Posted in Montreal, My articles, TV

Even more details about Montreal’s digital TV transition

Updated Feb. 23, 2012, with the latest information on transmitters (CKMI now on permanent antenna, CFTU transmitting in digital).

Mount Royal tower is about to go digital

I wrote a feature that appeared in Saturday’s Gazette (Page E3, for those clipping) about the transition from analog television to digital, whose deadline is Aug. 31.

The main story focuses mainly on how local broadcasters are coping with the transition. It’s a big endeavour, and with less than 10% of Canadian households still using antennas to get their television service, it’s difficult to justify the cost (in the neighbourhood of $1 million per transmitter, but varying widely) of replacing the analog with digital.

That’s to say nothing about the consumers, many of whom are on the lower end of the income scale, who must now spend money on new equipment.

The sidebar focuses on consumers, and tries to explain how people can prepare. If you haven’t already heard 1,000 times, cable and satellite subscribers are unaffected. If you get your service by antenna, you either need a TV with a digital ATSC tuner (most new HDTVs have one) or a digital converter box.

My editor was very generous with the assigned length (in all it clocks in at a bit under 2,000 words), but even then there’s a lot of information I had to leave out, including a few conversations I had with actual TV viewers. I’ll try to include most of that information here.

The digital transition in Montreal

First, here’s how the digital transition is going for the nine television stations broadcasting in Montreal (updated 9am Sept. 1):

  • Five (CFCF/CTV, CFTM/TVA, CIVM/Télé-Québec, CFJP/V and CJNT/Metro 14) have completed the transition, switching off their analog transmitters and replacing them with digital ones that are now transmitting. They should all be at full power from their permanent antennas.
  • Three (CBMT/CBC, CBFT/Radio-Canada,CKMI-1/Global) have shut down their analog transmitters and have digital ones operating on their permanent assigned channels, but are not yet operating from what will be their permanent antenna on top of the Mount Royal tower. (CBMT and CBFT are also running at reduced power.) Those who don’t get these signals now may see that improve over the coming weeks.
  • One (CFTU/Canal Savoir) has been given a two-month extension to make the transition. It is still broadcasting in analog until the digital transmitter begins running.

Here’s more detail, by station. A few explanations first:

  • Power: Digital transmitter power for most of these stations is considerably less than analog power. That doesn’t necessarily mean the digital signal will be weaker. Because digital transmitters are far more efficient than analog ones (about 10 times in the case of UHF transmitters), the same range can be achieved with much less power. Most stations expect their coverage area will remain about the same. I use “authorized power” here to denote the average effective radiated power authorized by Industry Canada. The actual transmitters could be operating at less power than this.
  • Virtual channels: It’s kind of complicated, but the ATSC digital standard allows stations on one channel to pretend they’re on another. This is used so that stations that must change channels as part of the digital transition can show up on TVs under their former analog channels. So CBMT (CBC Montreal), for example, will actually be transmitting on Channel 21, but will appear on TV sets as Channel 6.1. The “.1″ denotes the digital subchannel, because digital transmitters allow more than one channel to be transmitted. So far no Canadian broadcaster is taking advantage of this.
  • CRTC cost estimate: The CRTC commissioned a study by engineers to determine a rough idea of the cost of changing transmitters to digital. This cost depends on a number of factors, including the pre- and post-transition channels. It should be taken with a truckload of salt, because it doesn’t take into account any particular characteristics of individual transmitters.
  • PSIP: The Program and System Information Protocol is a system that allows digital transmitters to send information to TV receivers. Among them, content ratings and program descriptions, like you’d find in a digital cable or satellite menu. Its use by broadcasters in Canada is mixed, because it’s not seen as a necessity.

CBMT

Status: Transmitting in digital on permanent channel but temporary antenna.

  • Brand: CBC Montreal
  • Analog transmitter:
    • Channel: 6
    • Authorized power: 100,000W
    • Location: Mount Royal tower
    • Status: shut down 12am Sept. 1
  • Transitional digital transmitter:
    • Channel: 20
    • Authorized power: 57,410W
    • Location: Mount Royal tower
    • Status: switched to post-transitional channel on or before Aug. 27
  • Post-transitional digital transmitter:
    • Channel: 21
    • Authorized power: 436,340W
    • Location: Mount Royal tower (same as analog)
    • Status: active at reduced power (100,000W)
  • Virtual digital channel: 6.1
  • Resolution: 720p
  • Broadcasting program information via PSIP: No
  • Available in HD on: Videotron illico (606), Bell TV (896/1030), Bell Fibe (1206)
  • Digital transmitter location: Mount Royal tower
  • CRTC cost estimate: $3,191,581
  • Retransmitters: Dozens of analog stations throughout Quebec (CBC Montreal is the only CBC station in Quebec with original programming). Digital transition postponed until Aug. 31, 2012 in the following mandatory markets: Quebec City, Sherbrooke, Trois-Rivières, Saguenay
  • Digital transition website: http://www.cbc.radio-canada.ca/dtv/Montreal_CBC.shtml

CBMT has had its digital transmitter up since 2005, but it’s waiting until Aug. 31 to shut down the analog one. While the transition in Montreal is expected to happen on schedule, CBC decided it didn’t have the money to make the switch for retransmitters (including Quebec City and Sherbrooke). The CRTC said it would allow a one-year extension so the analog to keep the analog transmitters running so they wouldn’t have to be shut down, but the CBC’s Steven Guiton told me they will probably just ask for another extension when that one comes up.

I asked José Breton, the guy who protested outside CBC in Quebec City demanding they not shut down the transmitter there because he wanted to watch Hockey Night in Canada, about the extension. I thought he would be happy, but turns out he’s not. “It’s a false compromise,” he said. Instead, the CRTC should have forced CBC/Radio-Canada to setup digital transmitters in mandatory markets before the deadline instead of saving money for “some white-collars’ salaries”. He also suggested the CRTC was being influenced by cable and satellite lobbyists.

CBMT’s digital transmitter has already switched to its permanent channel (which means digital tuners must rescan for channels to find it).

CBC Montreal’s newscast has been 16:9 since 2009, though the quality of the video during newscasts is poor even by standard definition standards.

As noted in the guide in The Gazette, because CBMT transmits in analog on Channel 6, which is just below the FM radio band, its audio channel can be heard at 87.75MHz. Most FM radios allow you to tune that low, even though the band ends at 88 MHz. The only perceivable difference between the audio channel of an analog TV transmission and an FM broadcast radio transmission is that the former has a lower volume. So people can do things like listen to Hockey Night in Canada on the radio. This will, unfortunately, end on Sept. 1 when the analog transmitter goes down.

CFCF

Status: Transmitting digital-only as of Aug. 31.

  • Brand: CTV Montreal
  • Analog transmitter:
    • Channel: 12
    • Authorized power: 325,000W
    • Location: Mount Royal tower
    • Status: shut down 12:05am Aug. 31 (this was pushed up a day, was originally to be Sept. 1)
  • Transitional digital transmitter:
    • Channel: 51
    • Authorized power: 2,700W
    • Location: Bell-Nexacor tower on Remembrance Rd.
    • Status: reduced power significantly around Aug. 27, shut down just after midnight Aug. 31
  • Post-transitional digital transmitter:
    • Channel: 12 (same as analog)
    • Authorized power: 10,600W
    • Location: Mount Royal tower (same as analog)
    • Status: active as of 12:50am Aug. 31
  • Virtual digital channel: 12.1
  • Resolution: 1080i
  • Broadcasting program information via PSIP: Program names, descriptions and ratings
  • Available in HD on: Videotron illico (607), Bell Fibe (1205)
  • Digital transmitter location: Mount Royal tower
  • CRTC cost estimate: $440,619
  • Retransmitters: None
  • Digital transition website: http://www.ctv.ca/digitalswitch/

CFCF setup a temporary digital transmitter in January specifically so it could get it on air before the Super Bowl to take advantage of simultaneous substitution in HD. In a letter dated Jan. 4, 2011, CTV VP Kevin Goldstein specifically cited the Super Bowl as reason to expedite the application:

CTV respectfully requests that the Commission consider this application in an expedited manner as we hope to have Commission approval on or before January 28th, 2011 in advance of the broadcast of the Super Bowl on February 6th, 2011. CTV holds the Canadian broadcast rights to one of the most high profile sporting and broadcasting events of the year and approval of this application will rectify some concerns we have with respect to the requirements of certain BDU’s to carry out simultaneous substitution during this broadcast.

CRTC gave approval on Jan. 21. The digital transmitter went live on Jan. 28. It’s on a small tower on Remembrance Rd. near Beaver Lake, about 400 metres from the main Mount Royal tower and with an antenna about 100 metres below where their analog one is.

CTV Montreal General Manager Don Bastien said everything is ready to go. The digital transmitter has been tested twice and all that’s left is to wait until the cutoff date. The analog transmitter is set to shut down at 12:05am on Sept. 1 – just after the end of the late newscast – and the permanent digital transmitter (using the same antenna and same channel) should be up 45 minutes later, he said.

Technical changes – including replacing the antenna, which had been in use since 1961 – happened last summer. Television transmitters on the Mount Royal tower were shut down overnight throughout the summer months as the tower was altered to prepare for the digital transition.

Bastien said the coverage area of the digital transmitter should be about the same as the analog one was (exact comparisons are difficult because of how reception of analog and digital signals differs).

CKMI-1

Status: Transmitting digital-only using temporary antenna as of Aug. 17.

  • Brand: Global Montreal
  • Analog transmitter:
    • Channel: 46
    • Authorized power: 33,000W
    • Location: Mount Royal tower
    • Status: shut down Aug. 13
  • Transitional/post-transitional digital transmitter:
    • Channel: 15 (was assigned 51, but got approval to use 15 instead)
    • Authorized power: 8,000W
    • Location: Mount Royal tower (was on temporary antenna lower on tower until mid-February)
    • Status: active since Aug. 17
  • Virtual digital channel: 15.1 (Global is the only Montreal station to choose a virtual channel different from its analog one)
  • Resolution: 1080i (Subchannel 15.2 offers 480i SD)
  • Broadcasting program information via PSIP: Program names, descriptions and ratings
  • Available in HD on: Videotron illico (608, replaced Global Toronto HD on Aug. 23)
  • Power (average ERP): 8,000W
  • Digital transmitter location: Mount Royal tower
  • CRTC cost estimate: $280,544/$380,994
  • Retransmitters:
    • Quebec City (CKMI), Channel 20, digital as of Aug. 13
    • Sherbrooke (CKMI-2), Channel 11, digital as of Aug. 10
  • Digital transition website: http://www.shaw.ca/dtv/

Global Montreal used to be based in Quebec City (which is why Quebec City’s station is CKMI and Montreal’s is CKMI-1). Canwest bought the station and setup transmitters in Montreal and Sherbrooke to create the regionally-licensed Global Quebec network. It then asked the CRTC to be re-licensed as a Montreal station so it could be allowed to seek local advertising.

CKMI-1 was the first of the nine Montreal stations to shut down its analog transmitter. It went dark on Aug. 13, and the digital transmitter started transmitting on Aug. 17. Global has been announcing that it’s now on Channel 15, and its virtual digital channel is 15.1. Its satellites in Quebec City and Sherbrooke had already made the transition earlier in the month. Both remain on the same channel.

Videotron has been carrying Global HD from Toronto, which has been kind of a strange situation where Montreal viewers have been seeing Toronto local newscasts unless they switch to the standard-definition version of the channel. Videotron replaced Global Toronto HD with Global Montreal HD on Aug. 23. (Global was so happy it sent out a press release on the subject.)

Global Montreal’s newscast is technically in high definition. The opening graphics are HD, as is the weather report (which is done out of Toronto). Master control is in Edmonton (I made a mistake in the original article, saying it was Vancouver – it switched to Edmonton in May 2009), which has HD facilities. Even the studio cameras are HD (the newscasts are anchored in Montreal, in a green room), but the data connection between Montreal and Edmonton isn’t fast enough to deliver an HD signal.

Thankfully, Global is owned by Shaw, which has experience in telecommunications. A fat pipe is being setup, edit suites in Montreal will be upgraded and HD field cameras will be issued. “We are optimistic that our newscast will be produced in HD by the end of the year,” said Shaw Media’s Dervla Kelly. Once that happens, CFCF will be the only station in Montreal that produces a newscast that’s not in HD.

“We’ve increased our over-the-air coverage area in all three markets,” Kelly said of Global’s Quebec stations. “More viewers will have access to our digital signal than had access to our analog signals.”

CJNT

Status: Transmitting digital-only as of Aug. 27.

  • Brand: Metro 14
  • Analog transmitter:
    • Channel: 62
    • Authorized power: 11,000W
    • Location: roof of building next to Mount Royal tower
    • Status: shut down morning of Aug. 27
  • Transitional digital transmitter:
    • Channel: 69
    • Status: never used
  • Post-transitional digital transmitter:
    • Channel: 49
    • Authorized power: 4,000W
    • Location: roof of CTV building next to Mount Royal tower (same as analog)
    • Status: began operation on evening of Aug. 27
  • Virtual digital channel: 62.1
  • Broadcasting program information via PSIP: No
  • Available in HD on: Videotron illico channel 614
  • Power (average ERP):
  • Digital transmitter location: Roof of CTV transmitter building next to Mount Royal tower
  • CRTC cost estimate: $273,881
  • Retransmitters: None
  • Digital transition website: http://www.metro14.ca/

You know CJNT, right? The multicultural station? It was scooped up by Canwest after failing to make money for many years, and it continued to not make money. Canwest threatened to shut it down along with the rest of its secondary E! network, but a company called Channel Zero bought it and sister station CHCH Hamilton for a grand total of $12. Since then, the station has produced no original programming, and has been embarrassingly repeating local shows from 2009 to fulfill its CRTC requirements. It has promised new programming for this fall, though, and some of it has already begun.

Metro 14 (the number is reference to its Videotron digital cable channel) went pretty well as scheduled for its digital transition. According to its schedule, the analog transmitter was to be shut off at 7am on Aug. 27 and the digital one was to be operational by 6pm. The delay was necessary to retune the antenna from Channel 62 to Channel 49. CHCH Broadcast Operations Manager Wayne Rabishaw, who is handling the CJNT transition along with four transmitters of CHCH, said the coverage area would actually greatly improve with the change, almost doubling, because the antenna they’re using (which the station originally got used) was actually better for Channel 49 than Channel 62.

CHCH itself made the switch on Aug. 15, and Rabishaw said they had already gotten hundreds of phone calls from viewers. London and Muskoka were scheduled for this week, and Ottawa is set for Aug. 31. Their four remaining retransmitters (Sudbury, Sault Ste. Marie, North Bay and Timmins) will stay analog for now.

Rabishaw couldn’t put a price on the CJNT transition, but said switching all five transmitters will cost Channel Zero “several million dollars”.

CJNT is transmitting in HD, but so far I haven’t spotted any actual HD programming on it. (Lots of programming in SD with black bars around it, though.) Rabishaw said programming will be in HD.

Metro 14′s note says Videotron will add the station’s HD feed on Channel 614 on Aug. 30. Cogeco will also begin carrying the station in standard and high-definition, but the satellite companies (Bell and Shaw) are only taking it in standard definition for now.

Once Videotron adds the HD feed, viewers can expect simultaneous substitution to begin in HD for American programming carried on CJNT. This includes 20/20, Nightline and Jimmy Kimmel Live.

CBFT

Status: Transmitting digital-only, on temporary antenna.

  • Brand: Radio-Canada Montréal
  • Analog transmitter:
    • Channel: 2
    • Authorized power: 100,000W
    • Location: Mount Royal tower
    • Status: shut down at 12am Sept. 1 (the last thing that aired was a beer ad)
  • Transitional digital transmitter:
    • Channel: 19
    • Authorized power: 54,970W
    • Location: Mount Royal tower (temporary antenna at base of tower)
    • Status: active
  • Post-transitional digital channel:
    • Channel: 19 (same as transitional)
    • Authorized power: 447,820W
    • Location: Mount Royal tower
    • Status: active at reduced power (100,000W)
  • Virtual digital channel: 2.1
  • Resolution: 720p
  • Broadcasting program information via PSIP: Program titles, but no descriptions
  • Available in HD on: Videotron illico (602), Bell TV (1802/860), Bell Fibe (1112), Shaw Direct (244/380)
  • Digital transmitter location: Mount Royal tower
  • CRTC cost estimate: $4,266,294 (highest in Montreal)
  • Retransmitters: 28, none in mandatory markets or above Channel 16
  • Digital transition website: http://www.cbc.radio-canada.ca/tvn/montreal_radio-canada.shtml

Like CBC, Radio-Canada has had a digital transmitter in Montreal since 2005. Since the transitional and post-transitional channels are the same, it is effectively operating in post-transitional mode, though I’m guessing from my signal meter that it’s not operating at the post-transitional power level yet. At nearly 450,000W, it will be the most powerful digital television transmitter in Quebec.

Just about all of Radio-Canada’s local and national programming has been in HD for some time.

Radio-Canada, like the CBC, will keep analog transmitters running in mandatory markets where it doesn’t originate programming. This mostly affects the Prairies, southern Ontario and Atlantic Canada. All mandatory markets in Quebec will transition.

Radio-Canada also has two full-power transmitters that are on channels in the 52-69 range: Sainte-Famille and Lac-Etchemin, both retransmitters of CBVT (Quebec City) and both on Channel 55. The Lac Etchemin transmitter will become low-power, staying on the same channel, while the Sainte-Famille transmitter will be shut down.

CFTM

Status: Transmitting digital-only as of Sept. 1.

  • Brand: TVA Montréal
  • Analog transmitter:
    • Channel: 10
    • Authorized power: 325,000W
    • Location: Mount Royal tower
    • Status: shut down 12:01am Sept. 1
  • Transitional digital transmitter:
    • Channel: 59
    • Authorized power: 6,140W
    • Location: TVA building (1600 de Maisonneuve Blvd. E.)
    • Status: never used
  • Post-transitional digital transmitter:
    • Channel: 10 (same as analog)
    • Authorized power: 11,000W
    • Location: Mount Royal tower (same as analog)
    • Status: active as of 12:35am Sept. 1
  • Virtual digital channel: 10.1
  • Broadcasting program information via PSIP: No
  • Resolution: 1080i
  • Available in HD on: Videotron illico (604), Bell TV (1804/861), Bell Fibe (1115), Shaw Direct (245/381)
  • Digital transmitter location: Mount Royal tower
  • CRTC cost estimate: $440,619
  • Retransmitters: None (but this is the flagship station of the TVA network)
  • Digital transition website: http://tva.canoe.ca/emissions/transitiontelenumerique/

TVA has, strangely, not been broadcasting in digital yet (or if it has, it’s such low power that nobody has seen it). The plan is to make the switch directly on the night of Aug. 31 to Sept. 1. TVA has to coordinate its switch with CTV, since both use the same antenna.

TVA’s local and national newscasts and other programming have been in HD for quite a while. Because it doesn’t simulcast American programming, it doesn’t need to setup a digital transmitter to take advantage of simultaneous substitution.

Across Quebec, TVA owns six stations, five of which will switch to digital (Montreal, Quebec, Sherbrooke, Saguenay, Trois-Rivières) and one will not (Rimouski). The transmitter in Saguenay (CJPM) will run at first on a temporary digital transmitter, and then a full transmitter by Oct. 31, TVA’s Serge Sasseville said. You can get channel information in this PDF file.

There are also four TVA affiliates not owned by Groupe TVA. Two stations in western Quebec are owned by RNC Media and are in mandatory markets (Gatineau and Rouyn-Noranda).

Two others in eastern Quebec are owned by Télé Inter-Rives:

  • CIMT in Rivière du Loup (a mandatory market), which has eight retransmitters, including one that fills a hole in coverage in the city of Rivière du Loup, and one in Edmunston, NB.
  • CHAU in Carleton-sur-Mer (which is not), which has 11 retransmitters around the Gaspé peninsula and northern New Brunswick.
Even though the CRTC’s requirements would only force Télé Inter-Rives to switch its transmitters in Rivière du Loup to digital and move its retransmitter in Les Escoumins off of Channel 57, it has applied to switch all of its transmitters to digital. The transition for CHAU and its retransmitters has been delayed until mid-November due to delays in getting equipment. But since these are all transmitters that could stay analog if they wanted to, there’s no deadline for making the change. CIMT and its retransmitters are still set for a Sept. 1 transition.

CFJP

Status: Transmitting digital-only as of Aug. 31.

  • Brand: V
  • Analog transmitter:
    • Channel: 35
    • Authorized power: 697,000W
    • Location: Mount Royal tower
    • Status: shut down 11:31pm Aug. 30
  • Transitional digital transmitter:
    • Channel: 42
    • Authorized power: 13,900W
    • Location: Sherbrooke St. E. (corner of Amherst St.)
    • Status: shut down Aug. 30
  • Post-transitional digital transmitter:
    • Channel: 35 (same as analog)
    • Authorized power: 13,750W (note this is actually slightly less than transitional transmitter)
    • Location: Sherbrooke St. E. (same as transitional)
    • Status: active as of 11:35pm Aug. 30
  • Virtual digital channel: 35.1
  • Resolution: 1080i
  • Broadcasting program information via PSIP: No
  • Available in HD on: Videotron illico (605), Bell TV (1803/862), Bell Fibe (1114), Shaw Direct (248/388)
  • Digital transmitter location: Sherbrooke and Berri Sts. (analog transmitter is on Mount Royal tower, but digital one will stay downtown for “strategic reasons”, the network says)
  • CRTC cost estimate: $280,713/$463,894
  • Retransmitters: None

V was kind of hard to get a hold of for this article. Emails and phone calls went unanswered until I finally heard from spokesperson Tim Ringuette, who blamed the network’s fall launch for keeping him busy. Ringuette said the station has moved its digital transmitter off the Mount Royal tower site. “Décision stratégique,” he wrote in a brief email. This most likely translates to “money” and V’s reluctance to spend a lot of it renting expensive space on the Mount Royal tower (not to mention all the engineering work that goes into setting up a transmitter next to a bunch of other high-powered transmitters).

Ringuette said the coverage area should be almost identical to the analog signal now. I’m very skeptical that a transmitter on a downtown building (more than 200 metres lower in elevation) at a tiny fraction of the power can have the same coverage, particularly because I don’t receive the digital transmitter at all right now.

CIVM

Status: Transmitting digital-only as of Sept. 1

  • Brand: Télé-Québec
  • Analog transmitter:
    • Channel: 17
    • Authorized power: 889,500W
    • Location: Mount Royal tower
    • Status: shut down for good at 1:30am Sept. 1
  • Transitional digital transmitter:
    • Channel: 27
    • Authorized power: 8,956W
    • Location: Olympic Stadium
    • Status: shut down just after midnight Sept. 1
  • Post-transitional digital transmitter:
    • Channel: 26
    • Authorized power: 160,600W
    • Location: Olympic Stadium (same as transitional)
    • Status: active as of 2:45am Sept. 1
  • Virtual digital channel: 17.1
  • Resolution: 1080i
  • Broadcasting program information via PSIP: Program names and descriptions
  • Available in HD on: Videotron illico (603), Bell TV (1839/799), Bell Fibe (1138)
  • Digital transmitter location: Olympic Stadium (analog transmitter is on Mount Royal tower, transitional digital one has been broadcasting from Olympic Stadium and will stay there post-transition)
  • CRTC cost estimate: $522,438/$676,519
  • Retransmitters: 11 (All Télé-Québec stations are effectively retransmitters of CIVM, and Télé-Québec plans to switch all of them to digital, regardless of market size)
  • Digital transition website: http://transitionnumerique.telequebec.tv/

Télé-Québec is the only one of the four French Quebec networks that has committed to transitioning all its transmitters to digital, regardless of market size. “La transition au numérique est notre priorité,” said spokesperson Catherine Leboeuf. “Il s’agit du plus important changement technologique à court terme.”

Digital transmitters are running in Montreal and Quebec City, the rest are scheduled to transition by Sept. 1.

Two exceptions are CIVB Rimouski and CIVB-1 Grand Fonds (which serves Rivière du Loup but is not considered a mandatory market station). They will be switching Sept. 7 and Sept. 15, respectively, and will maintain analog signal until their transition. Their website has a breakdown by transmitter.

The Montreal transmitter was setup on Olympic Stadium instead of Mount Royal and will remain there. The signal is very strong on the eastern side of the city, but those on the western side of the mountain are reporting trouble receiving it.

CFTU

Status: Transmitting digital-only as of Feb. 23. Transition deadline had been extended twice by the CRTC because of work on the tower.

  • Brand: Canal Savoir
  • Analog transmitter:
    • Channel: 29
    • Authorized power: 10,000W
    • Location: Université de Montréal tower
    • Status: shut down around Feb. 22-23
  • Transitional digital transmitter:
    • Channel: 54
    • Status: never used
  • Post-transitional digital transmitter:
    • Channel: 29 (same as analog)
    • Authorized power: 387W
    • Location: Université de Montréal tower
    • Status: active as of Feb. 23
  • Virtual digital channel: 29.1
  • Resolution: 480i (this is the only transmitter in Montreal not transmitting in HD)
  • Broadcasting program information via PSIP: Program names, some descriptions
  • Not available in HD on cable/satellite
  • Digital transmitter location: Université de Montréal
  • CRTC cost estimate: $210,606
  • Retransmitters: None
  • Digital transition website: http://www.canal.qc.ca/passage_au_numerique.php

Canal Savoir had the most interesting transition story, so much so that I made it the lead of my article. General Manager Sylvie Godbout explained to me that, you see, they wanted to make the transition deadline, but haven’t been able to access their transmitter because (1) the university is removing asbestos in the tower, and (2) a quartet of young peregrine falcons was just born there and couldn’t be disturbed by construction work. (They’re not technically endangered, but they’re considered at risk, depending on the region and subspecies.)

The asbestos work makes sense. The university decided to do it in August when there weren’t that many students around. The birds are just funny. In researching the article, I discovered that there’s even a blog dedicated to them. They’re named Tawodi, Rick, Éole and Altius, they’re all boys and were hatched in early May. You can see videos of their development if you go back a few pages on the blog.

So the CRTC has “graciously” given them an extension until Oct. 31. Godbout said the plan is to get it done before the end of September. Until then, the analog signal will keep running. (UPDATE: The station received an extension until December, and then another until March 31, as work on the tower caused more delays. It finally started transmitting around 2:30pm on Feb. 23, according to reports.)

A station run mostly by volunteers with an annual budget of $1.2 million, Canal Savoir would seem the least likely to want to spend a lot of money on a new transmitter. Godbout didn’t pretend as though the money wouldn’t have been better spent on programming, but she said they’ve known about this coming for three years and have been setting money aside for it. She wouldn’t say how much it’s going to cost (mostly because she doesn’t know exactly), but it wasn’t anywhere near the $1 million a transmitter figure that has been cited by the major broadcasters.

Canal Savoir is saving money, Godbout said, thanks in large part to assistance from Télé-Québec (Godbout used the term “graciously” more than once). Their analog transmitter – running for 25 years – was a used one from the provincial public broadcaster, and their technical help has also come from them. Though the station will have to buy a new digital transmitter, it will get help installing it.

Among the work that needs to be done is to reinforce the base of the antenna. Not easily done without disturbing the nest of some peregrine falcons that sits on the same tower.

Godbout also looked on the bright side: the old transmitter is the size of a fridge, and the new one will be smaller and generate much less heat, while serving the same population.

Though, Godbout said, she’s going to have to buy herself a digital converter box. Not because she doesn’t have cable service, but just so she can check on her station’s transmitter from home.

Stores: What DTV transition?

I stopped by a few electronics stores to see how they were promoting the converter boxes people would need to get their TV signals after the transition. I was puzzled to see not one of them was actually promoting this, just a week before the end of analog TV.

The Source, which is owned by Bell (and plugged by name in its DTV transition ads, which is kind of pushing an ethical boundary there), had plenty of information and displays about Bell TV service, but I found only a single DTV converter box, and a few tearsheets about the transition.

At Future Shop downtown, lots of shiny HDTVs, but no big signs explaining the DTV transition. I found the converters on a shelf next to cable and satellite boxes. There were about 20 of the cheap Access HD box, which is about the size of a portable CD player and costs $50, but has a reputation online of getting very hot and forgetting its digital channel programming every time it’s turned off. There were also some Coby boxes for sale for $60.

The flyers that came out this weekend for Future Shop and Best Buy also aren’t really plugging the DTV transition. Both have the Access HD box, but Future Shop has it on page 28 and Best Buy has it on the back page.

A media spokesperson for Future Shop nationally said sales of converter boxes are “exceeding expectations”. I’m guessing those expectations were fairly low.

When I went to Future Shop, I saw some people eyeing the converter boxes, spending quite a while trying to figure them out. I also overheard conversations between customers and staff looking at HDTVs that made it clear they had heard about the transition.

At Centre Hi-Fi, I stopped by, couldn’t find the converters, and when I asked a staff member where they were he said they were all sold out. A few days later they had more Access HD boxes in the store.

(“Access HD” is kind of a misnomer, implying that … well, it’s HD. It converts HD signals into analog, which is definitely not HD.)

My experience suggests you shouldn’t have too much of a problem finding converter boxes unless there’s a sudden rush for them (which could happen Sept. 1). Just stay away from The Source.

Digital subchannels: no thanks

One thing that kind of bugged me in the wake of the CBC transition delay was why Canadian stations weren’t using digital subchannels. The American networks are taking advantage of this technology, with a main channel carrying HD programming and multiple standard-definition channels with things like 24-hour weather, repeated newscasts or alternative network programming. But Canadian broadcasters aren’t using it.

I, and others, thought this would be a fine solution to CBC’s problem. In most of the markets affected, the CBC is setting up a digital transmitter for its other network. Quebec City has a Radio-Canada digital transmitter, Fredericton has a CBC digital transmitter, etc. Couldn’t they add a standard-definition subchannel with the other network on it? Quebec City’s Radio-Canada station would be in HD on 12.1, and CBC could be in SD on 12.2.

Martin Marcotte, CBC’s director of transmission (yeah, they have one of those), explained thusly:

CBC has looked at multiplexing of signals on a single transmitter.

First, that approach is not consistent with our general policy of building DTV transmitters only where we have originating stations.

Second, CBC-SRC wishes to transmit at the highest quality possible.

Third, it is correct that the subchannel would need to be SD so there would be a quality difference between the main channel and the subchannel.

Fourth, we are investigating mobile TV applications. Because a digital channel has a fixed bandwidth, any additions whether subchannels or mobile TV take away capacity from the main channel. That means a drop in quality. If you have a or more subchannels and mobile TV, the main channel essentially becomes SD or worse.

It sounds like a lot of different reasons, but it basically boils down to CBC not wanting to degrade the quality of its HD signal to fit in a secondary SD signal. While they would technically have to do that, I don’t think compressing an HD signal from 19 to 15 megabits per second results in such a dramatic decrease in quality that it can’t be done.

As far as the CRTC is concerned, there’s no rule against using digital subchannels (or “multiplexing”, as it calls the technology). But the subchannels would have to be licensed. So if, say, CTV wants to put its new CTV Two network as a subchannel to CFCF, it would probably have to get the okay from the CRTC before doing that.

Some people have suggested having specialty channels as digital subchannels (RDI on Radio-Canada’s subchannel, Bold on CBC’s, CTV News Channel on CFCF’s, etc.). That probably wouldn’t work out too well because of complaints from cable and satellite companies. They took RDI to task for having a livestream of the channel on its website, arguing that specialty channels shouldn’t be distributed freely if they expect cable and satellite companies to pay for them. A similar issue would arise if the channels would be broadcast freely. Or, alternatively, the cable and satellite companies could then decide or even be forced to treat the specialty channels as over-the-air broadcasters and carry them free of charge to subscribers. The broadcasters probably wouldn’t want that.

Is this even necessary?

In 2009, when the United States was set to do its digital transition, I argued that it seemed unnecessary. I understood the need to vacate part of the TV broadcast spectrum to sell off for better uses, but it seemed entirely possible to do this by simply reassigning channels 52 and above lower vacant channels in all but the biggest markets. How many markets do we have with more than 50 television channels, even if you include neighbouring markets?

It’s not like digital television takes less space. Each channel still gets the same 6 MHz allocation. The only difference is that more information can be packed into that space now, allowing for HD or subchannels.

I asked the CRTC about this. They sent me to the Heritage department. Chaouki Dakdouki, the director of distribution and access policy (and possibly the most punctual person in the world – he said he’d call me at 10:30am, and my phone rang at exactly 10:30am), mentioned that digital signals will reduce interference between signals that are on adjacent channels. This would allow channels on adjacent channels in the same market instead of being spaced two apart. If this is true, then it makes sense. But even then, there aren’t that many markets with more than a handful of stations – and few markets even have anything transmitting in the channels they want to get rid of.

It’s too late to change anything now, but I still think some stations are being forced to switch unnecessarily. Thankfully the CRTC came to its senses and isn’t forcing small towns to switch yet. The CBC has made it pretty clear most of those small transmitters will never be replaced with digital ones.

No coupon program

Those who were following the U.S. DTV transition might remember there was a coupon program that gave households discounts on converter boxes. It caused some ruckus because the government ran out of coupons (or, more accurately, ran out of money in the coupon program). This contributed to the decision to delay the transition a few months.

In Canada, there is no coupon program. No assistance for poor Canadians (or small broadcasters) to help them make the switch. It “wasn’t deemed necessary,” Dakdouki said, because of how few Canadians this would affect.

It’s a curious position. The proportion of Canadians using antenna TV is lower than the U.S., but not by that much. And the U.S. drastically underestimated how many people would need converters for the digital transition. Judging from what I heard from Future Shop, I think the same might be happening here.

Dakdouki also pointed to the fact that, of the 7% or 8% of Canadian television viewers who don’t have cable or satellite TV, about 35% of them watch programming online or through other means, which knocks this number down even further. I don’t know how this compares to the United States, but it’s interesting to note how fast other forms of television distribution are growing.

Antennas: Rabbit ears aren’t dead

This transition is being called the death of “rabbit ears”, but that’s not exactly true. There’s no difference between a digital and analog antenna, because the antenna is just a piece of wire cut to match a certain frequency. There’s no reason analog antennas, including rabbit ears, can’t be used for digital.

Antennas marketed as DTV-ready are different in two major ways: They have higher gain (which gives you a stronger signal whether in analog or digital), and they’re better tuned to UHF frequencies (channels 14+) than VHF ones (2-13). This takes into account the fact that many VHF analog stations are switching to UHF channels for their digital transmitters. Most rabbit-ear antennas have long telescoping rods for VHF and a small loop for UHF. It’s tempting to play with the length or position of the VHF antennas when watching a UHF station.

In Montreal, two stations are moving from VHF to UHF: CBMT (CBC) and CBFT (Radio-Canada). Two stations are staying on the (high) VHF band: CFCF (CTV) and CFTM (TVA). And the rest are staying on UHF.

The difference between Channel 2 (55 MHz) and Channel 10 (193 MHz) – the lowest post-transition channel in the city – is very significant, so there’s definitely a shift upward in terms of frequency range (which means a shift downward for antenna length). But rabbit ears that pick up a wide range of frequencies should be able to pick up most strong stations.

Since most stations won’t be at full power until after the Sept. 1 transition, I would recommend waiting until after that (maybe even give it a week or two in case things need to be fine-tuned) until deciding that your existing antenna is insufficient for the task.

Thoughts from viewers

I asked for input from antenna TV watchers while researching the article. I got plenty of responses, though most were people who either already had digital TVs or tuners or were planning to get them by the deadline. I had a vision of the perfect source for the story, a poor family with a dozen kids and an old TV, too poor to buy a converter but who sat by the old box and watched the broadcast networks for hours a day.

The closest I got to the perfect source was a man who wrote in to the paper in early August. The handwritten letter was left on my desk one night with a note from my editor saying that sometimes it just falls in your lap. I called him up, but while he was fine sharing his story, he didn’t want his name publicized. He didn’t want people to know he was on social assistance. Understandable, but frustrating. He said he’d probably buy a converter, and half-joked that he’d go around collecting refundable cans and bottles to raise the money.

For the record, here are some stories I’ve heard from the rest of you. Hardly a random sample, but interesting anecdotally:

  • Micah Galizia: “I watch OTA with an antenna and am very happy the DTV conversion is finally here. … My TV is about five years old.”
  • Regis Glorieux: “Cut the cord when I moved from Montreal to St-Eustache over 15 years ago. Been on antenna ever since. … Our TVs are old school analog tube, I bought a couple ATSC digital tuners a couple of years ago when the US stations were switching over to digital.”
  • Richard Archambault: “2 TVs (one is digital ready, small bedroom TV isn’t) – both with DVD players; 2 young children at home who watch TeleQuebec on TV … My wife and I usually watch the news, DVDs (including TV series), docs and movies on TeleQuebec and occasionally whatever other stuff may be on, but otherwise turn it off if there’s nothing. I used to not be able to afford cable (rather pay for Internet access), but I recently got a promotion and thus I could afford it now if I really wanted to, but.. I find that when I visit my mother’s house, sometimes I’ll spend 20 minutes flipping through channels and not really finding anything worthwhile. Ideally, if I could pick only the channels I wanted (NatGeo, Discovery, maybe a sports channel for the occasional Habs game midweek when CBC doesn’t play them usually, Spanish-language channels for my wife), and if I wasn’t limited by the amount of Canadian channels I am required to have (I invariably have too many non-Canadian channels when I test-run my channel selections on Bell or Videotron’s websites, for “pick your own” packages), then, and only then, would it be worth paying cable. So yeah, I figure I’ll get a new antenna eventually, sometime in September likely.”
  • Sarah Szefer: “Yes, I’m still using rabbit ears to access digital TV on my HDTV. Although I do get tons of interference from the Montreal Port (which means no US stations come in at all), I still can get flawless signals from Rad-Can, CBC, V, and Télé-Québec.”
  • Rose-Line Beaupre (Regina): “I own 2 television sets. I have bought a converter box for one TV only. It was about $90. It’s a very old TV and in a year or when the TV dies, I will buy a digital TV and put the converter to the other TV. The other TV is mostly used to watch movies when I’m working in my sewing room. I don’t watch a lot of TV and this is the first reason I don’t have cable. It’s not worth the money. I’m a Francophone native living in the Prairies. I essentially bought the converter box to be able to watch Radio-Canada – Regina and watch the national news from Montréal. The news are also available on the net but I don’t want to be limited to the computer in order to stay connected.”
  • Jack Nathanson: “I am still on analog. I get the impression that the digital broadcasts won’t actually begin until after September 1, so I won’t get a digital box until after the analog signals have stopped.” (I called Nathanson, and gave him some information about the transition. He lives on the fourth floor of a building in the Snowdon area, which should have pretty good reception. He says he used to watch a lot of TV, but does less so now. Still, he’ll probably get a converter box.)

Thanks for everyone who shared their experiences. Feel free to add your own below, or ask any questions you might have.

No conspiracies

In talking to people and reading comments about the digital transition, a lot of the ones familiar enough with media ownership believe broadcasters are manipulating the switch in some way as to force people to aligned cable and satellite services. (CTV is owned by Bell, Global is owned by Shaw, and TVA is owned by Quebecor, which also owns Videotron.) Strained logic has even been contradictory – some claiming that an early switch is pushing people to pay for TV because they no longer get analog signals, others claiming a late switch is pushing people to pay because they think they can’t get HD over the air.

The evidence indicates that, if anything, the opposite is true: broadcasters affiliated with cable companies are more likely to provide a better signal after the transition. Of the broadcasters on the Mount Royal tower that are not CBC/Radio-Canada (which runs the tower), it’s the two that aren’t affiliated with cable companies (CIVM/Télé-Québec and CFJP/V) that have decided to move off the tower, sacrificing coverage in order to save on rent. TVA, CTV and Global are staying on the tower, and are either replicating their coverage area or improving it slightly. (CJNT/Metro14 is not on the tower itself, but at its base, but its coverage has improved significantly.)

That’s not to say there isn’t some silliness going on. CTV’s transition information points people to buy Bell TV or converter boxes at The Source, which is also owned by Bell. Shaw is plugging their free satellite program (but not very much – they’re doing this as part of a promise to the CRTC, but the fewer satellites they give away, the less it costs them), but otherwise not pushing people to get Shaw service. (Global’s story about the DTV transition even points to competitors’ programs.) And TVA’s transition page makes no mention of the word “Videotron”.

But what really matters – and where the costs really lie – is the transmitters. The CRTC is forcing the switch, broadcasters have waited until the last month if not the last minute so their analog viewers have service as long as possible, and the digital transmitters for the most part try to replicate coverage area. In short, I don’t see much of a conspiracy here.

Further reading

UPDATE (Sept. 23): La Presse’s Hugo Dumas looks at Montreal francophones reporting reception problems (even with digital converters). He reports the following:

  • Radio-Canada in Quebec City has begun transmitting a UHF signal (Channel 25) to improve coverage.
  • The CBC/Radio-Canada/Global antenna on the Mount Royal tower should be operational by November.
  • Télé-Québec has increased power on its transmitter in Sherbrooke and will do the same in Gatineau to compensate for the hole west of Montreal created by moving Télé-Québec’s CIVM transmitter from Mount Royal to the Olympic Stadium.
  • V has ordered “new equipment” to help with its reception problems in Montreal. I’m skeptical that any equipment will adequately compensate for reducing antenna height by more than 200 metres and power level by 98%.

149 thoughts on “Even more details about Montreal’s digital TV transition

  1. ATSC

    Read your article in the Gazette. It was okay.

    But, I don’t understand why the paper would put a limit on your article considering the extra info you put on your blog. I think they should have left you alone to put in all the info required. This is a major TV article that should have been allowed much more space. If I want short articles on stories, I’ll watch TV news. I think a newspaper should allow the writer more space to further explain the story. I think a newspapers strength is the ability to go deep into a subject matter. Another full page in the Gazette would have been very helpful for readers in understanding what is really going on. And how it’s going on.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      I don’t understand why the paper would put a limit on your article considering the extra info you put on your blog.

      A writer without a word limit is a dangerous thing. The article took up an entire broadsheet page. That’s a lot.

      I think they should have left you alone to put in all the info required.

      A lot of the information on this post is of a technical or even trivial nature and is more for those who already know a bit about TV. The basics – particularly the guide to setting up a digital TV – are mostly unchanged.

      There’s also the problem that the longer a story is, the less likely a lot of people are going to read it. I could have given long histories of each station, explained tons of information that may or may not have been useful, but that would just overcomplicate what is already a fairly complicated issue for many TV watchers.

      Is there something specific you think was missing? Feel free to add it as a comment on the Gazette story.

      Reply
  2. JS

    “CBC Montreal’s newscast has been fully in HD since 2009.”

    I don’t think this is true. To me it looks like 16:9 SD being upconverted.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      “CBC Montreal’s newscast has been fully in HD since 2009.”

      I don’t think this is true. To me it looks like 16:9 SD being upconverted.

      It’s HD. The quality is poor, as if they ran Photoshop’s Sharpen filter a few hundred too many times on the field reports, but it’s in HD.

      Reply
        1. Fagstein Post author

          How do you know it’s HD? Is that what they told you?

          Well, that and the fact that I have an HDTV and it’s clearly HD. It might not be perfect 1080p, but it’s definitely not upconverted SD.

          Reply
          1. ATSC

            You mean 1080i. No 1080p broadcast. But, I as well think the CBMT-DT newscast is a upconvert. Even if it’s 16:9.

            Reply
          2. AlexH

            Steve, the signal can be in HD without the content being HD.

            What many have done in the past is take an older camera that will shoot 16×9, but in SD format (Canon made many cameras that could do this), and then they take the 16×9 signal and use it as “source”. It isn’t HD, so even if your over the air signal is showing as 1080i, the source material has less than half of that quality.

            Reply
  3. AlexH

    I read the article (through the grey, because I am blocked by the paywall), and found it interesting. Steve, you did a fairly good job to explain this to the masses in fairly simple terms. Your bias (as expressed here before) showed through a bit, but you manage to restrain yourself, at least it read that way.

    I do think that the Gazoo missed a good chance here to run it as a series for a week. I am suspecting by your editing and such that there was probably 4 or 5 different stories in there, mixed up. Each of them could have been 1000 or so words and told the story in much more detail.

    I would love to add a comment or two to the Gazette story, but well, the paywall blocks my access, so I can’t go any further.

    Reply
      1. AlexH

        Wasn’t intended badly. I think that you came to the game with sort of a drawn conclusion (“why bother”), and managed to write a story that didn’t let that opinion get in the way of the facts. My congratulations on it :)

        Reply
  4. AlexH

    I do want to add this:

    You may think that most markets only have a handful of channels, but really this isn’t so true.

    For Montreal, you have to allow for channels in Montreal itself, the US (Burlington and Plattsburg), Quebec City, Sherbooke, Ottawa, and pretty much any other transmitter in that circle.

    Why? Well, the idea is to have a clear signal for a channel to it’s reception range (fringe), without competition from another signal. So in the case of CFCF, example, being on channel 12 there could be no other station with a radiation pattern that would overlap their main reception areas on either channel 11 or 13, otherwise their would be interference in reception.

    There are also much more technical issues regarding signal splatter outside of the 6Mhz allocations, especially on “full white” or “full colors”. Analog isn’t precise and consistant. Digital on the other hand is the same signal all the time, zeros and ones but the same strength and the same bandwidth at all times.

    There is a whole lot more, but that is the basics.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      For Montreal, you have to allow for channels in Montreal itself, the US (Burlington and Plattsburg), Quebec City, Sherbooke, Ottawa, and pretty much any other transmitter in that circle.

      I consider the U.S. border stations, but Quebec City, Sherbrooke and Ottawa are far enough that most networks have different stations there. So there’s little need for someone in Montreal to pick up stations in those markets. They should be on different channels to avoid complications for people between the markets, but even then we’re not talking about that many channels.

      Consider that in southern Quebec, a grand total of one station was in the 52-69 channel range (CJNT on Channel 62).

      Reply
      1. AlexH

        Yes, I know they have different stations there. But you have to remember that you have to go back 50% of the distance (approximate coverage for each) to understand the overlap. IE, while CJOH in Ottawa isn’t in the Montreal market, something on Channel 9 in Montreal might harm reception on channel 8 in, say, Lachute. In order to get full coverage without interference, you have to make sure that at least the primary broadcast contours don’t overlap, and often even the “fringe”.

        So when you add it up, let’s see: OTA in Montreal is 9, OTA from the US is another 6 – 8 (depending on where you are), OTA from Ontario is at least 3, same for Quebec City, and similar for Sherbrooke. So that could be 25 or so stations. Now, when you have to allow for spacing on them, that could be up to 75 channel spaces. In digital, it would be 25 spaces.

        It’s not quite THAT simple, but it is the basics. I am sure the someone like Sheldon Harvey could explain it much better than I can.

        Reply
        1. Fagstein Post author

          My point remains though: We’ve accomplished this spacing sufficiently enough using only channels under 50, with the exception of CJNT. Is the current analog system inadequate? Is there too much interference between adjacent stations? Or is the spectrum so packed that CJNT couldn’t just move to a lower channel?

          Reply
          1. AlexH

            I think that, at the time that they went on air, there wasn’t a whole lot of space to be had. I can think of channels back over time on many of the adjacent channels. I can remember it being fairly hard to TQS at the time to get a decent channel (35 was “up there”) and Fox on the other side of the border ended up on 44. You would have to go back to the time that they went to air to understand where they ended up. With the US shifting to DTV a while back, it’s harder to piece it all together.

            You probably wouldn’t remember a time when there was no UHF, and everything was jammed onto 12 channels. It didn’t take much to use up that space, did it?

            Reply
  5. steve81

    Great article, it’s interesting to see the details for all stations.

    What I’m wondering is if there are people out there planning to ditch cable or satellite on September 1st because of this. I bet not much, because most people don’t know about this. Many people won’t believe you can get an HD signal with bunny ears until they see it.

    In my case, I haven’t subscribed to cable in years and I’ve been waiting for this transition to be completed since I bought an HDTV a year and a half ago. Right now, I can get all OTA digital channels available in Montreal (I live in Villeray).

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      What I’m wondering is if there are people out there planning to ditch cable or satellite on September 1st because of this. I bet not much, because most people don’t know about this. Many people won’t believe you can get an HD signal with bunny ears until they see it.

      It really depends on people’s preferences. Some people watch a lot of live sports or specialty programming, which means they’re not likely to give up their cable/satellite subscriptions. Some people who just watch a bit of general-interest television might choose to just have over-the-air television, but I have a feeling people who don’t care that much about television in general will care that much that it’s in HD.

      Reply
  6. joe

    I’m getting most of the channels now pretty clearly that are up(cbc, cjnt ,global is ok and channel 2) with an rca indoor antenna(with a tuner on it) and a tivas stb-8.The access hd by the way is far inferior in terms of signal strength.
    I would say with a quality outdoor antenna in NDG you should be able to easily get all the border US stations no problem.Don’t forget the superior picture and sound is through the video and lr outs out on the converter box.

    Reply
    1. ATSC

      I just can’t believe how low CFTU-DT intends to broadcast in digital. 387 watts. Are they kidding us? What a waste of a over the air frequency on such nonsense. They might as well arrange with another over the air station to be on a sub-channel. At least people would be able to pick them up. Even if it’ll be a 480i or 480p image.

      Reply
      1. Fagstein Post author

        What a waste of a over the air frequency on such nonsense

        It’s not like people are lining up at the door to apply for conventional television licenses.

        Reply
  7. bob dandurand

    the picture nicely shows the big-mofo crane that was working on the antennas recently. An old antenna was laying on the ground for a few days and I wanted to go and snag the lightning rod at the top of it, but I never got back to do it. The lightning rod was all toasted-looking meaning it got hit by lightning many times, it would have been a very nice memento for my odd electronic gear collection.

    I’ll be buying my converter “any day now.”

    thanks for a decent article, it filled up a whole page, and that’s a a total win for you. But the whole push for analog->digital, not so much a win scenario. Seems the needs that it fills are not necessarily the ones I would define as a public benefit. In fact it seems more like screwing the public, if I may state it that coarsely.

    But since tv was developed/perfected quite a long time ago, I can see the argument for updating the technical aspects to the thing. The grande bibliotheque has a great book on TV development, in the MIT technology Sloan Technology series. They also have one on radar that also rocks.

    Reply
  8. Manu

    Thanks for all these details; I don’t think we can find a much more detailed article anywhere else in Canadian blogs or press. Yet, there are still some unanswered questions for me: what are the consequences for Montreal stations on cable offers in Burlington /Plattsburgh area ? Will cable operators there still be able to pick up signals from CBFT, CBMT and CFCF ? Are they still interested in these channels ? Could they add Global since its coverage improved on channel 15 ?

    And how do you record ATSC signals ? Are there (affordable) VCR / DVD recorders with digital tuner (in Canadian shops) or do you absolutely need a converter for your recorder ? Recording on DVD or VCR will be in old SD quality, so is there an HD recorder for terrestrial reception on the market ?

    Thanks.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      what are the consequences for Montreal stations on cable offers in Burlington /Plattsburgh area ? Will cable operators there still be able to pick up signals from CBFT, CBMT and CFCF ?

      I don’t see why not. Whether they’re interested is up to them.

      And how do you record ATSC signals ? Are there (affordable) VCR / DVD recorders with digital tuner (in Canadian shops) or do you absolutely need a converter for your recorder ?

      There are hard-disk/DVD recorders with digital tuners. Here’s one.

      Reply
      1. wr

        When the americans went digital I bought a converter ,kept my rabbit ears and I could still record pbs on my vcr. I don’t seem to be able to do this now that we are digital. Is there a way I can still record with my vcr or will I now have to get a unit like the one you suggest? Thank you

        Reply
        1. Fagstein Post author

          When the americans went digital I bought a converter ,kept my rabbit ears and I could still record pbs on my vcr. I don’t seem to be able to do this now that we are digital. Is there a way I can still record with my vcr or will I now have to get a unit like the one you suggest?

          The Canadian stations are using the same technology the American stations are for digital broadcasting. If you can record the American stations on your VCR, you should be able to do the same with the Canadian ones.

          Reply
          1. wr

            I will re-check my connections. Would you know why when there’s movies on ctv, cbc or tva we get the descriptive vedeo as well, I checked my tv and converter there are no options to remove/activate descriptive vedeo.

            I should add that your site has been a gold mine of information through this whole pocess. please continue. Thank you

            Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      I would like to know when will Bell add CTV and Global Montreal stations to their HD grid?!

      I would imagine the fact that neither station has a newscast (fully) in HD, and neither has any local programming other than the newscast, is a major factor in their not carrying these stations in HD. There’s nothing on the HD channels that isn’t available on either the Toronto HD stations or local SD channels.

      It wasn’t long ago that Global Montreal wasn’t available on Bell at all.

      We’ll see what happens when Global Montreal goes HD (by the end of the year) and CTV Montreal goes HD (12-24 months away).

      Reply
  9. Richard

    Wow, you put up what I sent you verbatim; wasn’t expecting that! :)

    In any case, I still can’t pick up Télé-Québec (I’m in the Sud-Ouest). We’ll see after Sept 1, but I don’t have my hopes up. Guess I’ll get a new antenna!

    Reply
  10. Dominic

    Thanks for this post ! As Manu says, you probably have the most detailed article/post about the DTV transition out there.

    I’ve been using an HDHomeRun conversion box for 2 years now and am fairly happy about it. The difference with this box and ‘regular’ ones is the output : it’s a RJ-45 cable (same as computer networks) so my TV feed is actually sent to my network router. Hence, my TV is plugged to my computer and a software (Windows Media Center in my case but there are lots of ‘em) runs the TV application. The benefit is I can record TV on my hard disk drive, I can edit the file in a regular video-editing software, I can share this file with other, I get a complete TV guide and other computers on my network can get the feed as well.

    I’ve been an HD Illico customer for 2 years prior and since I was watching about 80% OTA channels VS 20% specialized, I decided to cut the cord. Let’s say the channel selection was not the main selling factor but since I enjoyed the advantages of getting a full digital computer/TV setup and the cable price was steep in regards to my usage, it made sense and I told myself ‘it’ll get better by September 2011′.

    My only question to you is this : do you know if, as is the case with Radio-Canada, the CBC and Global broadcasts are also not operating at their full post-transitional power level ? I ask the question because I used to have no problem getting the CBC broadcast from its temp channel 20 but have been getting uneven signal since it transitioned to channel 21. Also, I’m barely able to get the Global signal. If they remain this way, that would mean a net loss to me. I sometimes wonder if my being too near the Mont-Royal antenna could be a reason as well, as I’m about a kilometer away from it.

    Regards,
    Dominic

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      My only question to you is this : do you know if, as is the case with Radio-Canada, the CBC and Global broadcasts are also not operating at their full post-transitional power level ?

      CBFT (Radio-Canada) and CBMT (CBC) are both running at reduced power (around 55kW), and will be increasing to their full power of more than 400kW once their new antenna is installed.

      Both are running on a backup antenna that is about 40 metres lower than their final position, which also greatly affects reception.

      CKMI (Global) is in an identical antenna situation (it is using the same antenna), but its temporary transmitter is 8,000W, and that won’t be going up.

      The height increase will probably be the biggest improvement to the signal. I hear that might only come in the fall, though.

      Reply
  11. AlexH

    I re-read the number again, and I come away shaking my head.

    CBC has transmitters that are X number of times stronger than the competion, and cost more than 7 million for 2 channels. Yet, if you look at the price of CFCF, CBC could have installed 15 similar transmitters around the province.

    Any ideas why CBC went with really high power, and then walked away from so many markets?

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      CBC has transmitters that are X number of times stronger than the competion, and cost more than 7 million for 2 channels. Yet, if you look at the price of CFCF, CBC could have installed 15 similar transmitters around the province.

      CBC and Radio-Canada’s Montreal transmitters cost so much mainly because both are switching from VHF to UHF channels. This requires a new antenna. CFCF is using the same antenna and is on the same channel.

      Reply
        1. Fagstein Post author

          So the transmitters are a few hundred thousand, and the antennas are like 3.5 million each?

          I’m not sure how the cost breaks down, but I think it’s a bit more complicated than that.

          Reply
  12. mario

    In the US, all channels began broadcasting in letter box format regardless of HD capability or not.

    Will Canadian networks and specialty channels do the same?

    Reply
  13. Bill Lee

    Bought the “ZINWELL ANALOG PASS-THROUGH DIGITAL TV CONVERTER” from the local source.
    Actually it was the only box in the store and one of few in town generally.
    The Source (ex-Radio Shack, owned by Bell Media as Black’s Photo owned by Telus) promotes going online only for most of their converters. Stores now have no stock.
    There suggestion Go and order online (how?) when people who have analogue sets often don’t have “online” Having an overpriced trypewriter at home does not mean being “online” And there are no savings going online. Shipping to a local store for pickup does little benefit.

    Signals great. I may even watch in colour.
    Generally rock-steady, and amusing to see the “smashed-glass” effect when it pixilates from poor signal.
    Some of the closed captioning is unintelligble, but that was the same in the analogue era. So far, no second language captions. Switch seems to be 1. English 2. English. Where oh where are the Esperanto captions.

    One has to have patience. Near-enough antenna turning techniques of the analogue era don’t apply to a computer seeking an intellibible digital signal.

    One position for rabbit ears, the twin lead to a F -connector on the box, is good for all Canadian signals.
    Found out from a gossip site that Rad-Can will convert the Canal 26 into digital on the night, while most listings said no transmitter.
    Get CBC, Global, CTV and Rogers Omni with Rad-Can and A-Channel (CTV-2) to come.
    CBC is strongest and clearest.
    2 U.S. border stations come in, nothing elsewhere.
    Looks like I will lose 2 neighbouring city signals, as predicted by tvfool.com’s radar maps.

    Will have to rescan on 1 September as CBC moves from 58 down to 23, and other shifts. And their power adjustments to save power costs may be reflected in new weaker signals.
    Will wait and check for other stories before a long range external antenna to try to capture other transmitter sources.

    Will other stations arise to get around the cable companies oligopoly?
    Clarity of signal as I switch back and forth to analogue from digital is amazing.
    Can we have a 50 channel and sub-channel over-the-air universe?

    Reply
  14. Richard

    CFCF and Catherine Sherrifs (in the “coming up on the late news” commercials) keep saying that tonight is the switch for all Canadian stations, when in fact it’s only them switching their analog antenna off a day early. Wierd that they can’t get it right or be more accurate (whatever the case is).

    Reply
    1. jacques

      Monsieur Fagstein,

      I can tell you Paul Arcand did not read your Gazette article because he spent this morning saying Rabbit ears are GONE and that there is no more free TV. He was corrected by his guest just before 9AM. I consider that proff that the whole digital transition information process was atrocious.

      I cannot wait for a major event that would knock out cable in an emergency when people will try to get their TV signal from the old antenna stored in the cabinet only to find out that the digital conversion DID indeed concern them.

      The if you bought your TV in the past 3 years rule also does not apply because as recent as this weekend I found flat screens being sold with an NTSC only tuner.

      I can`t wait to convert because I plan to watch as many american TV stations as I can , CTV and Global switching ahead of the deadline is just laughing at its audience much like CJAD laughed at the overnight crowd by cancelling live local overnight programming.

      Reply
    2. Michael Black

      I’m no longer sure if she was right or wrong.

      Channel 35 was off the air by 11:50 when I remembered to check. CFCF went off the air a partial minute after Pulse ended at 12:05. Channel 10 and the two CBC stations remain, but at this point I wasn’t sure if the CBC had to turn off here.

      With Global and channel 62 already over to digital, it wasn’t clear if that was the deadline or CFCF and V last night were premature.

      I interpreted the August 31st deadline to mean they’d turn off at midnight tonight, but now I wonder if I misinterpreted.

      Certainly CJAD was talking about it twice on Tuesday and were talking like Analog would be gone when people got up this morning. But then so many talking about it aren’t affected, so they can’t be a real good source of information.

      There was certainly no fanfare, the local tv stations jus remembered at the last minute to say something about the changeover (well not Global until after the fact) and I can’t remember if I saw something on the CBC about it. When the border stations turned off in Feb. of 2009, one station (I can’t remember which)
      put their logo on one last time, then it exploded into pretend snow, which then became real snow when the transmitter was turned off.

      It was the 1930s when this transmission scheme was first used, and it’s gone, more or less. Nobody could imagine digital tv back then. Yet somehow the significance of the event is lost.

      Michael

      Reply
      1. Fagstein Post author

        I interpreted the August 31st deadline to mean they’d turn off at midnight tonight, but now I wonder if I misinterpreted.

        I had thought the same, but it’s actually by the end of the day, with the digital running by Sept. 1.

        CBFT (Radio-Canada), CBMT (CBC) and CIVM (Télé-Québec) have digital and analog systems running simultaneously at different locations and will simply shut down the analog transmitter sometime today. CFTM (TVA) is running only analog and will switch directly to digital on the same antenna. I had assumed they would probably do so at the same time as CFCF since they both use the same antenna, but I guess not.

        Reply
      2. Apple IIGS

        [blockquote]There was certainly no fanfare, the local tv stations jus remembered at the last minute to say something about the changeover (well not Global until after the fact) and I can’t remember if I saw something on the CBC about it. When the border stations turned off in Feb. of 2009, one station (I can’t remember which)
        put their logo on one last time, then it exploded into pretend snow, which then became real snow when the transmitter was turned off.[/blockquote]

        That was WVNY-22, the ABC affiliate in Burlington, Vermont. I sat and watched its final moments of analog broadcasting back in 2009, afterall, I had been watching it since childhood! (anyone else remember watching Transformers, GI-Joe, Diff’rent Strokes, Scooby Doo, etc afternoons in the 80′s? Followed by Gary Wheelock with the local news? I still remember the “Something’s Happening on TV-22″ jingle from the late 80′s, or countless new year’s eve watching the ball drop on good ol’ channel 22). :)

        I wish I had recorded the WVNY-22 sign off, if anyone has it on tape please let me know! I decided to pull out my old VCR and hook it up to catch CFCF-12 sign off this time, hoping not to miss a goodbye show like last time, but alas….nothing, nada. Not even a sign off with O’Canada like in the old days.

        Reply
  15. AlexH

    Last night’s move by CFCF did a couple of things:

    1 – their signal on channel 12 is “loud and proud”. 98% at my secret bat cave. The temp transmitter was hit and miss before.

    2 – oddly, I started to get almost enough signal to see V in HD. This is very odd, because I am certainly not in their best angle.

    3 – Global also seems to be a little better.

    Odd that it all happens at the same time.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      1 – their signal on channel 12 is “loud and proud”. 98% at my secret bat cave. The temp transmitter was hit and miss before.

      Lower power, higher frequency, lower height. It was clearly a makeshift temporary operation. CFCF-DT is now on Channel 12 using their proper antenna on top of the Mount Royal tower.

      2 – oddly, I started to get almost enough signal to see V in HD. This is very odd, because I am certainly not in their best angle.

      V switched from its temporary digital channel (42) to their permanent one (35). The location is the same and the power is actually slightly lower at 13.75kW, but if the antenna is better tuned to 35 than 42 it might improve the signal. I have never gotten CFJP in digital at all. As far as my TV is concerned, there’s nothing there.

      3 – Global also seems to be a little better.

      I don’t see how Global would be all that different. Its parameters haven’t changed, and there’s nothing on an adjacent channel. The closest thing is Télé-Québec analog on channel 17, which goes off the air within the next 12 hours.

      Reply
      1. AlexH

        Actually, 17 was off the air late last night as well (shut down) and was turned back on this morning (31st). Maybe a little less interference makes it all work out.

        I got enough of V to see it, I got 5-1 and 5-2 nice and solid, global is fine now, and I am even seeing some signal (but not enough to tune) fox 44, which is from what I am told one of the hardest signals to catch in Montreal of the majors.

        I was just looking at 10-1, they have the transmitter on, but it must be testing because the signal is going up and down like a yoyo. I am assuming I will get as good a signal from them as I get from CFCF, which will be “off the chart”.

        Oh yeah, all of this is with a length of coax and an old radio AM loop as an antenna, indoors. I can’t want to see the results with a real antenna.

        Reply
        1. Fagstein Post author

          Actually, 17 was off the air late last night as well (shut down) and was turned back on this morning (31st). Maybe a little less interference makes it all work out.

          CIVM shuts off its transmitter every night. It’s one of the few stations that actually goes off the air at night.

          Reply
  16. Tammy

    I bought a digital TV and when I set it up on Saturday I could get the CBC French and English, and CTV perfectly.
    The next day and as of last night I could get Rad Can , CBC digital but for the CTV and Global digital channels the picture comes in but freezes and has square like boxes in some parts of the picture. I moved the antenna but it didn’t improve much so both channele were unwatchable. I didn’t have any tele quebec digital channel nor V.
    I will see tonight when I go home if there’s any improvement since so many stations seem to have made the permanent switch to digital today.
    Anybody else have these problems with CTV and Global?

    Reply
    1. Rebecca

      I live in the Snowdon area H3W 3B1 near Decarie and Cote Ste Catherine.
      I got Global OK b/f the digital switch in Aug, now I only get 4 stations but not Global.
      I’d really also like to get Savoir I used to also b/f the Aug switch.
      Same antenna & TV, any ideas?

      Reply
      1. Fagstein Post author

        I’d really also like to get Savoir I used to also b/f the Aug switch.

        Canal Savoir hasn’t switched to its digital transmitter yet. As far as I know nothing has changed there since before August.

        Reply
  17. Steve Shanahan

    Hi,

    Cable and Satellite are for chumps!

    I bought a converter box from a geeky store in east end. My Channel Master cost 100$, but I think is worth it. CBC, SRC, CTV, Global, Metro coming in very well. I will go up on my roof and try to aim antenna to get US Channels.

    Good article, great news on the digital transfer.

    SS

    Reply
  18. ladyjaye

    We filmed the last minute of analogic broadcast on Rad-Can: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eyH9Qr5d6-I

    TVA took its sweet time to make the switch, and there were no signal from them for about half an hour. And I hope it’s not the full signal strength because it barely comes in here, even worse than CJNT (which is telling). On the upside, I can finally see Jon Stewart in HD on CFCF!

    Reply
  19. Richard

    So I did my autoscan this morning. I get TVA, CBC, RadCan and CTV super-clear, but no TéléQuébec or Global. I’ll fiddle with my old rabbit ears a bit to see if it’s just that, but otherwise, definitely getting an antenna. However, at this point, the loss of 2 channels is almost completely made up for by the clearness of the others (though I will miss SNL on Global and the movies on TQ). Oh, and nevermind V, nothing for me but CallTV won’t be missed. :)

    Reply
  20. Apple IIGS

    There was mention here the Access HD converter is unreliable for signal strength. Perhaps I’ve just been lucky, but the one I purchased is picking up all the US and Canadian stations here in Montreal–flawlessly. I’m using indoor rabbit ears too. I currently receive 21 channels, which include the following:

    2.1 – Radio-Canada, Montreal
    3.1 – CBS, Vermont
    3.2 – WCAXtra (weather/news)
    5.1 – NBC, Plattsburg
    5.2 – This (movie channel)
    6.1 – CBC, Montreal
    10.1 – TVA, Montreal
    12.1 – CTV, Montreal
    15.1 – Global, Montreal
    22.1 – ABC, Vermont
    22.2 – ABC, Vermont (SD)
    33.1 – PBS, Vermont
    33.2 – PSB, Vermont (SD)
    33.3 – Create
    33.4 – World
    44.1 – FOX, Vermont
    44.2 – The CW
    57.1 – PBS, Plattsburg
    57.2 – MHz WorldView
    57.3 – PBS World
    62.1 – Metro-14, Montreal

    The only channels I cannot get are V on 35.1 (although at one point yesterday I was picking up the Sherbrooke feed on 30.1!) and Tele-Quebec on 17.1. Somehow I doubt I ever will, considering they’re NOT on Mount Royal. I wrote up a short review on the Access HD on Futureshop’s website and the Digital Home website, it has its faults and limitation, but still does the job nicely.

    Incidentally, I’m disappointed there was no fanfare when the analog channels signed off. You’d think after 60 years on the air, CFCF-12 would’ve done something to mark the occasion! By contrast, ABC WVNY-22 in Vermont did some cool stuff the night they forever signed off back in February 2009. I wish I recorded. :(

    Reply
    1. Ian at Roxboro

      I to find it regrettable that none of our Montreal stations created a good bye to analogue program. Remember that CBFT Montreal was one of the first TV transmitters to go to air in Canada for the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, beating the american network CBS to the punch with the cooperation of the RAF. For the story, read the biography of Ernie Bushell.

      2 – As of friday evening, CJOH-2 , ( Rf-8) Cornwall was still broadcasting their analogue signal.

      Reply
      1. Ian at Roxboro

        Answer to wr.
        I am located near des Sources Blvd., in the west Island of Montreal, using an antenna in the attic aimed SSE , a compromise that allows reception of Montreal and Burlington stations. The side lobe allows reception of Cornwall, despite increased interference from the other digital adaptor in the house.

        Thank you for your interest.

        Reply
  21. cynthia

    I am here on the Plateau with my rabbit’s ears and get SRC, TVA, CTV, Tele Quebec and V. No Global and no CBC. Do others have similar problems? Maddening.

    Reply
  22. Neil K.

    Any idea why CBC and Global’s SD signals on Videotron channels 06 and 08 are letterboxed? The CFCF SD channel is normal (black bars on the sides but not top and bottom).

    Does this have anything to do with my own Illico or TV settings or does everyone who watches on SD now see a miniscule center-of-the-screen image?

    Reply
    1. ant6n

      I get a bunch of letterboxed signals (on all four sides) on videotron analog cable as well. It seems that happens when a digital HD 16:9 channel is sending SD 4:9 content. But it doesn’t really make sense. It feels a bit like videotron are trying to incentivise people to move to their digital cable – but if anything, I’d just move to OTA.

      Reply
      1. Marc

        Well, they are going to yank the analogue cable at some point. They’ve already removed a couple channels from it to make more bandwidth available for digital services.

        Reply
    2. Marc

      I have regular analogue cable and I see this, too. I’m guessing it’s originating at the source and has nothing to do with Videotron.

      Reply
      1. Jacques

        ant6n says:
        September 5, 2011 at 10:21 am
        I get a bunch of letterboxed signals (on all four sides) on videotron analog cable as well. It seems that happens when a digital HD 16:9 channel is sending SD 4:9 content. But it doesn’t really make sense. It feels a bit like videotron are trying to incentivise people to move to their digital cable – but if anything, I’d just move to OTA.

        Marc says:
        September 5, 2011 at 1:28 pm
        I have regular analogue cable and I see this, too. I’m guessing it’s originating at the source and has nothing to do with Videotron.

        MY GUESS is that the whole series of public messages about the digital coversion not affecting Cable and Satellite services was wrong in 1 fundamental way. The source used to provide the channels you see.

        You WERE probably seeing those local channels like CBC or CFCF and GLOBAL as well as TVA etc etc etc from feeds `Ginormous antennas picking up ANALOGUE signals` , Since the analogue transmitters from those sources are now dead. It stands to reason they are pumping in the digital signals instead. That would be the letterbox formats…

        Yaya but what about the satellite uplinks…. That`s a whole other issue.

        Jacques

        Reply
        1. Fagstein Post author

          Since the analogue transmitters from those sources are now dead. It stands to reason they are pumping in the digital signals instead. That would be the letterbox formats.

          Letterboxing has nothing to do with the method of transmission. And most major broadcasters provide direct digital feeds to cable and satellite providers, so the analog shutdown didn’t change anything there.

          Reply
          1. Becks

            I’ve had Videotron illico for a couple of years. Now I’m getting various channels letterboxed(4 sides) that never used to be…seems like a downgrade in service to me.

            The other thing about this digital service thing is that the signal is all or nothing as the CFCF techie explained it one night…..no more fuzzy picture or snow…you either have a good/great picture or a black screen…..I would think that a fuzzy picture during a storm is better than no picture at all

            Reply
            1. Fagstein Post author

              I’ve had Videotron illico for a couple of years. Now I’m getting various channels letterboxed(4 sides) that never used to be…seems like a downgrade in service to me.

              Videotron isn’t responsible for black bars (letterboxing and pillarboxing). That’s up to the broadcaster. If you’re getting black around all four sides, it’s because of one of two reasons:
              1. The broadcaster hasn’t done its job, and has converted programming from 16:9 to 4:3 (or vice-versa) and back again.
              2. A 16:9 HD program has been letterboxed on a 4:3 SD channel, and is being viewed on an HDTV, which does pillarboxing.

              I would think that a fuzzy picture during a storm is better than no picture at all

              Yes, it is. But there’s no going back now, and broadcasters aren’t going to spend money improving their signals or adding retransmitters for the small number of Canadians who watch TV using antennas.

              Reply
        2. ant6n

          Well, the thing is that the signal could be converted properly. For example one could install a filter that detects the letterboxes, and zooms in until the actual image is just about to be cropped.

          Sometimes you can have a ridiculous amount of letterboxing, if an already letterboxed widescreen (16:9) SD signal is sent over analog:
          - the original SD signal has letterboxes at the bottom and top, to fit the widescreen content in the 4:3 SD format
          - the digital HD channel is fitting that 4:3 signal inside it’s 16:9 format, creating letterboxes on the left and right as well. At this point the HD channel should zoom into remove letterboxes
          - when sending the HD signal over analog, the 16:9 signal is resized again, introducing more letterboxing on the left and right.

          This double/triple letterboxing seems to be a very recent phenomenon; I have never noticed it for the American channels you get over analog videotron, although they’ve been doing hd programming for much longer now.

          Reply
    3. Fagstein Post author

      Any idea why CBC and Global’s SD signals on Videotron channels 06 and 08 are letterboxed? The CFCF SD channel is normal (black bars on the sides but not top and bottom).

      It’s not just Videotron. CBC and Global use letterboxing to convert 16:9 HD to 4:3 SD. CTV prefers to crop the HD signal to 4:3. That results in a loss of information, though most HD programming know not to put anything important on the sides that would be cropped out.

      Reply
  23. Toffer

    I live near St Jerome with a roof top antenna. I get all the U.S. channels along with some local ones. Since the conversion I lost CFCF HD, CBC HD, TVA HD. Have these channels completed their upgrade? If not it doesn’t make sense that I could receive channels all the way from Burlington and Norwood but not Montreal.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      Since the conversion I lost CFCF HD, CBC HD, TVA HD

      TVA wasn’t transmitting in digital before the conversion. Have you rescanned your channels?

      Reply
  24. Philip

    I’m in Snowdon and I am a tad pissed. We have the new antenna which we have to wait to have someone put up to get the American Stations. However, we have purchased a special temporary converter box so that we can get the Canadian stations.

    We first tested it on Monday and were able to get Radio Canada, CBC, CTV, TVA and Tele-Quebec (at times a bit choppy). Before I went to bed I was going to turn off the TV but since I was using the remote for the converter box to switch channels. I kept on pressing the status button on that one.

    Tuesday morning I turned on the converter remote and some of the channels were not working but all 5 were there so I did another full scan and then I only got TVA cbc and CTV. I tried to find more digital channels but only found Radio Canada but there was not really a signal (not as clear as Monday.) I realized to turn off the TV, you need to turn off the TV with the original remote.

    Now it’s wednesday and I still get CBC, CTV and TVA. I’m trying to manipulate the dial for the antenna we have outside to try and get Radio Canada as that is one of my favourite channels, but no luck. With the weather outside, it doesn’t look like the set-up guy will not be able to get here.

    I hate this new digital add-on thing. The picture’s clear but it would take forever to get all the channels you want (I’m trying to see if I can get Radio-Canada and Tele Quebec clear like I did on Monday, but I don’t think you can get Global, V, or Canal Savoir like I did before the switch.)

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      The signals for CBC, Radio-Canada and Global should improve when they’re on their permanent antenna on top of the Mount Royal tower.

      For V and Télé-Québec, I’m afraid you’re out of luck. They made the decision to relocate from Mount Royal, so their coverage has a hole right about where you live.

      As for Canal Savoir, it’s still broadcasting in analog. Nothing has changed there yet.

      Reply
      1. Apple IIGS

        The signals for CBC, Radio-Canada and Global should improve when they’re on their permanent antenna on top of the Mount Royal tower.

        Didn’t CBC and the rest switch to their permanent antenna (and at full power) as of midnight August 31st? This would be encouraging if not, I’ve lately starting having trouble with CBC disappearing or cutting out at night. Ditto for WVNY-22 (ABC) every since the switch over, possibly because of nearby interface from CBC?

        Incidentally, for kicks I tried hooking up indoor rabbit ears at my mother’s house in Laval. To my shock ALL the local channels are coming in loud and clear, even V and Tele-Quebec. I went a step further and placed the antenna on the second floor and even managed to pull in CBS, NBC and both PBSes (Vermont and Plattsburg). Only channels I cannot get out there are Fox and ABC, though I’ll keep trying.

        It’s actually good enough where she’s decided to cancel her Bell ExpressVu satellite service! :)

        Reply
        1. Fagstein Post author

          Didn’t CBC and the rest switch to their permanent antenna (and at full power) as of midnight August 31st?

          No. CBC/Radio-Canada installed a temporary digital antenna in April lower down on Mount Royal tower, which they are currently using. The permanent antenna is actually the one that was previously used by Télé-Québec and TQS/V (both of which are now transmitting from other sites). It needs to be reconfigured for CBC (CBMT), Radio-Canada (CBFT) and Global (CKMI-1), and new transmission lines need to be installed. This won’t happen for “a few months”, the CBC tells me.

          Once it’s done, CBC, Radio-Canada and Global will be transmitting from the top of the tower, and CBC and Radio-Canada will see a substantial boost in power. Reception of Global’s signal may or may not improve.

          Only channels I cannot get out there are Fox and ABC, though I’ll keep trying.

          ABC (WVNY Burlington) has notoriously bad reception in Montreal, even among those with advanced antenna setups. It puts out only 10 kW, while CBS and NBC have more than 10 times that power. I wouldn’t hold out much hope.

          Reply
    2. Jack Nathanson

      I also live in Snowdon and have problems with the reception. I only have rabbit ears, but am up on the fourth floor. I have a $100.00 Zinwell converter purchased at La Source. I have been able to pick up Radio Canada, CBC, CTV, and TVA, but the automatic scan doesn’t seem to find any other stations.

      A few years ago, I had no trouble picking up the analog signal from Mountain Lake PBS even when I was in a first-floor apartment. But when I go to it’s website, I am told that it is now broadcasting in low power, due to the fact that it’s transmitter was hit by lightning.

      I may try to get an amplified indoor antenna, and see if it can pick up any of the weaker signals. The four stations that I can pick up come in sharp and clear, but the trade-off seems to be that I can pick up fewer stations.

      Reply
      1. Philip

        Well, on Monday the 5th, I got 5 channels CBC, CTV, RADIO CANADA, TVA and Tele-Quebec (in and out).
        Then, the next morning we seemingly lost R-C and T-Q. I tried doing an add-on search. We somehow got Global for an hour but there was no signal (Channel 15 right?) When I did another full scan, we got R-C but there was no signal. So for the rest of the week all we got was CBC, CTV and TVA. I could not get R-C, (one of my favourite stations) or T-Q.

        However, last night, there was nothing on CTV or CBC so I tried again and I got both R-C and T-Q again. I was really happy. Now I don’t know if I will ever be able to get V or Global with this decoder, but in about a month we will have our new antenna up. We just need to wait for all this bad weather to subside.

        Reply
        1. Jack Nathanson

          I did a scan with the indoor antenna in a different position and managed to find Tele-Quebec. I managed to orient the antenna so that I can watch Tele-Quebec, CBC, CTV, and TVA without readjusting the antenna. Radio Canada does not have a watchable signal with the antenna in this position, but the Radio Canada signal has a tendency to break up in any case.

          Reply
  25. Philip

    I’m sorry to be a pest, but I had a question. I was able to get Radio Canada and Tele-Quebec on 2-1 and 17-1. I was able to watch both channels. Then a couple days later things changed Both T-q and R-C signals were down and both R-C and CBC mysteriously changed channel listings to 19-3 and 21-3. I didn’t do anything to switch the channel numbers.

    Does anyone know what happened and is it worth to another full scan, with the risk of not being able to regain R-C AND T-Q? I am soon going to get the new antenna up to get the American Stations but i am not sure when. Geez when you had analog at least you could see something within the fuzzy channels. Now I try and fiddle with the antenna pointing and you get nada.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      Then a couple days later things changed Both T-q and R-C signals were down and both R-C and CBC mysteriously changed channel listings to 19-3 and 21-3. I didn’t do anything to switch the channel numbers. Does anyone know what happened and is it worth to another full scan

      I saw the same thing. Most likely there was a mistake in the configuration of the transmitters. (Radio-Canada and CBC transmit on Channels 19 and 21, respectively, but are supposed to show as 2.1 and 6.1.) This has since been fixed. If they still show as 19 and 21, do another scan.

      Reply
      1. Philip

        I wonder why, in Snowdon, I can get CBC clearly, but I can’t get Radio Canada perfect for more than a period of 2 or 3 days. Every time that I get Radio Canada (and Tele-Quebec) on my Add Scan, it’s great for a few days and then the signal goes dark, and I don’t know if I will ever get it back again. I thought that it would be easy for me to get Radio Canada where I live if I get CBC very clear (Radio Canada is the french CBC) Every time that I lose the R-C signal, I have done a new scan and it takes really long to regain both R-C and T-Q. Then the two stations stay on for a few days and then I lose them and don’t know whether to do another scan or just hold out, as maybe they will eventually come back on their own.

        Now I have to wait to nail down the guy who is supposed to put up the digital antenna. Thank god I have TOU.TV and Tout le Monde is simulcast on 95.1 on Sunday Nights. But this new digital system is frustrating and aggravating!

        Reply
    2. Apple IIGS

      Both CBC stations in Montreal disabled their virtual channel remapping about a week or two back. I too suddenly found them on 19.3 and 21.3. Thankfully it was restored yesterday afternoon (if you have an Access HD converter, flip to channels 19.3 / 21.3 and let it sit there a few seconds, it’ll automatically remap them without needing a rescan).

      I find the best way to find digital channels is to manually enter a channel you want to get (i.e. type in “13.1″ if you want to find ABC-22) and turn on the signal meter. Now, while watching the screen, move the antenna around until you see it get a lock. If you’re not in the same room, push up the volume on your TV to the max and move it around….you’ll hear when it’s found it. :) Unfortunately some TV’s won’t allow you to manually enter a channel it hasn’t found with an auto scan.

      FYI – I’ve been able to pick up Tele-Quebec and V from Sherbrooke (they’re found at 24.1 and 30.1). The only catch is sometimes the signal is loud, clear–perfectly stable….other times they’re just not there at all. Better than the Montreal feed which is non-existence to me in my part of the city.

      Reply
  26. Richard

    So I bought one of these: http://www.amazon.ca/Winegard-SS-3000-Amplified-Indoor-Antenna/dp/B001DFZ5II

    Based on stuff I’d read here, there and everywhere. I can get Global now, but I still can’t get TeleQuebec. If I point the antenna in the right direction (a few degrees away from the Mt-Royal antenna) and do a scan, my tv picks it up, and I DO get an image of it, but nothing more than a non-moving image of whatever’s playing right now on TQ. I’m in St-Henri, so I guess I’m just too far or being blocked by the mountain or something?

    I get RadCan, CBC, CFCF and TVA great, and Global usually good (with the occassionnal jitters).

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      I’m in St-Henri, so I guess I’m just too far or being blocked by the mountain or something?

      The mountain doesn’t entirely block the line between St. Henri and the Olympic Stadium, where Télé-Québec broadcasts from. But that line passes through all the high-rise buildings of downtown, which is probably what’s blocking it.

      Radio-Canada, CBC, CFCF and TVA all broadcast from the Mount Royal tower, and Global is on the mountain as well, which should be easy to capture from St. Henri.

      Reply
  27. Apple IIGS

    Well, it’s September 30th and Canal Savior (CFTU-29) did not shutdown their analog transmitter at midnight. Unless I’m confused and their planned shutdown is for midnight tonight?

    The CRTC extension lasts until October 31, so technically it could stay on air for another entire month I suppose. No, I don’t watch CFTU (it’s about a notch above CPAC or the weather channel for watchability), nor do I hold much hope their 387W transmitter atop some small building on U of M’s campus will reach me, but… hey, they’re the LAST ones to turn out the lights, so to speak. :)

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      Well, it’s September 30th and Canal Savior (CFTU-29) did not shutdown their analog transmitter at midnight. Unless I’m confused and their planned shutdown is for midnight tonight?

      It wasn’t a firm date or anything, more of a hope. They have until Oct. 31 to make the switch.

      Reply
  28. Grepknob

    I was wondering, so far with my rabbit ears I get all of the local stations really well except for Global-TV. I know they are using a temporary transmitter at the base of the main transmitter tower on Mount-Royal has anything changed? I was just wondering as I used to get their analog signal quite well. I don’t know if I need to invest in a better antenna or just wait awhile. I am on the Plateau.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      I was wondering, so far with my rabbit ears I get all of the local stations really well except for Global-TV. I know they are using a temporary transmitter at the base of the main transmitter tower on Mount-Royal has anything changed?

      Global will be using the same antenna as CBC and Radio-Canada, which is still being refurbished. When that goes up, the signal should improve (if only because of the height).

      Reply
      1. bob dandurand

        finally got my digital converter and using rabbit ears in outremont I get cbc and radio canada very poorly, tva, ctv, TQ and V ok, and no global at all. I expected a lot better from cbc/radio canada.

        when will the cbc/radio canada upgrade process be completed?

        Reply
  29. Apple IIGS

    Ah, that’s different, I thought they were committed to going digital BEFORE October 1st. I’ll periodically check channel 29 then, but it seems likely they’ll continue broadcasting analog right up until the end of this month (unless they request another deadline extension; can they?).

    That’d be interesting, the very last analog signal to die on Halloween night. Heh, reminds me of two TV episodes of Tales From the Darkside (“Cutty Black Sow” and “Halloween Candy”). Not that anyone remembers that show, me and my 80′s nostalgia. ;)

    Reply
  30. Apple IIGS

    Looks like Global Montreal has jumped aboard the sub-channel wagon. There’s now 15.1 and 15.2, with the latter the same signal as the first, just in 480i/standard definition (much like ABC and PBS do with 22.2 and 33.2).

    Here’s hoping other Canadian channels start doing the same, and better yet, put something more useful on their sub channels.

    Reply
  31. Apple IIGS

    As of November 2nd, CTFU-29 is still broadcasting in analog (the last such station in Montreal).

    Apparently they’ve been granted another extension by the CRTC, this time until December 15, 2011. My gut feeling though is this will keep on going indefinitely, well into next year, with extension after extension. We’ll see.

    Reply
  32. Philip

    OK So I am at a loss as to why the new digital way of watching TV is more effective than watching the analog way but I just can’t see it. In fact I can’t see anything at all at the moment. Everything seems to be broken upo signal wise! I can’t really see anything on the screen for more than 1 minute before the signal breaks up again and I get the message on the screen to check my provider. At least with the analog signal you could make out things within the fuzziness. It’s like when I wake up at night and I try to find something I can listen to and I end up tuning to 900AM Hamilton to listen to Dr. Joy Brown. The signals not that great but I can make out what they are saying.

    On Thursday, I was clearly receiving TVA CBC CTV and Radio Canada and sometimes Tele-Quebec. I was happy. I was getting some of my favourite stations. My father was telling me that he can get a few more new stations such as Global. All you needed to do was move the dish pointing to our antenna. After that I tried to tell my dad to do an “Add on” search to get the new channels, but instead he did a Full Search, thus erasing all the stored channels that I had managed to save.

    Well, I lost Radio Canada and gained two Globals and Three WCFE channels, for which I was shocked at getting as I thought that you couldn’t get American Channels with this antenna. Soon after, we lost the Global signal as well as the WCFE Signal and then really only got CBC, CTV and TVA and we can no longer get Radio-Canada, no matter how hard we try. Today, we couldn’t get much of anything even CTV and we lost CBC altogether. I’m really pissed off. Before my father moved the antenna, we were always able to recoup the three above stations clearly and now we are screwed.

    Could this be due to a change in weather? I know that when we had a sattelite dish a long time ago, we would not be able to get certain channels during some months. I know that we should be putting up the new antenna instead of using a converter box, but it’s been kind of a hard time getting someone to put the new antenna up. I am just hoping that I will be able to at least watch something fully on my TV without any signal breaking up.

    This is really aggravating!

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      Well, I lost Radio Canada and gained two Globals and Three WCFE channels

      Where are you located? I find it hard to believe that there’s a location or antenna setup in town that would capture WCFE but not Radio-Canada. The only thing I can think of is that there’s some sort of local interference that’s disrupting the Radio-Canada signal. Or there’s something wrong with the antenna or the tuner.

      Reply
    2. Apple IIGS

      FYI: Both Montreal CBC stations (CBMT and Radio Canada) have been broadcasting at significantly reduced power the past 2-3 weeks. They’re currently at 100 kW, but should go up to 450 kW at some point in December. As for Global, a lot of people have been complaining they can’t pick up their signal. I can get them in NDG and Laval, but no luck in Westmount.

      Just before the weekend CTV Montreal (CFCF-12) signal got very weak, I think they’re having maintenance issues too. Don’t worry, you’re not the only one having trouble picking up the local channels. Hopefully by this should all be resolved shortly.

      As for digital versus analog, I share your frustration. Digital is an all OR nothing technology. Where I currently live in NDG I couldn’t be happier with the technology. I get every local and US station, perfect reception (minus V and Tele-Quebec) and it’s all crystal clear and stable. Leaps and bounds superior to analog cable I had with VDN/CabloCite and and Videotron years ago. Of course if you’re not in the right area, digital TV can suck.

      If you have an amplified antenna though, it can make a world of difference. It helps to have a TV or tuner box with a signal meter, so you can find that magical spot and position for the antenna. Takes time and patience, but well worthwhile.

      Reply
      1. Apple IIGS

        Sorry, meant to also write I share your frustration in that I’ve been trying to set up an antenna in Laval. Unlike my experience in Westmount and NDG (in high rise buildings vs a 2 story house), it’s been far more trickery.

        Best tips I can give is…height. The higher the antenna, the best your chances of picking up a signal. Amplification helps a great deal too. I’ve also found the VHF poles can affect UHF reception….try sticking them through the UHF loop (make sure the metal touches).

        I’m picking up all the local channels in Laval, plus a handful of US stations. CBS and NBC are intermittent. Absolutely no luck with FOX and ABC. I’m still trying though.

        Reply
  33. Martin

    You cover all angles

    In the states the gain sub channel, In Montréal area, we are loosing the right to free signal.
    You are one the rare journalist to mention it. Thanks

    Who are the big winners, The Videotron, Shaw, Bell, not only for HD but also for the new cell frequencies that will be available. The CRTC should have said that Vtele and Tele-Quebec had a right to stay on the mountain for an even coverage(same rent as before). The other players didn’t have any choice but to be on the mountain otherwise they would have been accuse of forcing the use of cable or satellite.

    This site could be of some interest for coverage: http://www.tvfool.com/?option=com_wrapper&Itemid=90

    Reply
  34. Apple IIGS

    Well, I was right about Canal Savoir (CTFU-29). For the third time they’ve missed their deadline. They promised to switch over September 30th…..then October 31st…..finally December 15th.

    As of December 17th, they’re still broadcasting in analog.

    Their website says the work on the antenna’s building is taking longer than expected, but they’re still committed to making the change. No date is given this time. Likely this will go on indefinitely IMHO.

    Oh well, I rather see the other local channels resolve their problems with weak signals (CBC, CTV and Global are all at reduced power for some reason!) or adding sub-channels. If not for all the US stations, I’d be forced to switch to cable TV at this point.

    Reply
    1. Rebecca

      I still don’t get Global at all.
      I get CTV, CBC English and French, and 1 other French station.
      Anyone else no Global? Help!

      Reply
      1. Fagstein Post author

        I still don’t get Global at all.
        I get CTV, CBC English and French, and 1 other French station.

        Global’s transmitter isn’t as powerful as these stations, so you probably need to improve your antenna setup if you want to catch it. You can wait a few weeks, because they will be moving to a new antenna higher up the tower on Mount Royal, which should improve their signal.

        Reply
      2. Jack Nathanson

        I don’t get Global either. and I live in the Snowdon area which is only a couple of miles from the transmitter. Strangely enough, I can sometimes pick up Tele-Quebec, which is broadcast from the much more remote Olympic Tower.

        Reply
        1. Fagstein Post author

          I don’t get Global either. and I live in the Snowdon area which is only a couple of miles from the transmitter. Strangely enough, I can sometimes pick up Tele-Quebec, which is broadcast from the much more remote Olympic Tower.

          The Olympic Stadium tower is pretty high, and gives them excellent coverage of everywhere east of the mountain. But more importantly, Télé-Québec is putting out about 100 times the power of Global.

          Reply
  35. morningwood

    A few weeks? OK, I can wait a little more, I suppose. So is there an exact date or any kind of official announcement or confirmation?

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      So is there an exact date or any kind of official announcement or confirmation?

      Not yet. There’s a lot of factors involved. Global will be sharing its antenna with CBC and Radio-Canada, though transmitting at much less power.

      Reply
    2. Fagstein Post author

      So is there an exact date or any kind of official announcement or confirmation?

      Global Montreal says it switched to its permanent antenna late last week. So try again, but if you still don’t get it at all you might be out of luck.

      Reply
      1. morningwood

        Yup, it’s coming in now. Woohoo! So they’re at the top of the main tower now? Any word at what power they’re broadcasting, and if those are their final specs?

        Thanks for the info!

        Reply
        1. Fagstein Post author

          So they’re at the top of the main tower now?

          Yes.

          Any word at what power they’re broadcasting, and if those are their final specs?

          The power is the same as the temporary transmitter, 8,000 watts. There might be some adjustment if they can find ways to improve the signal, but unless they find something wrong the changes will probably be minor.

          Reply
  36. Richard

    Meanwhile, here in St-Henri I get Global fine, but I’ve lost my TéléQuébec signal, and I just can’t seem to get it back, even with my fancy antenna. I think it’s because of interference from my fridge or something maybe…

    Reply
  37. Apple IIGS

    Interestingly I can pick up Global in NDG and Laval, but NOT in Westmount (the latter two locations are family members I’ve set up with amplified antennas).

    I’ve given up trying to get Tele-Quebec and V from Montreal, though I do get Tele-Quebec’s Sherbrooke feed on channel 24.1 (V on 30.1 can be picked up if I fiddle with my antenna, but I rather not because I get every other channel from Montreal and the US).

    When is CBC 6.1 going to increase their transmitter power? Any news on that? Right now they’re broadcasting at only 100 kW, but word has it they’re going to jump up to 450 kW.

    Reply
  38. morningwood

    Those of us too close to the mountain (I live near McGill) or blocked by a second peak (Westmount, Snowdon) are having trouble getting Global because they are still on their temporary antenna halfway up the tower, so the signal can’t clear the peaks and we are in the shadows, so to speak.

    If Fagstein’s intel is on the money, when they *finally* move up the tower in a few weeks, the signal should reach us better.

    I hope!

    Reply
  39. Apple IIGS

    It would be nice to see Global more widely available in the coming weeks, especially consider we have only 3 English TV stations in Montreal. I’m also curious if they plan to add something interested to their sub-channel on 15.2. It’d be awesome if they added a 24 hour movie channel, or retro programming (one can always dream, right?). :)

    Incidentally, look for Canal Savoir on channel 27.1 by next month. Their new deadline to make the digital switch over is March 31, 2012. Don’t hold you’re breath mind you, they’ve already missed the two previous deadlines and even if they do make it over, I’d be surprised if any of use will pick up the signal. Well, we’ll see…

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      I’m also curious if they plan to add something interested to their sub-channel on 15.2. It’d be awesome if they added a 24 hour movie channel, or retro programming (one can always dream, right?). :)

      So far no Canadian broadcaster has made plans for use of subchannels for alternative programming. The biggest reason is that the CRTC would require that service to be licensed. And any specialty service that could be licensed for free over-the-air use could also be licensed for paid subscription use.

      Reply
  40. borg8088

    CFTU began broadcasting in digital today, February 23, 2012, at around 4:30PM
    Very strong signal (100%) in Montreal-Nord.
    The video is SD (480i), audio stereo.
    …even with PSIP show titles AND descriptions ! Very Nice !

    Reply
    1. Apple IIGS

      I’m picking up CFTU in NDG, at 100% signal strength (surprising really, I didn’t think I would get it at all!). Sad in a way, that now officially marks THE final end to analog broadcasting here in Montreal….they were the last one to shut off the lights so to speak.

      If you have an old TV set, the only things you may still pick up are CJOH-8 and TFO-39 in Ottawa. Not sure how long those will be around though…

      Reply
  41. Bill H

    The Mount-Royal transmitter has been shutting down at around 1AM and then back up later in the morning since last week. Any news as to what they are doing?

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      The Mount-Royal transmitter has been shutting down at around 1AM and then back up later in the morning since last week. Any news as to what they are doing?

      Scheduled maintenance of some sort. I don’t have details. One of the things they have to do is replace the transmission lines to the CBC/Radio-Canada antennas to support the 400,000W (each) they’re putting into them.

      Reply
  42. Apple IIGS

    I’ve been noticing the night-time shutdown of channels 2.1, 6.1, 10.1, 12.1 and 15.1 (all on Mount Royal). There is good news in this, and that is in the past few days ALL those channels have had their signal strength and stability vastly improve.

    For the first time in several months, I can pick them all up, and without having to realign my antenna towards the mountain (which unfortunately, caused me to lose the American channels).

    I’ve also noticed 30.1 (V) from Sherbrooke is now stable enough to pick up.

    Let’s hope this stays or improves even further.

    Reply
    1. Philip

      I’ve just noticed this recently as well (tonight in fact). I missed Coronation Street earlier tonight and was watching the rebroadcast. I understand that it is due to maintenance, but it is getting a bit excessive. I watch a bit of late night tv and hate it when they suddenly shut down for a few hours. By the time it comes back on I’m already in bed. Usually around 2 30 am.

      I am getting a tad annoyed with the new digital way of watching. OK granted I only have the converter box with the antenna at present and not the full package, but I hate when I always have to fiddle with the dial to get the 5 channels I have just right, and I can’t get certain channels like V or Global. Right now, I prefer the original version as even if you can’t get a certain channel with the antenna, you could still hear it with a fuzzy picture. Presently, if there is something wrong with the signal, the picture breaks up or dissapears altogether, and forget it if it rains!.

      It may be the wave of the future, but I just don’t get it. I’m ending up missing a lot

      Reply
      1. Rebecca

        Hi Philip,
        I had to move my TV to another part of the house, and now I get 11 stations perfectly, before I got only 4.
        The bad previous location was in the center of the house, not near a window.
        The new good location is near a window with a south west exposure.
        Let me know if this helps.

        Reply
      2. Apple IIGS

        Philip: You’re not the only one frustrated, but I can assure you it’s ONLY the local Montreal channels (hey, if our roads, hospitals and infrastructure suck in good ‘ol Montreal, why not our digital TV broadcasting too). ;) Really, I can’t help but roll my eyes when I see NBC and CBS, broadcasting from another country no less, come in at **100%** signal strength, and yet CTV, CBC or Global barely come in at all. And I can actually SEE the transmitter tower from my window…no joke.

        Hopefully once all the maintenance is done, this frustration will end. It is getting better, I’ll admit that.

        In the meantime I agree with Rebecca. I find the south wall of my apartment works best, even though it is as far from the window as possible. I guess the signal travels well enough through wall. If your converter has a signal monitor, turn it ON while you fiddle with the antenna to find the best position (watch as it goes up or down as you move the poles or loop). Amplified antennas work best….I tried one at a neighbor’s house out in Laval, and at ground level I was able to pick up all the local and American stations, minus FOX and ABC.

        Which converter do you have?

        Reply
        1. Philip

          Thanks guys for the encouraging words. Right now, we only get 5 channels R-C, CTV, CBC, TVA and Savoir. Those are the only 5 I seem to get at present and I only can get the Canadian channels. The tv is in our sun room where there a lot of windows. We have the antenna to get the American channels but we never could pin down the guy who could help us put it up and now we have this temporary thing to get the Canadian channels at least. Also, we are most likely moving later this year, so to move around the antenna for a couple of months…..

          Well after Fagstein told us that April 21st was the last day of overnight maintenance, Monday was ok, though I fell asleep. Though I did have to continually adjust the dial on the dish pointing to make sure I got all 4 stations clear Tonight, however,, the signals are down yet again, to my surprise (everytime I manage to stay up…) I understand that it’s beneficial, but when am I going to be able to watch Colbert Conan and Corrie?

          I’m so nostalgic for the old Analog days where even if the picture was not clear, you could always hear something! :(

          Reply
          1. Rebecca

            Hi Philip,
            Are you on the 1st or 2nd floor?
            What exposure is your window?
            Line of sight to the American border is ideal.
            My son suggested I go to future shop and get a 100$ antenna, try it and take it back if it’s no better than the $ store one I currently use.
            The stations went off the air after midnight again last night.
            Cheers,
            Rebecca

            Reply
          2. Jack Nathanson

            As far as I understand it, they can not do antenna maintenance during heavy wind and rain. So the maintenance originally set for the weekend was postponed for a few days – until last night.

            Reply
  43. wr

    This is the 4th week of overnight off air…if this “maintenance” last all summer as the last time they couldn’t find a better way to drum up business for cable or other paying co.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      they couldn’t find a better way to drum up business for cable or other paying co.

      Because 12:30-5:30am is really prime time for over-the-air television viewing?

      Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      get your point however there is a large population of shift workers who are up until 5:30 am

      And I’m one of them. But it’s still the lowest-rated part of the day. Better to do maintenance overnight than during primetime.

      Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      they could at least wait until Colbert says goodnight.

      This is true, though the maintenance is on all transmitters on the tower, not just CFCF.

      Reply
      1. Apple IIGS

        Hopefully this so-called maintenance does end by April 21st, every night for four weeks straight is a little excessive. They also seem to have taken a step backwards with CBC and Global, I can no longer pick those up stations once again (at least not without realigning my antenna, which is a pain).

        We’ll see what happens by next week.

        Reply
  44. Jack Nathanson

    Something weird seems to have happened to the Global signal. About 2 or 3 weeks ago, it suddenly became as strong and stable as the CTV one. Then, a few days ago, it suddenly disappeared entirely. Any one else have a similar experience?

    Reply
  45. David

    I live on St Mathieu and get some 22 stations including all the US ones

    The worst reception is 6.1 CBMT and I can almost see the antenna from my balcony.

    I have wrtten several emails to the CBC and even copied the CRTC. Believe it or not I did get a response from the CRTC but never from the CBC ?????????????

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      The worst reception is 6.1 CBMT and I can almost see the antenna from my balcony.

      If you pick up U.S. stations but can’t get CBMT then clearly the problem isn’t that it’s not putting out enough power. It could be it’s putting out too much power and is overloading your receiver. Try disconnecting the antenna or replacing it with a metal paper clip or something less efficient and see if you can tune it in.

      Reply
      1. jacques from Laprairie

        I use a amplified antennae and at one put i put one of those line amplifiers between my powered amplified anteanne in the window and the TV set top box across room. I started having problems with 12 and 6, It turns out that once I turned down the dial on the powered antennae 12 and 6 got better… a signal that is too strong definitly overpowers the tuner , as far as I am concerned.

        Jacques

        Reply

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