Longtime readers know I am a fan of the CBC, and one major reason is that Americans who live along the border has relatively easy access to the "ambassador," the introduction of Canadian culture to Americans. The CBC signals, whether over the air or cable, are on in countless communities at or near the Canadian border. And since U.S. cable systems don't have a cable Canadian channel, we have to take what we can get.
Unfortunately, at the end of the summer, those who access the CBC over the air (OTA) via the antenna may lose that ability. Those on the American side of the border know all too well of the struggles in the conversion from analog to digital. Well, Canadians are going to go through this process (pronounced PRO-cess) on August 31. While the panic on the American border was due to confusion, the struggle on the Canadian side will be the loss of the CBC over the antenna.
16 good-sized communities will lose an analog English signal without an accompanying digital signal, including Saskatoon, SK, London, ON, Kitchener, ON, Moncton, NB, Saint John, NB, and most Quebec markets outside of Montréal and Ottawa/Gatineau. A number of cities will lose analog French service without an accompanying digital signal, including Calgary, Windsor, ON, and Halifax.
The CBC cites money woes as the reason for not converting all the analog signals by the deadline. And those who will suffer may get a short-term reprieve as the CBC may convince the Canadian Radio Television Commission (CRTC) to keep analog signals in those markets past the deadline. Other Canadian commercial broadcasters are switching over their signals, most by August 31, and aren't running into these issues.
More: Canadian analog signals map and the effects of the digital conversion.
Let's look at the three biggest U.S. markets for the CBC: Seattle, Detroit, and Buffalo. In Seattle, you couldn't get the CBC with an antenna anyway; cable is the only option. For those who can pick up OTA signals from Victoria, those will virtually disappear. In Detroit, CBET-9 will start broadcasting in digital on the deadline date, so those who live close enough can get a HD feed. But a lot of those in Detroit and the surrounding area (including Ann Arbor) will need cable to get the channel. Buffalo may depend on the strength of the antenna, but most who have received CBLT-5 won't with a traditional antenna.
The rules for trying to pick up a digital signal are the same as for the American transition. A good start is a strong antenna on the roof of a house. Point it in the direction of the signal destination. Make sure the channel isn't broadcasting elsewhere on the dial; most if not all should correlate to its previous analog home (e.g., Detroit viewers can tune in 9-1 to still get CBET). Be patient, very patient. Or if these options aren't viable, save up for cable.
Oh, on the American side, for all the agony you went through to get a digital converter box, the box will work for the new Canadian digital signals even if you still have an analog TV. Canadians hopefully (hopefully) already have their digital conversion boxes.
The U.S. channels pushed the idea of broadcasting multiple signals on one channel as a benefit to digital. The Canadian broadcasters are having enough financial troubles that this isn't likely to be a part of the landscape. But if you live close enough to a CBC digital signal, you may get rewards down the road.
Way down the road. To show you how behind the curve the CBC has been, only 4 stations (according to Wikipedia) were broadcasting in OTA HD until April of this year: Montréal and Toronto (2005), and Vancouver and Ottawa (2006). The two major Alberta cities, Edmonton and Calgary, joined the list on April 1.
For more information:
- The CBC has a link on its Web site that goes further into which communities are affected.
- CRTC link on which Canadian communities are affected
Previous coverage of U.S. analog/digital transition:
- Government's Role in Digital TV Transition Should Be to Help Those Who Want Help
- Despite Congress' move to delay the digital TV transition, some stations start today
- Delay in digital TV conversion has negative ramifications
- The digital TV transition is another huge mess Obama inherits from Bush
- Those without cable or satellite have a fuzzy view of the presidential race