Power failure knocks CTV channels off the air for two hours

It happens. There’s a major technical at the most inconvenient time, in the middle of the local news broadcast, causing the local CTV station to cut to dead air. Master Control in Toronto cuts to a commercial, and then pumps in CTV News Channel as a backup.

It seemed that was happening again on Monday, but then something unusual happened: CTV News Channel itself went off the air. And a bunch of other channels, too.

A power outage in Bell Media’s Agincourt studios, home to CTV Toronto and TSN, was the culprit. It knocked out CTV and CTV2 stations in the eastern half of the country (from Winnipeg east), as well as CTV News Network, all five TSN channels, Discovery Channel, CTV Comedy and others. Other channels, particularly the former CHUM stations based at 299 Queen St. W. downtown, like Much, CP24, CTV Drama and CTV SciFi, remained on the air throughout, as did Bell’s French-language channels.

Some digital services were also affected by the outage, which began around 5:30pm ET, and lasted until 7:30pm, with some channels not being fully back until 9pm. CTV News Channel rebroadcast CP24 for much of the evening after coming back online.

It’s unclear what exactly caused the outage in the first place, or why backup systems failed to keep CTV on the air. I suspect there will be a lot of discussions at Bell Media management and technical meetings about what went wrong.

The outage is a reminder of the dangers of centralization — when all your stations are controlled through the same building, they can all be knocked off the air. But more importantly it shows that Bell Media’s contingency protocols are inadequate. An ideal system would have allowed the master control facilities at Queen West — or even better a master control facility in another city — to quickly take control of the affected channels, even if just to broadcast filler programming.

CTV undoubtedly has backup systems, but they obviously failed, either from technical or procedural fault, which means they were probably not adequately tested.

Expect that to change, at least until Bell Media forgets about this incident and needs to make more cuts to technical staff and redundancies.

7 thoughts on “Power failure knocks CTV channels off the air for two hours

  1. K. Palm

    Our CTV affiliate from Terrace B.C. presented our news today as usual. If Toronto is up the creek again they could ask CFTK to step in. They do an awesome job.

  2. MBR

    CTV has a second master control hub at CTV Calgary for their western stations. I wonder why they were not part of any of redundancy when Agincourt failed? They could have supplied some sort of sustaining feed, at the very least, for the CTV1 stations.

  3. Elliott Washington

    I didn’t realise that there was a technical problem until Lisa mentioned it on the 11 pm news. I was unable to access the 6 pm news, so I thought it was the cable company, however I was able to watch City TV 6 pm news!

  4. Anonymous

    I am guessing that the person in charge of making backup plans and assuring that the equipment is ready was either let go or had his position merged with someone else who just never got to it.

    Bell has cut past the meat, into the bone, and is leaking marrow. This just shows how bad things get when one company and effectively one building run a big chunk of the national broadcasting system. Total failure.

  5. Don

    I remember Harvey Kirck knocking out the hydro pole to ctv when he was driving drunk on his way to work at ctv Scarborough and killing the power to his own show. No one cared then. Harv wasn’t reprimanded.

  6. Jim Manning

    CP24 had issues last week related to a hacker who changed some of the rollaround news. I noticed an incorrect UK soccer score which showed a nil/nil result rather than a 1-nil result. I called CP24 and after a conversation about the issue, they advised that the rollaround news was outsourced and that the provider had been hacked. They then said management was aware of the issue and working on it. However there were no warnings that CP24’s news may be corrupt or incorrect due to a hack. The inocrrect score remained up for over 18 hours, until it rolled off.

    Is to-day’s outage also the result off a “rack”?

    The Channels came back briefly but are now off the air again.

    Best regards.


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