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End of Free Television in Canada?

An article last Monday in the “Law Bytes” column of The [Toronto] Star explains how a decision from the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) could spell the end of free off-air TV in all but the largest markets in Canada.

The article, ”Free, off-air TV fades to black” by Michael Geist, explains that after broadcasters in Canada argued that with less than 10 percent of the audience viewing off-air signals, the digital transition was economically viable only in major markets. The CRTC has ruled that broadcasters are only expected to convert to digital in markets above a certain size with a certain number of TV stations. Refer to the article for the definition what CRTC defines as a “major market.”

Not only will viewers in most communities lose free off-air TV, but they will likely have to pay more to get service via cable, as CRTC allowed broadcasters to charge cable operators a fee for their signals. Cable and satellite providers said this could add $6/month to many cable bills.

Michael Geist holds the Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-commerce Law at the University of Ottawa. His article has a good overview of the Canadian broadcasters' situation.

Doug Lung is one of America's foremost authorities on broadcast RF technology. He has been with NBC since 1985 and is currently vice president of broadcast technology for NBC/Telemundo stations.