Antenna work on Mount Royal tower means more overnight transmitter shutdowns

Mount Royal tower.

Mount Royal tower. (Fagstein file photo)

I’ve been getting a lot of questions (and a few conspiracy theories) from irate over-the-air TV watchers over the past few weeks because Montreal-based stations have been going off the air overnight.

Overnight shutdowns aren’t new. The same thing happened last year when they installed a microwave receiver on the tower.

So I asked Martin Marcotte, director of transmission for CBC, which owns the tower, what was up. He explained that this time they’re installing a standby antenna for UHF digital TV stations — CBC, Radio-Canada, Global and V — which allows those stations to be switched to that antenna in case the main one fails. (Ironically, that requires shutting down the transmitters for safety reasons.)

“Our current UHF antenna for DTV is now over 30 years old. Because of new code restrictions on work in confined spaces, we are no longer able to service that antenna. So the standby antenna is required to ensure continuity of service if ever there are problems on our main antenna as we can no longer repair the main antenna,” Marcotte explains.

The shutdowns, which start shortly after midnight, don’t just affect the four stations broadcasting on the UHF DTV antenna, but also the two using the VHF antenna (CTV and TVA) as well as most of Montreal’s FM radio stations, though most of those have standby facilities that allow them to stay on the air at reduced power (you may have noticed some of them being a bit noisy at night — Virgin Radio in particular seems to have a very poor standby signal).

The plan is to keep the UHF DTV antenna until 2022 when it’s scheduled to be replaced. If something breaks before then, that replacement would be moved up.

Installation work for the standby antenna is continuing. It’s expected to be done by Sept. 18, but that assumes ideal weather and no unforeseen problems.

Delivery of TV and radio signals through cable, satellite and online are not affected by this work.

The work has annoyed OTA viewers partly because the CBC doesn’t have a webpage that explains what they’re doing, and partly because there are often things to watch just after midnight. People missed Jon Stewart’s final Daily Show on CTV and part of Stephen Colbert’s first Late Show on Global because of these shutdowns.

You might wonder if delaying the start of work until, say, 1am each night might solve that problem. But then it would either have to continue later into the morning or be extended over more days.

So I guess you’re just going to have to live with it for another week.

16 thoughts on “Antenna work on Mount Royal tower means more overnight transmitter shutdowns

  1. Jack Nathanson

    Thanks for the explanation. The situation was starting to get on my nerves. Fortunately, I am now able to pick up the four Vermont PBS stations and other American channels when the Canadian channels go dead.

    Reply
  2. ClearChannel

    The explanation is welcome and thankfully there are the American channels to watch out of Mount Mansfield, however they too recently have been experiencing problems it seems. My other question is when will the Canadian networks start using sub-channels? It would be nice to have 104 channels to choose from like in New York City.

    Reply
    1. Jack Nathanson

      There is supposed to be a Canadian Federal Election on October 19. If the Harper government gets defeated, the new government will probably be a lot more amenable to suggestions to make changes to the broadcasting laws.

      Reply
  3. ClearChannel

    I’m usually in bed by midnight so it didn’t effect me but I heard about it through a friend’s email. A question to Jack Nathanson; what kind of an antenna are you using that picks up the American channels only when the locals go dead?

    Reply
    1. Jack Nathanson

      To clarify, the Canadian Channels go dead because work is being done on the transmitter. I get the American channels even when I CAN receive the Canadian CHANNELS.

      Reply
  4. Media Man

    So some work on Global, does this mean a stronger signal, as it comes in and out on my OTA
    I did some adjustments last week, and finally got 2, 6, 10, and 12 perfect

    But global and especially CITY’s signal sucks big time. Is Rogers looking into that?? City is most nights nowhere to be found.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      So some work on Global, does this mean a stronger signal, as it comes in and out on my OTA

      No. The main antenna and transmitter are unchanged, and Global has not applied for technical changes to its transmitter.

      But global and especially CITY’s signal sucks big time. Is Rogers looking into that?? City is most nights nowhere to be found.

      I’m unaware of plans by Rogers to address its transmitter. If they get enough complaints from viewers that might push them to do so, but the business case for improving over-the-air signals is pretty weak these days.

      Reply
      1. Tony Q King

        >>>…but the business case for improving over-the-air signals is pretty weak these days…<<
        Exactly.
        There are more and more people dumping their dish and cable services for "free" OTA and more particularly, free internet TV, even if the latter is not always legal, and filled with trojans and viruses, etc.
        So why should the broadcasters pump any more money into OTA? I wouldn't be surprised that they are actually trying to kill it.

        Reply
        1. Fagstein Post author

          I wouldn’t be surprised that they are actually trying to kill it.

          They are, sort of. CBC/Radio-Canada shut down hundreds of over-the-air transmitters to save costs. TVO also shut down its transmission network except for Ottawa and Toronto. The commercial stations, meanwhile, tried to get the CRTC to allow them to have local stations without transmitters.

          Reply
  5. ClearChannel

    Don’t forget that these transmitters are owned by Pay TV – Global, Rogers, and Bell etc. They have no incentive to have a first class OTA system up and running but would prefer that you abandon your antenna and buy into their Pay TV services, as Mr Spock would say, “It’s only Logical”. That’s a main reason why our OTA will always lag behind that of the Americans.

    Reply
  6. Tony Q

    Media Man and ClearChannel –
    You guys might wanna look into http://www.tvfool.com (yes, that’s Fool, not tool)
    It will show you what channels are accessible in your area- just plug in your postal-code or geo-coordinates.
    As well it shows signal power, direction to point your antenna, and the “real” channel of the station- E.G WPTZ-Chan-5 is really broadcast on channel 14, etc.
    Strangely, CBC 2 and 6 are not on the list. No sure why.

    In my case I have a small flat outdoor antenna, with a signal booster in the house. As I’m quite west of Mtl, i have trouble picking up 3, 5 and 33, but get Montreal quite well (when the f%@# transmitter works!

    Reply
    1. ClearChannel

      I know all about antennas, been using them since the early 70’s. I’m using the Channel Master CM-2020 a 90 inch long antenna 36 feet high on my tower aimed at Mount Mansfield. I did have two of them before, the other one pointed at Lyon mountain to pick up PBS from New York. It worked but the drawback was in getting WCFE I lost WCAX. Why? Because I received so much gain from CBMT that it wiped out WCAX. The brilliant minds at the CBC put CBMT on channel 21.1 instead of the logical choice of channel 19.2 with it’s sister station CBFT on 19.1.

      We need the Americans up here to organize our OTA as our people are either incompetent or under the thumb of Pay TV. There are 60 million and counting Americans using antennas. Why are apartments and condos Pay TV only in this country? Something the RCMP should look into. The CRTC’s statement of only 8 percent last year of Canadians are OTA viewers failed to mention that fact making that statement useless and misleading . There are 104 channels available in New York City with an antenna, 159 in Los Angeles.

      For example, type in your browser OTA channels New York City – you will see a link; Over the Air, New York – TV Listings – AOL.com – click on that link and you will see Huffpost TV with a list of TV channels, then start counting. You can substitute New York City for any other American city and you will see the list of channels for that city.

      Reply
  7. ClearChannel

    I know about TVFool as well, I have been on a mission to educate as many people about the improvements and benefits of OTA if they don’t need or have the time to watch 300+ channels. I am a 30 year veteran of Pay TV having been on cable since the early 70’s when it was called Cablevision back then with offices on Beaubien just east of Park Avenue. My cable TV ended in December 2001 when I made the switch to satellite – Starchoice later to be called Shaw Direct. Out of all the channels available I regularly watched only 10, the locals , the Movie Network and the channel carrying Mike Holmes. I went back 100% OTA in May 2012. People come to me complaining about the economy and want to find ways to save money and I tell them about OTA, $100 dollars +/- more per month to use on other things. I have also brought up OTA with all the political leaders during the current election campaign and with Shelly Glover Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages. My emails on the subject of OTA sent to Prime Minister were re-directed to Mrs. Shelly Glover.

    Reply

Leave a Reply