Aug 11

Saint John gets to keep its CBC TV

Good news for those Saint Johners who don’t subscribe to cable (me included). CBC TV is being allowed to continue to use its analog transmitter serving the Saint John region. (News story here.)

The alternative would have been the loss of the over-the-air (OTA) CBC TV signal in this area, as the CBC’s planned digital television transmitter would have served only Fredericton. Continuation of the analog signal means that OTA viewers in Saint John will still be able to receive the CBC television their tax dollars pay for.

Mar 11

Keep your rabbit ears

The CRTC has rejected CBC’s bid to stop providing over-the-air (OTA) television in Saint John and Moncton. This is good news for television viewers in those cities who don’t subscribe to digital, cable or satellite services, since OTA viewers will continue to receive the television services their tax dollars pay for.

Unfortunately for all taxpayers, unless the CRTC provides an exemption to allow CBC Television to continue using analog signals in New Brunswick, the ruling will eventually require an expenditure of $6 million on new digital transmitters to service areas outside Fredericton. The move away from analog is being forced on broadcasters by the federal government (through both Industry Canada and the CRTC) in order to free up radio spectrum that will eventually be auctioned off to service providers offering wireless Internet coverage to the public and advanced mobile communications for commercial and public safety clients.

Industry Canada, the CRTC, the CBC and other television broadcasters need to work together to develop a broadcast strategy that will avoid wasteful expenditures while ensuring that citizens continue to have access to basic broadcast services without having to pay subscriptions to digital, cable and satellite providers. This is especially important for the CBC due to the social contract that exists with its taxpaying viewers in communities where low incomes limit access to subscription services for key populations. An extended exemption allowing broadcasters to continue to use largely empty spectrum in New Brunswick would be one solution, particularly if combined with greater availability of streaming Internet content and a long-term plan to guarantee all citizens affordable broadband service.

What has gone unexplained by the CBC throughout the CRTC application process is why it felt that Fredericton deserved continued OTA coverage, while Moncton and Saint John did not. Perversely, an application to withdraw OTA service from all parts of New Brunswick would have made more sense than one to limit service only to the smallest of the province’s three cities. Barring further explanation, it’s hard not to see this as more of the same favouritism that often seems to benefit our ‘precious’ capital city at the expense of our larger urban centres.

Jan 11

CBC TV turns its back on Saint John

The CBC has decided that Saint John no longer deserves terrestrial (over-the-air, or ‘rabbit ears’) TV coverage. In its application to the CRTC for digital television, the CBC is proposing that it abandon Saint John altogether. (Link to Wire Report article here.)  This means that starting in the summer of 2011, Saint Johners will no longer be able to watch CBC TV unless they subcribe to a cable or satellite provider.

What’s unexplained in the application is why Fredericton will continue to get terrestrial CBC TV coverage, even though its population is only half that of Saint John. Given the income demographics in Saint John, I would expect that the need for terrestrial TV is far greater in Saint John than in Fredericton, regardless of population. (More homes in Saint John are challenged to afford the $50+ per month of a TV subscription.)

I find it offensive that the CBC has decided to ignore one of the most densely populated areas in the province and has chosen to rob many Saint Johners of a service that we all pay for through our tax dollars.

The CRTC is looking for input from stakeholders and the public. The deadline is February 17th. (Link here.) If you care about this issue — either because you watch CBC, you use it to reach others, or you simply care about those in our community that can’t afford subscription TV — make yourself heard.  Make a submission to the CRTC on this issue. You should let the CBC know what you think too: contact page.

UPDATE: It looks like the proposed digital footprint will also cover Oromocto, which combined with Fredericton roughly matches the population of Greater Saint John. That takes some of the sting out, but it still doesn’t explain why the Fredericton area gets to keep its terrestrial while Saint John loses out.