, TVO’s CEO Lisa de Wilde argued that the change (as approved by TVO’s Board of Directors) reflected “the reality of today’s media environment” and that the shutdown would save the broadcaster $1 million dollars annually.  Less than three weeks later TVO reversed the decision, stating that it had heard from its viewers and that its digital OTA transmitters in Windsor, London, Chatham, Kitchener, Belleville, Cloyne, Ottawa, and Thunder Bay would continue operating past July 31, 2017.

While it appears that TVO will continue to support its nine OTA digital television transmitters until the end of the year, it is unclear whether or not January 2018 will see TVO attempt another shutdown of its transmitters outside of Toronto. This scenario highlights the important question of how to assess when is the right time for a conventional OTA television broadcaster to shut down a transmitter.  Based on statements made by TVO on this topic, that time has already passed since the educational public broadcaster is desperate to siphon savings to be realized from the shutdown of OTA transmitters, even if it means citizen access to its programming is degraded as a result. While TVO’s broadcast licence is subject to approval by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), TVO reports to the Ontario Ministry of Education and receives roughly 85% of its (combined) annual revenue from the province.  According to TVO, the scratching of the planned July 31, 2017 transmitter shutdown outside of Toronto was only possible after the Ontario Minister of Education Mitzie Hunter offered up an extra $1 million dollars so that TVO might continue operating all nine of its OTA transmitters throughout Ontario’s sesquicentennial year.

With TVO’s OTA television transmitters outside of Toronto apparently now operating on a one time emergency cash injection from the province, a comprehensive OTA television transition plan from TVO is due. Such a transition plan will need to be shared with Ontarians prior to implementation if the broadcaster hopes to avoid a repeat of 2017.  Ideally, this plan will span from 2018 to TVO’s next CRTC broadcast licence renewal request date in 2022.

In the meantime, TVO must enhance the online live streaming of its programming to Ontarians prior to shutting down any of its OTA transmitters. While the delivery of TVO programming via the open internet still requires Ontario households to both seek out and secure a broadband internet connection suitable for video streaming (service that is not yet available across the entire province), and to pay for a monthly internet plan that will cover regular online video streaming of TVO programming, such live streaming would nonetheless provide access to TVO programming to internet-connected Ontarians streaming TVO from home, school, the public library, and/or a Tim Hortons parking lot. Currently, TVO’s The Agenda is the only program that TVO live streams on a regular basis.

In addition, TVO also needs to start advising Ontarians on how best to prepare for Canada’s 600 MHz spectrum repack that will require five of TVO’s nine OTA television transmitters to change the channel that they broadcast on starting as early as 2019.



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Screen Shot 2017-07-14 at 6.38.22 PM

Dear Minister Joly,



Steven James May, PhD


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Canada’s 600 MHz DTV transition: 238 analogue OTA TV transmitters slated for transition to digital OTA TV

Dear Minister Joly,

Long time! Did you get to meet Bono at the Canada Day 150 celebrations?

Now that Minister Bains at ISED has announced Canada’s 600 MHz DTV transition plan, I’m particularly interested in the 238 analogue OTA (NTSC) TV transmitters slated to transition to digital OTA TV between 2019 and 2022 (for a handy list of the analogue transmitters see this link: Analogue OTA transmitter slated for transition to digital). Will these 238 analogue NTSC transmitters be switching to the ATSC 1.0 DTV standard or to the new ATSC 3.0 DTV standard? For an ATSC 3.0 DTV primer see this video.

Whether a Canadian television broadcaster is switching from digital OTA to digital OTA, or from analogue OTA to digital OTA, what is your plan in terms of informing the public of this change and of ensuring that households will maintain access to Canadian television?

Please advise,



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