Canada Releases DTV Transition Plan

The Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) recently released its regulatory framework for the country's transition to digital over-the-air television following the ATSC standard. The rules do not set a deadline for a complete transition. The CRTC also asked for public feedback on proposed policies covering how digital broadcast services should be distributed by cable, satellite and wireless.

The CRTC guidelines stipulate that the transition be market-driven and voluntary. The commission will not impose deadlines. "Instead, broadcaster investment and consumer demand will dictate the rate at which the upgrade to digital broadcasting will occur," said the group.

Broadcasters are encouraged to construct digital transmitters, but are expected to maintain existing analog coverage through the transition. Current broadcasters have precedence in applying for DTV licenses, within a time limit. Transitional digital licenses will allow broadcasters to offer up to 14 hours a week of programming not available through analog, but the programming must be in HD, and half of it must be of Canadian origin. The CRTC hopes that this stipulation will help create demand for digital services.

In addition, all Canadian digital programs aired between 6 p.m. and 12 p.m. must be HD when such versions exists. By December 2007, two-thirds of broadcasters' schedules must be available in HD.