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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Digital Canada 150: ON or OFF? blog

Hello Minister Joly,

Click below for my Digital Canada 150 blog where I’ll be bloggin’ until at least Canada Day.



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Skinny Basic a boon for OTA?



Dear Minister Joly,

Congrats on the new gig.

Now that Phase I of the CRTC’s Skinny Basic is in place, I wonder if this just might be the break that (over-the-air) OTA TV in Canada has been waiting for.

While the Skinny Basic packages are fairly limited, particularly Bell’s offering, they do offer TV channels unavailable OTA that might interest Canadian television-viewing households. These non-OTA channels include The Weather Network, CPAC, AMI, APTN, TFO and others.

If such a package is appealing and worth $25 (plus other fees) to a household, and the only thing holding them back is the possible loss of their favourite sports programming or programming from American station(s), they may find out that the channels they are afraid of losing are available OTA (and always have been).

For example, some or all of the conventional U.S. stations such as CBS, ABC, NBC and PBS (plus others) are available with an antenna to many Canadians residing near the U.S. border (which includes most Canadians).

In terms of sports programming, television viewers may be satisfied with watching NHL games once a week OTA on Saturdays care of the Hockey Night in Canada feeds that Rogers offers via CBC-TV, City and OMNI.

Better yet, perhaps this regulatory TV shift will result in television viewers cancelling their traditional television subscriptions all together and instead opt to use the CRTC’s new signal tool to find local OTA TV stations.



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Godspeed You! TV User

Dear Minister Glover,

More Let’s Talk TV regulatory decision M&M’s were doled out today by CRTC Chairman Blais.

I’m a TV delivery/carriage guy, as you know, so while the day was more about TV content regs, Chairman Blais’ mention of Emperor did pique my interest.

I mused recently that if TV Content is King, then TV Delivery is Emperor.

Blais argued today that the Viewer is Emperor.

While it’s certainly true that citizens no longer need to wait for scheduled transmissions (outside of the Super Bowl and other events like it), TV delivery remains the most interesting and important aspect of TV regulation for me.

Also, if we’re going to talk about two-way interactive TV, we need to discuss active users with agency and not passive viewing audiences.

TV access is the hard part of TV regulation as far as I’m concerned.

The rest is housekeeping.  😉


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$5 Bucks, $5 Bucks, $5 Bucks!


Image Source:

 *Update: Shortly after posting this, I noticed that Bell Mobile TV is now $5 for 5 hours of TV/month instead of the 10 hours per month that was included up until a week or two ago.

*Update: Bell has advised that the rate change was effective Jan 15/15.

Dear Minister Glover,

Pizza is not TV but neither is footwear so here goes.

As you know, Bell Mobility Inc./BCE is none too pleased that the CRTC ruled in favour of the assertion made by Ben Klass that Bell’s $5 Bucks! Bell Mobile TV special (not pictured above) allowing Canadians to watch 10 hours of TV per month (AKA: roughly 2.5 lousy Leafs games….which doesn’t seem like much TV per month to me),”confers an undue preference”.

Bell has filed a motion with the Federal Court of Appeal for leave to appeal the decision. While we all wait to find out if the court will hear the motion, I have a possible solution.

Why doesn’t Bell instead just expand its $5 Bucks Bell Mobile TV deal to cover any TV content? Would this move not please Ben, Bell and the CRTC? Pay $5/month and eat your 10 hours of pizza!

“That’s too hard, Steven!”, you might say. “How will Bell ever figure out how to let a user  watch CTV TWO, CBC/Radio-Canada, TSN, PBS, Netflix, TVA, NFB/ONF, CPAC or any other “TV” channel in the world and then sort out all the rights and turn a profit in the process?” you might continue to say.

My (unhelpful) answer to such a reply is that I watch over-the-air TV on this mobile TV (at a loss to Bell, Shaw, Rogers, CBC and others, we’re told) and that I don’t regard cable TV, satellite TV, IPTV, or Bell Mobile TV as TV “broadcasting” even though the CRTC does.



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