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CBC to Continue Broadcasting Analog After Canada DTV Transition

The Canadian Broadcasting Corp., Canada’s public broadcaster, has been granted permission by the country’s regulators to continue broadcasting analog signals after Canada’s DTV transition ends on Aug. 31.

Canada is scheduled to shut off analog broadcasts at the end of this month, but broadcasters have complained that the costs to install digital equipment are not worth it because of the low percentage of viewers who still get their TV exclusively over the air in certain regions, (CBC has estimated that approximately 92 percent of the country’s population gets their television via cable or satellite).

That could still affect up to a million Canadians that could lose their TV signals. The DTV transition will only affect Canada's 31 "mandatory markets," defined as the country's national, provincial and territorial capital cities; areas with a population over 300,000, and any smaller areas with more than one local OTA TV station. Smaller market broadcasters are allowed to continue broadcasting in analog below Channel 52 as long as they don't interfere with DTV signals.

The CBC has 27 transmitters (of which 22 fell within the mandatory markets), and as late as last December, said in a press release that it planned to have all of them converted to digital in time for the analog shutoff. However, the broadcaster has since told the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC, the Canada’s equivalent to the FCC), that it would cost $10 million and is not “economically feasible in some regions” according to the Vancouver Sun newspaper. The network has more than 600 towers that broadcast to remote areas and has told the commission that it can’t afford to upgrade all of them to digital. Unlike the U.S. DTV transition, Canada has no plans to subsidize the cost to consumers of digital converters.

Regions that could have lost CBC coverage after over-the-air signals cut off after Aug. 31, would have included areas around Calgary, Alberta; Saskatoon, Saskatchewan; Thunder Bay, Windsor, London and Paris, Ontario; Chicoutimi, Sherbrooke and Trois-Rivières, Quebec; Moncton, St. John and Fredericton, New Brunswick; Halifax, Nova Scotia; Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island; and St. John’s, Newfoundland.

The CBC has told the CRTC that it cannot continue to broadcast in analog indefinitely. “The useful life of CBC/Radio-Canada’s satellite distribution backbone for analog transmission ends in 2013,” it said. “The corporation will not reinvest in that infrastructure given the inevitability of analog obsolescence.”

CRTC said it will examine the CBC’s long-term plans for its analog transmitters next June when a public hearing will be held to renew its radio and television licenses.