Radio-Canada drops its last private affiliate TV station, forcing it to close

An era is going to end on Aug. 31. One that might not matter much as the nature of television changes.

CKRT-DT, a television station based in Rivière-du-Loup, ends its affiliation with ICI Radio-Canada Télé on that date. The public broadcaster has decided it will not renew the agreement, much like it did for CKRN-DT in Abitibi-Témiscamingue in 2018. And like with CKRN, the owner of CKRT has decided it has no other choice than to shut the station down. (UPDATE June 18: The CRTC has approved the revocation of its licence effective Aug. 31)

I learned of this through a CRTC application filed by CKRT’s owner Télé Inter-Rives, which also owns a Noovo affiliate and two TVA affiliates serving eastern Quebec and northern New Brunswick. The group wants to redirect the funding CKRT receives from the Independent Local News Fund to the Noovo station, which would see its local news obligations increase as a result.

I talk about that application in this article for Cartt.ca subscribers.

If the CRTC approves the application (it approved a similar one for CKRN), it would mean not that much changes. There would still be local TV news in Rivière-du-Loup, and most people would still be served by Radio-Canada’s station in Rimouski, whose Téléjournal Est-du-Québec covers the region.

There would be a loss of service over the air, though. CKRT has two transmitters in Rivière-du-Loup (the second covers some holes in the downtown signal), and five others in Baie-St-Paul, Dégelis, Cabano, St-Urbain and Trois-Pistoles. All were upgraded to digital by Télé Inter-Rives, though they had no obligation to do so outside of Rivière-du-Loup.

CBC/Radio-Canada decided in 2012 it was no longer interested in operating over-the-air transmitters except for originating local stations. And that policy move is part of the reason for dropping this affiliation. Spokesperson Marc Pichette told me that the industry has shifted to a place where “over-the-air television is no longer considered an adequate and efficient means to offer our content to Canadians.”

A long list of former affiliates

A lot of TV stations have previously been affiliates of CBC or Radio-Canada. One by one those affiliations dropped. Some were by the request of the station, which decided to switch to a private network (especially after they became owned by the same company as that network), while others were dropped by the public broadcaster because it no longer made sense to them.

Here are those who lost their affiliations since 2005:

CBC

  • CKX-TV Brandon, Man.Shut down in 2009 after CTV decided it no longer wanted to pay to keep it open, and CBC refused to buy it for $1, then two other companies — Shaw and Bluepoint Investment Corp. — both decided to buy it and then reneged on the deal.
  • CJDC-TV Dawson Creek, B.C., and CFTK-TV Terrace, B.C. — Were bought by Bell Media in 2013 as part of the Astral acquisition and dropped their CBC affiliations in 2016 to switch to CTV Two.
  • CFJC-TV Kamloops, B.C., CHAT-TV Medicine Hat, Alta., and CKPG-TV Prince George, B.C. — Owned by Pattison Media, they dropped their CBC affiliations and switched to Canwest’s E! network. When that network went bust in 2009, they switched again to Citytv.
  • CHBC-DT Kelowna and CHCA-TV Red Deer — Dropped CBC affiliation in 2005 to switch to Canwest’s CH network, later E!. When that went down in 2009, CHBC was the only station to be switched to Global — it’s now known as Global Okanagan. CHCA was shut down.
  • CKWS-TV Kingston, CHEX-TV Peterborough and CHEX-TV-2 Oshawa, Ont. — Owned by Corus before it bought Global from Shaw, they switched to CTV affiliation in 2015 then became Global stations in 2018.*
  • CKSA-DT Lloydminster, Alta./Sask. — Owned by Newcap and since bought by Stingray, it lost its CBC affiliation in 2016. It switched to become a Global affiliate, as its sister station in the same city is already a CTV affiliate.
  • CKPR-DT Thunder Bay, Ont. — This Dougall Media station ended its CBC affiliation in 2014 and became a CTV affiliate. Its sister station CHFD-DT was a former CTV affiliate that switched to Global in 2010 after it couldn’t reach a renewal deal with CTV.

Radio-Canada

  • CKTV-TV Saguenay, CKSH-TV Sherbrooke and CKTM-TV Trois-Rivières — Owned by Cogeco, they were sold to CBC/Radio-Canada in 2008 and became Radio-Canada stations. These were the last TV stations ever purchased by CBC/Radio-Canada.
  • CKRN-DT Rouyn-Noranda — Owned by RNC Media, shut down when Radio-Canada ended its affiliation deal in 2018.
  • CKRT-DT Rivière-du-Loup — Owned by Télé Inter-Rives, set to shut down Aug. 31, 2021.

To recap:

  • 3 stations purchased by CBC/Radio-Canada
  • 2 stations becoming CTV Two stations (owned by Bell Media)
  • 4 stations becoming Global stations (owned by Corus)
  • 3 stations becoming Citytv affiliates (owned by Pattison Media)
  • 2 stations becoming CTV affiliates (owned by Stingray and Dougall Media)
  • 3 stations shut down

*Corrected, thanks Tim!

11 thoughts on “Radio-Canada drops its last private affiliate TV station, forcing it to close

  1. Eamon Hoey

    Richard Stursberg former Executive VP CBC/Radio Canada, during his tenure, proposed to deliver CBC TV only over Cable and Satellite. Those who were not on Cable would be given a Satellite Dish to receive CBC free of charge. The CRTC in its wisdom denied the application.

    CBC is achieving a similar result by reducing the number of affiliates and relying on cable and satellite for distribution. Stursberg, the author of “The Tower of Babble”, a book critical of CBC, was an active if not flamboyant bureaucrat who was never fearful of breaking some of the best of household dishes to get the job done.

    Reply
  2. Dilbert

    The CBC boss at the time spoke the truth, OTA is no longer the best way to get the job done, neither from a cost per consumer or in a use of limited public resources kind of a way. It is incredibly expensive to offer such services especially in sparsely populated areas.

    While the percentage of Canadians with cable is dropping, the percentage of Canadians getting their entertainment in a non-linear fashion has exploded. Somewhere close to 50% of Canadians subscribe to Netflix, as an example. It’s the only saving for OTA at this point, as more people are watching OTA signals to buffer their online viewing habits.

    There will come a point where broadcasting is no longer cost efficient even in densely populated areas. Data continues to get cheaper and cheaper to move, and only the obstructionist nature of vertically integrated media companies will keep OTA going. Like other legacy information distribution companies, they will likely try to keep it going until the majority of their viewership has died off. Give it about 20 years.

    Reply
  3. Tim Ripley

    Correction for CKWS/CHEX/CHEX-2…They actually joined CTV in 2015 (though with a slightly larger percentage of Global programs and Global branding on CHEX-2); the switch to Global happened in 2018.

    Reply
  4. Kathleen Palm

    Is there any Over-the-Air, CBC originating television in Canada anymore? All cable, satellite, or internet only?

    When we lost our CBC television affiliate, it mattered in northwest B.C. to the people without cable, satellite, or the internet.

    Reading your report now I am grateful we still have CTV affiliation, available with a tv aerial. We have our nightly half hour news show from Terrace and an excellent interviews programme called “Open Connections” with Robert Pictou (he can make a paper bag talk). I’m not sure why we still have any station, come to think of it, maybe staff development for Bell.

    Feigned concern is what Catherine Tait expressed when she was explaining why we, within CBC Radio One earshot in the northern half of British Columbia, should not expect any better service than we already have. It seems her purpose during her interview on Daybreak North was to lower expectations of all Canadians who bankroll CBC. She considers CBC to be a business, not a service. In fact, when one reads the “cookies” policy of CBC it is the same money-making model as Facebook. There is less money in television, and no money in radio.

    Yes, television is changing. But there are still people watching and listening over-the-air, and they are not the people who answered the Leger online poll to say how great the CBC is doing as reported by CBC at the CRTC. When we lost the CBC television affiliate from Terrace B.C., we lost alright. We lost any children’s programming, we lost national news.

    Canadians who are not on-line do not count. And the next development will be the closing of bricks and mortar radio stations because CBC thinks cell phone production is enough. Like that’s a good idea. CBC is really good at the long game to get what they want.

    Please keep up your reporting.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      Is there any Over-the-Air, CBC originating television in Canada anymore?

      Yes. There are 14 of them nationwide. There is one transmitter per station.

      Reply
  5. Eamon Hoey

    In reading some of the comments respecting the closing of CBC affiliate TV stations and the broadcaster’s daily offering of a dreadful viewing experience I am persuaded CBC TV is no longer meeting the needs of the regions of Canada. Culturally it can no longer claim it’s programming supports the values of Canada. In it’s back pocket rides values that are entirely alien to the majority of Canadians. It’s news network has become overly centralized and almost devoid of regional news. It’s leading stars are working hard at joining their CTV palls in the Senate. News programming lacks the critical reporting of the party in power. It is beholden to Liberal governments. It is not doing the job Canadians expect. It’s time we place CBC TV on the auction block.

    Reply
  6. Anonymous

    This makes no sense,
    A privately owned TV station has an affiliation with SRC.
    SRC doesn’t have to run it. The private owner is running it.
    And SRC drops the agreement.
    This seems to be more about SRC / CBC wanting to control the OTA stations.
    They want to run their own. Makes no sense when you have a privately owned station helping get their program to viewers.

    What’s really bad about this that the Station has no other options in French language programming.
    And that they had updated their old NTSC transmitters to ATSC 1.0 to offer HD to their viewers.

    The CRTC needs to loosen up the rules so that current OTA stations can offer sub-channels.
    Or at least allow twin owned stations in a market to consolidate to one transmitter. Very strange that Télé Inter-Rives had to run 3 transmitters in Rivière-du-Loup when 2 would have done the job for the SRC / TVA / Noovo affiliations. Now they have a series of transmitters that will lay to waste.

    As for TV viewing. The new pattern seems to be OTA & Streaming Services. Cable is finished.
    Over priced cable costs and under value programming. End result, people will walk away.

    Reply
    1. Fagstein Post author

      The CRTC needs to loosen up the rules so that current OTA stations can offer sub-channels. Or at least allow twin owned stations in a market to consolidate to one transmitter.

      There is nothing in the CRTC regulations that prevents this. But there isn’t much demand for it.

      Reply
      1. Brett

        I would definitely think Montreal has some demand for sub channels. We don’t get CTV Two and I watch all my programming on an indoor antenna. Would love to see CTV Two on 12.2

        Reply
    2. Stéphane Dumas

      I miss the old days when some OTA private affiliates got a different schedule then the main SRC/CBC stations in Montreal and Toronto. I remember back when CKTM and CKSH used to air movies on 5 PM weekdays in “Le cinéma de 5 heures”.
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=COp1j9uRjXw
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RVXWAYCf79s

      Slightly off-topic, I spotted this French article from the newspaper La Tribune from Sherbrooke dated from September 2, 1989 about regional tv on page B-11. https://numerique.banq.qc.ca/patrimoine/details/52327/3722725?docsearchtext=une%2520programmation%2520r%25C3%25A9gionale%2520o%25C3%25B9%2520%25C3%25A7a

      Reply

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