Canadian Broadcasters Urged to Speed Up HD Transition

It seems there are at least two countries in North America whose respective governments are pushing their TV industries to adopt DTV at a faster pace. Canadian broadcasters and program producers have been warned by the Canadian government in Ottawa that they must work faster to adopt HD or viewers will search for other forms of programming and may pass on HD for years to come. This, at least, was the advice given to broadcast executives from Canada's heritage minister last weekend at the Banff World Television Festival.

According to Canadian press reports, the minister made his remarks after announcing $100 million for the next fiscal year for the Canadian Television Fund for nationally, regionally and locally produced programming. The government has asked the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation for a detailed schedule outlining its overall transition to DTV, including HD. The government heritage ministry is urging the federal Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission to press private broadcasters to shift to HD as quickly as possible.

This Canadian government emphasis on HD somewhat diverges from American government pressure, since the U.S. Telecommunications Act does not require any HD broadcasting, per se, whatsoever. (But this has not stopped some leaders on Capitol Hill from urging adoption of as much HD as possible, too, in the American DTV transition.) Canada has so far contributed about $800 million (about $635 million U.S.) in public TV funds since 1996.

Although some sports, such as Toronto Blue Jays games, air in HD, both the government and the private sector want more English-language drama (including HD) produced by Canadians and not dominated by other English-speaking countries. Viewership of Canadian-produced English drama is quite low, which is not the case with similar Canadian programming in French.