Should broadcasters that don’t care about broadcasting remain broadcasters?

Dear Minister Moore,

I’ve been scratching my head regarding a number of digital transmitter applications submitted by Canadian broadcasters since January of this year.

First, it was CBC’s plans for CBDT in Fredericton/Saint John, New Brunswick.

Next came TVA’s and CBC’s digital transmitter plans for Saguenay, Quebec.

As pointed out by the CRTC, all three of these digital transition plans would see these television towers serving a smaller population than the previous analogue transmitters did.

In one sense, this should be no surprise.

Coverage loss is inevitable when upgrading television towers from analogue to digital since digital over-the-air television signal patterns do not match those of analogue.  This reality is something that I’ve been concerned (and harping on) about for the past few years.

What does surprise me is that broadcasters would knowingly submit digital transmitter plans to the CRTC that would see fewer Canadians in mandatory markets being able to watch their over-the-air TV signals.

What really surprises me is CBC’s plans for CBDT that would see over-the-air transmitter signal coverage for the Fredericton/Saint John region decrease by 62.5%, down from serving 303,465 Canadians to 113,930 (CRTC).

Why would a public broadcaster like CBC and a private, profit-seeking broadcaster like TVA put forward such transition plans to the CRTC?

The only answer I can think of is that private and public broadcasters no longer care if Canadians can watch their stations via over-the-air broadcasts.

Whether owned by a cable company or not,  these moves by TVA and CBC suggest that they are confident that enough Canadians in New Brunswick and Quebec will be able to pay to watch their programming (and ads) over cable, satellite and/or the web.

TVA and CBC seem to be saying that, sure, they’ll upgrade their transmitters to digital and stop analogue broadcasting in the mandatory markets outlined by the CRTC, but that they don’t really care if this is done properly.  They don’t seem to care that less Canadians will be able to receive their over-the-air signals. For a public broadcaster like CBC to suggest this especially perplexes me.

Curious to see how the interventions at the CRTC regarding these applications proceed.


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