CBC cuts will be felt on the airwaves

Nobody could seriously have suspected that the 10% cut to the CBC’s budget wouldn’t result in some significant service disruptions. Nevertheless, the Mother Corp has done its best to maintain things like local programming.

The CBC has a website explaining the cuts that are coming as a result of the federal budget.

Here, in point form, is what the CBC is doing:

  • Reduce its workforce by 650 full-time equivalent jobs
  • Apply to the CRTC to allow it to air advertising on Radio Two and Espace musique
  • Shut down remaining analog television transmitters by July 31
  • Radio Canada International will cease transmission on shortwave and satellite, cut Russian and Brazilian services, and shut down its news department, ending its newscasts
  • Cancel nighttime programming on Première chaîne
  • Produce fewer episodes (and air more repeats) of original television series
  • Reduce its real estate footprint, including reducing Maison Radio-Canada in Montreal by 400,000 square feet
  • Increase employee contributions to the employee pension plan
  • Abandon plans for an English-language children’s specialty channel and French-language sports channel
  • Sell Bold
  • Produce fewer in-house documentaries, relying more on independent producers

There’s a bunch of other things that are very vague, including reductions in news gathering and in radio programming, whose details will be known soon.

On the plus side, it doesn’t look like local programming will be significantly affected. CBC Montreal will continue, for example, with its plans to launch weekend TV and radio newscasts starting May 5. The network also seems to be doing as much as it can to keep journalism jobs (except at RCI).

On the minus side, some people will complain about ads and sponsorships on the music radio stations (and it seems an odd move particularly because Radio Two and Espace musique are usually at the very bottom of the ratings charts), and there can’t be the loss of so many jobs without affecting front-line services.

But what gets me most is those cuts to actual, physical broadcasting.

No-wave radio

The CBC’s CKCX shortwave transmission site near Sackville, New Brunswick, is a sight to behold with its giant transmission towers and seemingly chaotic spider web of long antenna wires. It’s the only station of its kind in Canada, and transmits at different times and on different frequencies toward the rest of the world on shortwave, as well as some CBC North programming toward the territories and some transmissions of foreign services as part of transmitter sharing/swap agreements.

The shortwave transmissions will be coming to an end, as will transmissions using satellite. This leaves Internet streaming as the only way for people to listen to RCI.

It’s hardly the first time RCI has felt under the knife. There’s a blog set up by those who want to protect this service from being slashed into oblivion. It points to cuts under the Mulroney government in 1990 in which RCI was almost shut down but instead lost just half its staff and half its language services.

I don’t have any numbers on how many people listen to RCI via shortwave. Maybe it’s not many. But I can’t help thinking this loss will be a blow to Canada’s reputation, and wonder why they’d bother keeping it if they’re going to make it online-only. This interview with RCI’s boss, Hélène Parent, makes it clear in its tone if not its content that this is as close to a fatal blow to RCI as one can make without killing it completely. More than 80% of its budget is being cut, going from $12.3 million to $2.3 million.

And as some have pointed out, part of the benefit of shortwave radio is to provide a western perspective to people inside third-world countries or dictatorships where their only other options are state-run television and radio stations. Many of these places restrict or block the Internet, and might do the same to RCI online. Though it is possible to jam shortwave radio transmissions, it’s a lot harder.

The analog era is over

Another big cost savings will come from shutting down more than 600 analog television transmitters across the country. In an effort to serve Canadians in even the most remote of communities, the CBC has retransmitters for its English and French television services all over the country. Many of them are low-power, transmitting just a few watts of power to cover a community of a few hundred people.

For example, here’s a list of the 40+ retransmitters just of CBC Montreal television, from Îles de la Madeleine to Blanc Sablon to
Salluit at the northern end of Quebec. All of them will be shut down, leaving only the digital transmitter on Mount Royal.

After July 31, only existing digital transmitters will remain in operation. There are 27 of them for the two networks, along with those run by privately-owned affiliates.

It’s not just tiny villages that will lose over-the-air television. Quebec City, Sherbrooke, Trois Rivières and other cities in Quebec will no longer have retransmitters of CBC Montreal, which will mean, for example, that audiences without cable or satellite television in those areas will no longer get to watch Canadiens games on Saturday nights. The CRTC gave a one-year extension on the mandatory digital transition for a bunch of transmitters in mandatory markets. Affected were transmitters for stations that did not produce any original local programming but were in markets large enough to require the transition.

When I spoke to the CBC, it said it would probably just ask for another extension once that one ran out, and that it didn’t see ever converting all or even most of its analog transmitters into digital.

With budget cuts, the hand is forced and these transmitters are going to be shut down. That will mean, for example, that APTN will be the only over-the-air television transmitters in northern Canada. It will mean that Quebec will have no over-the-air English television outside of Montreal, Gatineau and the two Global Montreal retransmitters in Quebec City and Sherbrooke. It will mean no Radio-Canada transmitter in Calgary and many other markets where you’d think they should have one.

One can hope that the CBC will mitigate the damage somewhat by providing second-language service as a subchannel in some markets where it has digital transmitters for one language but not the other. That would mean it could at least provide a standard-definition feed of CBC television in Quebec City to people with digital receivers.

Otherwise, this is really the beginning of the end of over-the-air television.

UPDATE (April 11): The Gazette has a story about the cuts to Radio Canada International.

Meanwhile, CBC has more details about the cuts to English services. They include shutting down South American and African news bureaus, eliminating drama programming from radio, and accelerating “integration” of newsrooms and other vague plans.

39 thoughts on “CBC cuts will be felt on the airwaves

  1. mdblog

    Fagtein, why would you care about cuts to the CBC? All it ever did was showcase “Canadian culture (what little of it there is)”. Your hypocrisy is astounding. If there is a positive in these cuts, it’s that you have even slimmer chances of ever landing a plum job at the CBC and getting paid by the taxpayers of the culture-less country you call home.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      Fagtein, why would you care about cuts to the CBC? All it ever did was showcase “Canadian culture (what little of it there is)”.

      Yes, and I think Canadian culture needs help.

      Reply
      1. mdblog

        And how do you propose to help Canadian culture? Make it insular and dependent on taxpayers from other jurisdictions as in the case of Quebec?

        Reply
        1. Fagstein Post author

          And how do you propose to help Canadian culture? Make it insular and dependent on taxpayers from other jurisdictions as in the case of Quebec?

          I’m not sure what “insular” means in this context, nor how you can make taxpayers from other countries pay for Canadian culture. I don’t have magical solutions, though I think private broadcasters should consider doing more local programming and finding ways to make it profitable.

          Reply
          1. mdblog

            I think local is great, but I was using insular with a negative connotation, as in: Circumscribed and detached in outlook and experience; narrow or provincial. You know, like your good buddies the Quebec nationalists. :)

            Reply
  2. Marc

    How about they dump their francophobic gasbag Don Cherry ($8M/year), trim their enormous amount of overhead and stop buying the rights to air US game shows? That would be a huge savings.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      How about they dump their francophobic gasbag Don Cherry ($8M/year), trim their enormous amount of overhead and stop buying the rights to air US game shows? That would be a huge savings.

      Hockey Night in Canada and those U.S. game shows are money-makers for the CBC. Cherry’s value to HNIC’s success is debatable, but if the CBC stopped airing Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy it would have even less money and would have to cut more.

      Reply
      1. Marc

        If CBC is getting a massive chunk of revenue from US game shows, then CBC TV is in an identity crisis. Is its goal to protect and promote Canadian culture? Or is it just another network? If the latter is true then the taxpayer umbellical cord must be cut at once. Correct me if I’m wrong but Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune do nothing to fulfill CBC’s mission statement. Nor do Coronation Street, The World of Disney or Hollywood movies for that matter.

        Reply
        1. Fagstein Post author

          If CBC is getting a massive chunk of revenue from US game shows, then CBC TV is in an identity crisis. Is its goal to protect and promote Canadian culture? Or is it just another network?

          The CBC would argue that those two things are not mutually exclusive.

          The debate over whether the CBC should import programming to supplement its income still divides many. But the CBC would argue that, either way, 100% of its prime-time programming (8pm-11pm) is Canadian.

          Reply
          1. Shawn

            Well, the scuttlebutt is that the league and Bettman are unhappy with the treatment accorded by HNIC and the CBC will likely lose the NHL package anyways…

            Reply
  3. Alex H

    Sorry, I wasn’t going to post here again about much of anything, but I have to say Steve that your point of view on this one is just wrong, caught up in a 1950s flashback mentality that is hard to grasp.

    Most of your arguments about transmissions are based on systems that are now out of date. Shortwave? It’s no longer a real meaningful way to transmit radio programs in the age of the internet. Even most of the nations of Africa have internet access, and access to information on a regular basis. Shortwave radio was meaningful 20 or 30 years ago, when most of these places didn’t have access to outside information. At this point, they pretty much all do, so shortwave is no longer a really good source of information. For Canada to spend millions of dollars a year to broadcast to a VERY narrow audience overseas seems incredibly wasteful, and give me as a taxpayer nothing back.

    The 40 CBC transmitters? They have been rendered obsolete by the internet and satellite TV, and in many of these places, it would be much more cost effective to just give people Bell TV dishes and tell them to have a nice day. It’s expensive as hell to get the signals up there, it’s expensive as hell to maintain the transmitters, and it’s a waste of my money as a taxpayer to do it. What do you think the cost per viewer is in these places? It’s just not something that money should be spent on anymore, it might have been needed 20 or 30 years ago, but again, technology has rendered most of it useless.

    Let’s talk about the Maison Radio Canada as well. Do we really need it? If CFCF can run out of a couple of floors of an office building, and TVA can run out of a low rise building, why does the CBC need a huge tower in the middle of prime real estate development areas? Why not move the CBC to, say, Laval, put it in a nice low rise industrial style building, and call it even? Perhaps just do like CTV and rent office space? Imagine how much the land from Wolf to Papineau is worth… they are sitting on a gold mine.

    The CBC has a mandate, but at the same time it has to be a realistic operation. They appear to have champagne and caviar tastes, and a poutine audience. It doesn’t make sense to maintain the structures, operations, facilities, and transmitters to provide a service that has been rendered obsolete by the internet and other modern communication systems.

    More and more Steve, you are sounding like someone who works for Heritage Montreal – they want to preserve everything, no matter how silly, how out dated, and how irrelevant it is to our history.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      your point of view on this one is just wrong, caught up in a 1950s flashback mentality that is hard to grasp.

      I’m not saying I necessarily oppose these cuts, just that they will mean detaching the CBC from a lot of what made it the CBC.

      The 40 CBC transmitters? They have been rendered obsolete by the internet and satellite TV, and in many of these places, it would be much more cost effective to just give people Bell TV dishes and tell them to have a nice day.

      I don’t have any data on how much they cost to maintain, but I’m guessing handing out free subscriptions across the country to Bell TV would be more expensive.

      Here’s my question though: Why does it make sense to install a digital over-the-air television transmitter in Montreal, but not to maintain an analog transmitter in Quebec City?

      Reply
      1. Alex H

        “I’m not saying I necessarily oppose these cuts, just that they will mean detaching the CBC from a lot of what made it the CBC.”

        Not having a coal shoot in my house and not using ice blocks to store my food changes the way my house works in some ways, but it is an improvement, not a turn back. Technology has overtaken what the CBC was about decades ago, and there is little rhyme or reason to keep paying to maintain something that is no longer really useful. It would be akin to forcing taxpayers to pay for coal carts and ice delivery guys to keep working, just because it is what we were at some point in the past.

        “Here’s my question though: Why does it make sense to install a digital over-the-air television transmitter in Montreal, but not to maintain an analog transmitter in Quebec City?”

        Keeping the analog transmitters isn’t an option, not long term. The government wants to license (aka sell) that bandwidth for new uses. With transmitters in major centers on those frequencies, it’s just not going to work out. The extension was temporary at best. Without money in the budget and without very large audiences in those markets, they are again better served by the people getting their own equipment to receive the programming – such as sat tv or cable.

        “I don’t have any data on how much they cost to maintain, but I’m guessing handing out free subscriptions across the country to Bell TV would be more expensive.”

        I was actually looking at mostly the very small communities, where very small transmitters are installed now. It seems like they would be much better off with multi-channel satellite systems rather than trying to maintain an analog transmitter system. I am sure that the CRTC could easily mandate Bell and Shaw to set up a “less than basic” basic service, that brings the main OTA channels from major Canadian cities to those people are a very small cost.

        If they have decent internet service, they could even just jump right over to a form of IP tv and call it even. Technology has rendered the current system obsolete, you need to accept that and move on.

        Reply
        1. Fagstein Post author

          Keeping the analog transmitters isn’t an option, not long term. The government wants to license (aka sell) that bandwidth for new uses. With transmitters in major centers on those frequencies, it’s just not going to work out.

          So you think the digital television transition was a mistake and the government should instead mandate the shutdown of all over-the-air television transmitters in Canada?

          Reply
          1. Alex H

            Wow, where did you get that from?

            Digital TV transmissions are in a much smaller band, mostly in the UHF band. I do think they did make a mistake in leaving a few stations in VHF, but that is their call. At this point, they still have a huge amount of bandwidth that can be sold for 4G / 5G services, etc. You can look at what the FTC is proposing in the US to get a better idea.

            I don’t think OTA digital is a mistake. It’s a great idea, and moreover, I think that the US stations seem to have the better idea, with multiple stations per channel keeping the bandwidth used reasonable, and offering plenty of value added services to the OTA crowd. PBS having 4 stations, as an example, is a great use of their bandwidth. CBC could (with crtc approval) certainly offer an anglo signal on french digital transmitters in areas, and offer a french service in certain anglo only areas (such as Calgary) without harm. But that requires choices that the CRTC has not been willing to make.

            OTA is pretty much in the long run a losing technology anyway, as IPTV pretty much appears to be the long term, foregone conclusion.

            Reply
            1. Fagstein Post author

              Digital TV transmissions are in a much smaller band, mostly in the UHF band.

              I don’t know what “much smaller band” means. Digital television signals use the same 6 MHz bandwidth that analog signals use.

              I do think they did make a mistake in leaving a few stations in VHF, but that is their call. At this point, they still have a huge amount of bandwidth that can be sold for 4G / 5G services, etc.

              UHF frequencies are much more useful for auctioning for mobile services. Besides, most television transmitters in Canada – particularly those in small regions – are on VHF. It would have been a lot more expensive to move everyone off Channels 2-13 than it was to move them off Channels 52-69.

              CBC could (with crtc approval) certainly offer an anglo signal on french digital transmitters in areas, and offer a french service in certain anglo only areas (such as Calgary) without harm. But that requires choices that the CRTC has not been willing to make.

              What choices has the CRTC not been willing to make in this regard? The CBC hasn’t proposed making use of subchannels in this capacity.

              Reply
          2. Alex H

            “I don’t know what “much smaller band” means. Digital television signals use the same 6 MHz bandwidth that analog signals use.”

            They have defined a much smaller total frequency range for TV broadcasting. Some call it the “digital dividend”. There are a lot of technical reasons, including less splatter between channels, and that multiple channels could be put on the same bandwidth that use to be used for a single channel. A number of previous analog channels are no longer available for use (52-69… which have already been auctioned in the US and will likely see the same in Canada). Also, the frequencies used for channels 2 through 6 are also being eyed, although their properties don’t make them as good for many of the desired services (and they face issues with splatter on the FM radio).

            With less interference, less multipath, and a better controlled broadcast pattern (higher frequencies generally have a shorter terrestial transmission pattern) all add up to make UHF a real winner.

            “UHF frequencies are much more useful for auctioning for mobile services. Besides, most television transmitters in Canada – particularly those in small regions – are on VHF. It would have been a lot more expensive to move everyone off Channels 2-13 than it was to move them off Channels 52-69.”

            What makes them good for mobile services also makes them good for mobile TV viewing. It’s a very effecient use of bandspace to broadcast something to all users, rather than to try to get enough cellular bandwidth to send each of them the same signal. It is very desirable for everyone.

            Moving people really wasn’t the issue, there were not a ton of channels in the 52-69 range that were active. For the 2013 (particular 2 – 6) crowd, there was an incentive to move to UHF to get away from interference issues and the like. 2-6 in particular are just not compatible with digital TV. It makes very good technical sense to try to keep everything into a single band area, rather than spreading it around. It makes it easier to have the correct antenna, as an example. With TVA and CTV in Montreal remaining on their original frequencies, they have pretty much made it a pain for anyone who needs an antenna to get reception, because now they need a UHF and a VHF antenna.

            “What choices has the CRTC not been willing to make in this regard? The CBC hasn’t proposed making use of subchannels in this capacity.”

            The CRTC has not made the multiple channels per frequency option a priority, and in fact our current broadcast systems / cable / sat TV situation makes that very complicated. Bell could put CTV2 as a second channel on every CTV transmitter in the country, but they could potentially run into all sorts of rule issues. So far the CRTC hasn’t seen fit to make much of a discussion of these options that exist within the ATSC standards. Clearly, anywhere that the CBC (example) is running a digital english channel, they could easily add a sub-channel of the SRC from Montreal).

            With all this said, we come to the same problems. In areas with high population density, OTA is a cost effective way to reach people. But as the communities get smaller, the populations get smaller, the amount of money required to obtain and maintain an OTA transmission system gets less and less financially viable, especially with the sat tv alternatives. Communities of a few hundred people are really hard to justify serving. Pond Inlet, as an example is 1300 people in an area of about 3 square kilometers… and it already has cable TV. It’s not clear that maintaining a transmitter here really helps. It looks more like an old 70s style CBC mandate that is just no longer in keeping with technology.

            In realistic terms, it would be a much cheaper mandate for the government to pay Bell-TV to provide a super basic satellite service to these people for a very low price (perhaps even free) rather than paying the CBC only to provide service, while at the same time allowing all of the incumbents in the Canadian broadcasting system to provide service, improving the product that these people get.

            The 70s are over. Mandates that looked good when the CBC North concept was put together just no longer make much sense.

            Reply
            1. Fagstein Post author

              With TVA and CTV in Montreal remaining on their original frequencies, they have pretty much made it a pain for anyone who needs an antenna to get reception, because now they need a UHF and a VHF antenna.

              While I suppose that’s true, CFTM and CFCF are putting out a lot of power, and they’re at the high end of the VHF band. People are having more problems picking up stations like CKMI, CFTU and CFJP.

              Bell could put CTV2 as a second channel on every CTV transmitter in the country, but they could potentially run into all sorts of rule issues.

              Let’s be honest here: CTV Two has no purpose other than to air third-rate American programming. I’ve yet to see a CTV Two program worth watching (outside of local news) that wasn’t available on a U.S. network.

              Reply
          3. Alex H

            I used CTV2, I could have easily replaced it with TSN or similar. CRTC just doesn’t want anyone going there, and local competition rulings and restrictions and all that means that it is unlikely they would ever allow a secondary channel without serious debate.

            The real long term issue here is the costs of OTA transmission versus other options, and the number of people who are depending solely on OTA transmissions for their service.

            In many ways, the idea of a local TV channel has become a bit of an anachronism all it’s own. It’s a quaint concept that is no longer really supported by what ends up on the air. CTV montreal isn’t CTV montreal except for during the new times, otherwise it’s just CTV. CBC is in the same boat. Basically, they could send them same signal to all parts of Canada, and deliver a local news “insert” based on region, and have pretty much the same results. The guise of maintaining local channels (in Canada) is just about lost. How many independent channels in Quebec?

            The only saving grace for OTA tv at this point is mobile. It is perhaps it’s perfect use. Handheld devices seem like the only area likely to expand – it’s cheaper to do that they to try to provide enough bandwidth to deliver it as IP tv to these users. Bell however already does. Perhaps another dead end?

            “CFTM and CFCF are putting out a lot of power”

            They are only putting out a small percentage of what they use to put out. Digital is very much more effecient in this manner. For the other stations, well most of them are running VERY low power. They appear to be doing OTA only to assure SimSub.

            Reply
            1. Fagstein Post author

              I used CTV2, I could have easily replaced it with TSN or similar. CRTC just doesn’t want anyone going there, and local competition rulings and restrictions and all that means that it is unlikely they would ever allow a secondary channel without serious debate.

              CTV Two and TSN are radically different servives. One charges a per-subscriber fee, the other does not. And that’s the big reason why CTV doesn’t have TSN as a secondary channel, because it would cut into TSN’s subscriber revenues (cable companies could even argue that they should be able to carry it for free).

              Your assertion that “CRTC just doesn’t want anyone going there” doesn’t seem to be supported by any statement from the commission on the matter.

              Reply
          4. Alex H

            “Your assertion that “CRTC just doesn’t want anyone going there” doesn’t seem to be supported by any statement from the commission on the matter.”

            http://www.crtc.gc.ca/eng/archive/2002/pb2002-31.htm

            The pretty much made it clear that anyone wanting to do this would be required to submit an application for a license, which would be evaluated in the same manner that they would evaluate any other new application into a marketplace. So while it is technically possible for CTV to add CTV2 to every transmitter in Canada, they would have to make application for the station as a new entrant into each market place, with all the requirements of a new local station.

            Basically, the CRTC made it clear from the get go that they didn’t want anyone going there.

            Reply
            1. Fagstein Post author

              The pretty much made it clear that anyone wanting to do this would be required to submit an application for a license

              Requiring a service to be licensed doesn’t mean the CRTC is opposed to the establishment of new services. The CRTC said (10 years ago) it would handle multicasting on a case-by-case basis, and that other channels would have the same Canadian content and logging requirements as the main channels.

              The truth is few broadcasters have proposed multicasting, mainly for the same reason there are few applications for new over-the-air television stations these days: over the air TV doesn’t pay.

              Reply
          5. Alex H

            “Requiring a service to be licensed doesn’t mean the CRTC is opposed to the establishment of new services. ”

            No, it means that it would be subject to the same review as any new commercial channel into a marketplace. In Montreal, that would mean “no” for pretty much every new service, because the incumbent players are already having a hard time attracting viewers and making the bottom line. You cannot imagine the CRTC allowing 3 or 4 new english OTA channels in Montreal just because it is technically possible. The bar is so high, that it is impossible – essentially removing the potential.

            Further, if they considered multicasting to a good option, don’t you think they would have brought it up with the CBC before? Having CBC and SRC sharing every transmitter in Canada would be a huge savings in general, and would probably have allowed the CBC to convert more analog stations to digital. Consider this report:

            http://www.crtc.gc.ca/eng/publications/reports/dtv0903.pdf

            Montreal alone was forecast to cost more than $7 million to convert. Yet, either one of those transmitters would be enough to carry both channels in HD. If they saved even $3 million, they would have had enough money to convert about a dozen smaller market transmitters. Further saving would be had along the line, and services could have been maintained in any city that had either CBC or SRC in digital in it.

            You don’t think that between the CBC and the CRTC that this sort of concept wouldn’t have come up?

            Reply
            1. Fagstein Post author

              it would be subject to the same review as any new commercial channel into a marketplace

              I don’t see anywhere the CRTC says this. There are no apparent requirements for local programming on subchannels, for example. Aside from Canadian content and logging obligations, there are no set rules for them because nobody’s applied for one yet.

              Further, if they considered multicasting to a good option, don’t you think they would have brought it up with the CBC before? Having CBC and SRC sharing every transmitter in Canada would be a huge savings in general, and would probably have allowed the CBC to convert more analog stations to digital.

              Actually, the CRTC did suggest multicast as a way to save costs in the DTV transition. But it’s not their job to tell the CBC how to spend its money (at least, not directly). The CBC didn’t want to do multicasting because it would mean degrading the main signal. And you can’t multicast multiple HD signals, which is a large part of the reason why it hasn’t been used much yet.

              Reply
          6. Alex H

            A quick look at the ATSC specs pretty much means that two 720P hi def signals can live together without issue, as the data rate is more than fast enough for it. For that matter, you can get a 720P and TWO SD channels on there is you want instead. PBS out of Vermont does 4 channels on their single signal.

            My point is that, when the CBC came to the CRTC original with the request to keep analog transmitters up (especially in places where there was a digital conversion for SRC) is seems pretty silly that nobody talked about sharing the transmitters. Spending 8 million or more in Montreal seems really out there as a concept, especially when the cost savings from merging would pretty much allow for the conversion of many of the transmitters that otherwise would be shut down – and would allow the CBC to offer french and english services to these communities (or even going for 3 SD channels to provide CBC north as well).

            The lack of anyone bringing it to the table seems to be either one incredibly large oversight by everyone, or it is a topic that has already been rendered moot by the way the CRTC would want to license the services.

            Reply
            1. Fagstein Post author

              My point is that, when the CBC came to the CRTC original with the request to keep analog transmitters up (especially in places where there was a digital conversion for SRC) is seems pretty silly that nobody talked about sharing the transmitters.

              I asked the CBC about that. They said they didn’t want to compress the signal to put subchannels on. It seemed kind of a ridiculous argument at the time because the quality of the signal isn’t that high to begin with. We’ll see if they change their mind.

              Reply
  4. ATSC

    Again we hear about all those analog transmitters that will be shutdown, and that this will deprive access to the CBC/SRC.
    What a phoney argument meant to tell Canadians that they will loose access to the CBC due to these cuts.

    The technology is in place with Digital TV to offer sub-channels. If Quebec City will loose it’s analog CBC station CBVE, then they can certainly place a sub-channel on the local SRC station as x.2 in a 480p mode.

    No more or less in costs.

    But offering real solutions in the real world doesn’t seem to be part of the Corps priority. So, if this will be their kinda of thinking, then the Conservative Government in Ottawa should cut even more.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      What a phoney argument meant to tell Canadians that they will loose access to the CBC due to these cuts. The technology is in place with Digital TV to offer sub-channels.

      That will only help in markets like Quebec City where a transmitter is running for one service but not the other. In plenty of regions, there are no digital television transmitters at all.

      Reply
      1. ATSC

        Then shut down those analog CBC and SRC transmitters that are energy hogs, and place a single digital transmitter that can support both services.

        x.1 – CBC (480p)
        x.2 – SRC (480p)

        That would put into motion long term saving.

        Or better yet, get the hell out of small markets and allow a small TV operator to set up a station offering multicasting.

        x.1 – CBC (480p)
        x.2 – SRC (480p)
        x.3 – CTV (480p)
        x.4 – Global (480p)
        x.5 – Rogers CityTV (480p)

        Or whatever deal each operator manages to get with the Canadian networks that are willing to sign affiliate deals.

        CJNT-DT in Montreal is operating at 4kw on channel 49. CKMI-DT is operating at 8kw on channel 15. Those power rates are more than enough for a small town. And because most of those small towns would be up in the north, they would probably have a better choice in which channels they want to broadcast on due to the lack of broadcast clutter in their area. So, they can do the math and see which channel frequency would cost less in kw power and delivery a strong and stable signal.

        Example, higher channel numbers require more power to cover the same area.

        But as a general rule, a digital signal requires about 1/10th the power of a analog signal on the same frequency. CFCF-TV use to transmit at about 350kw. Now CFCF-DT is transmitting at 10kw. You do the math on that energy cost saving by the number of CBC and SRC analog transmitters all over the country.

        Reply
        1. Fagstein Post author

          Or better yet, get the hell out of small markets and allow a small TV operator to set up a station offering multicasting.

          x.1 – CBC (480p)
          x.2 – SRC (480p)
          x.3 – CTV (480p)
          x.4 – Global (480p)
          x.5 – Rogers CityTV (480p)

          That’s actually not a bad idea, and something I think the government should look into for smaller markets. I wouldn’t have too much of an issue with some government funding being used to setup digital transmitters in small towns that would multicast services like this.

          Though the government hasn’t mandated the shutdown of analog transmitters in small markets yet. The CBC is doing this on its own. And I’d like to see what kind of role conventional television plays in the future of television before making such an investment.

          Reply
  5. Robert W

    Hi guys. As a listener to CBC radio here in Scotland via satellite I will be very sad to see it go but I do understand that there are very few listeners to the satellite service as well as the RCI shortwave service to Africa. (The only service in English and French left, I have fond memories of picking up a perfect signal on 15325kHz every night here in the 1990s).

    My question is about the Northern Quebec shortwave service on 9625kHz which is broadcast from the Sackville site. I am sure that there are still many listeners to that service, those who live in the most isolated of areas, those on hunting trips and others who are so isolated that a 3G/4G/wifi signal is out of the question.

    Here in the UK we have a service called ‘Freesat’ and its just that Free Satellite television. The signals from the BBC and the private channels are broadcast in the clear on a tight beam so that only the British Isles can pick up the signal without signing up to a sat cable package. Maybe an idea for Canada?

    Reply
  6. David Pinto

    Steve, thanks for that link to the wonderful photos by Prof. Davies of the installation at Sackville.
    Speaking as someone with no expertise at all in broadcast media, how are these cutbacks going to affect the Sackville set-up?

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      how are these cutbacks going to affect the Sackville set-up?

      That’s a good question. The Sackville transmitter broadcasts a CBC North radio service on shortwave, and it’s unclear if that too will be shutdown. It also broadcasts foreign shortwave services as part of a transmitter sharing agreement. The site might stay up if for no other reason than foreign governments are paying for it.

      Reply
      1. Sheldon

        In a response received from RCI Audience Relations the CBC Northern Service, currently available on shortwave, is apparently going to disappear from shortwave in October.
        As for the transmitter site at Sackville, with RCI no longer having shortwave transmissions (apparently the last broadcasts will be on June 26th) they will have no further need for the transmitter site. However, there are currently transmitter time agreements with several foreign broadcasters. They use the Sackville site to broadcast into various target areas. It is not clear at this time what the termination date is for those contracts. It could be possible that some other foreign broadcaster could be interested in the site, or perhaps one of several private firms who currently run shortwave transmitter sites in other locations.
        The Sackville site is in a very good location and performs very efficiently. It will be interesting to see what happens to it.

        Reply
      2. Sheldon

        One other thing. The foreign broadcasters using the Sackville transmitter site are not necessarily paying for it. Many of them simply have transmitter time-sharing agreements with Radio Canada International. They get time on the RCI transmitters and RCI, in turn, received time on their sites, all without money changing hands. Radio Canada International was actually one of the first international broadcasters to implement this time-sharing system…another way that RCI was finding ways to do more with less.

        Reply
  7. Bill Lee

    Shutting RCI down is stupid.
    Without RCI, Canada is invisible in world, except for airplane crashes or a federal election, Canada never gets mentioned.

    While I don’t think much of the English Section, (much too much patch-cord work from CBC) the other services are quite good and with the use of relays reach around the world, keeping up Canada’s presence, especially among the regular people.

    I always carry a shortwave on my travels and find that often there is not an internet connect in some places and only shortwave booms in with world news as local news is especially that. News about Canada doesn’t exist, except on RCI.
    I was on the cold deck of a Yangtze River boat listening to the World at Six (at 6 am) and getting 20 minutes of world news and the 10 minutes of local or Ottawa stories. There was no internet on board. And without that I can’t keep up with travel strikes, crises or news of Montreal (the latter from the French service)

    They really need to expand it as Asian countries are doing to fill the void as RCI and other’s cut frequencies.

    In many countries everyone has a shortwave radio. Maybe they don’t use it as much, but it comes on once a day for an authoritative broadcast service, (just in case).

    Internet is easily blocked, but shortwave has multiple frequencies and times to get through any attempts.

    I have been in countries where a whole bunch of internet news services such as CBC, BBC, VoA are blocked, the the radio gets through in English and sometimes their vernacular langage.

    As John Tusa said in his book ” A world in your ear” dropping a service means that it will not be credible when or if it is revived for a crisis. (Eg. BBC again in spanish to Argentina when the Falklands crisis broke)

    Reply
  8. Pingback: The beginning of the end for over-the-air TV – Fagstein

  9. Graham Pugh

    Well presented facts by Fagstein.
    This whole CBC broadcast mandate needs a thorough review now as we tax payers suffer. There are many Canadians who are not prepared the pay for either cable ( if available ) or satilite services, but still pay taxes to support the corporations extravagant employee life style.

    Reply

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