Canadian Television

OTA Television Changes Along The Border

Yesterday I received a notice from WPBS-TV, the PBS station based in Watertown NY that broadcasts to Eastern Ontario, that they will be changing over-the-air channels on July 29th, 2019. And apparently several American television stations have already begun transitioning to new channels to free up frequencies for wireless services.

People who use television antennas in southwestern Ontario area have already needed to rescan to find WMYD broadcasts from Detroit on June 1st, 2019 and a new wave of channel changes are expected in July, this transition eventually ending in the summer of 2020.

If you’re getting these stations from cable, satellite or online, you will not see any changes. But if you use a television antenna to get any American station you will need to pay attention to notices by your favourite stations, that will be posted on their official sites and social media feeds for information related to this transition.

Many channels will also start airing notices featuring known personalities from television programs like The Doctors, Inside Edition, Entertainment Tonight, Dr.Phil, Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy a month or so before their transition date. And monthly roundups of these transitions are also posted on the official TV Answers Blog, with occasional posts regarding individual channels appearing on TV Answer’s Facebook page.

I’m a bit too deep into Ontario to get American television stations via my antenna but thought people along the border would like to know.

Predictable…

Some of the cable companies have managed to get their way on skinny basic.

Yes, you will be able to get your local channels, the major American networks and the CRTC mandated channels for $25. But depending on your provider you could pay from $4 to $7 for the individual channels you choose extra, causing many to pay as much as they do now by simply choosing five or six extra individual channels.

Some of the providers are also limiting their skinny basic to standard definition, forcing their customer to pay more for the high definition channels. And one has to wonder how much they will charge for the rental of their boxes and extra outlets.

Those getting cable television over the internet don’t fare better either. To watch television they must subscribe to a high speed service and rent or buy modems, which adds to the bottom line. And in the end most will simply be offered an existing package by the customer service representatives, who were asked to downplay skinny basic.

Unfortunately those wishing to cut the cord have also been subjected to off the air signal reductions, requiring outdoor antennas. But I suspect more independent providers will take advantage of these issues and offer cheaper services.

Vmedia is one of the few IPTV providers to offer their services nation wide but Ontario and Quebec are also serviced by Beanfield, Distributel, Vianet Canada, and Zazeen. And many of these providers are expanding.

Apple TV is also an option, as are streaming serves like Netflix, Crave TV and Shomi, although the streaming services are still catching up on content.

I’m personally waiting for the dust to settle and for my contract with my cable company to expire to investigate my options. But i’m leaning towards cutting the cord if the shenanigans continue.

Changes Coming To Cable

The Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission has issued a schedule in regards to the implementation of the “skinny basic” and pick-and-pay cable rules.

By March 1st, 2016 cable providers will be required to offer their basic package at $25, which will include the “must carry” status channels. And by December 1st, 2016 cable providers will be required to offer the remainder of their channels individually or in small packages.

I watch mostly my local networks and on occasion the American networks so my cable bill should drop considerably once my contract with Rogers is over. But I am still looking into foregoing cable entirely and going with an external television antenna.

When Much Music, Musique Plus and the other music video stations aired actually musical content it was worth paying a few bucks a month but i’ve had Youtube/Vevo, iTunes and my music video collection for a while now. And the news, weather and other content that was once exclusive to cable are now online.

VMedia are currently offering their skinny basic package of approximately 30 local and American network channels for $17.95 so perhaps we’ll see some deals before the new year. Hopefully.

CRTC Hearings Start Today

The public hearings in regards to television in Canada have started today and will continue for six weeks.

Issues discussed will be basic cable rate maximums, channel packaging and the options to pick and pick individual channels, internet based television broadcasting, and whether off the air television should continue.

Unfortunately I had attempted to “cut the cord” and get my local channels off the air here in Ottawa and failed because of numerous issues caused by the broadcasters themselves, as explained in a previous blog post. But i’m hoping the CTRC will consider continuing off the air television broadcasts and attempt to fix the associated issues.

I’m hoping they will consider moving all digital broadcasts off the VHF band to the UHF band and allow the use of sub-channels, which would allow CTV 1 and CTV 2 to broadcast on one channel, for example. But I get this feeling that the broadcasters are going to try to end off the air television altogether, which would be rather annoying.

Yes, a reduction of basic cable to $20-$30 would be good. But I suspect this will result in some channels being removed from the basic cable line-up, especially now that some of the providers are pushing exclusivity.

What i’d personally like to see is must carry status for music networks that feature Canadian music videos and live performances by indie bands and lesser known acts. And yes, I know these stations have pretty much packed their schedules with “reality programs”. But is an hour or two per day too much to ask for ?

I’m going to keep an eye on this issue for the blog but if you want more details on what’s going on at the CRTC, click here or tune in on CPAC live weekdays at 9AM Eastern.

Oh What A Feeling–The Next Generation

Fans of Canadian music and Canadian History will love this book.

Oh What a Feeling: The Next Generation includes the vast majority of the information found in its 1997 predecessor, which listed the major events of the Canadian music industry chronologically from 1886 to 1995, and extends this history further to 2013.

Additional events from 1886-1995 were added to this version as well as birth and death information, a chronology of Canadian hit songs since 1900 and profiles of the members of the Canadian Music Hall Of Fame since 1978.

This book is available from Amazon.ca and Chapters/Indigo.

Is Free Television Being Phased Out ?

Do you guys remember when we were first told that off air television broadcasts would go digital and that more people would be getting free television using antennas ?

Do you remember when we could watch television programs for free online legally through the Canadian network web sites ?

Well, if you want proof that the cable and satellite companies don’t want people to “cut the cord” you just have to look at the current status of television in Canada.

It started with Global Television in my area.

I had decided to stop paying $7 plus tax per month for extra outlets and although I was able to receive Global Television clearly for months, it has suddenly disappeared one summer.

Apparently the owner of the network decided to reduce the strength of the transmission so now an external antennae is required. But this was of course no problem because I was able to access television programs online via the network’s web site.

Then a few months back I noticed I was no longer receiving CTV, which had a strong signal until then.

I am located within 15 kilometers from the broadcasting tower for both stations so there was no reason for my loss of CTV as well. But like Global Television, CTV is also owned by a cable or satellite provider so I had assumed that they also reduced their off air broadcasting strength. And again I decided to stick to on demand and online broadcasts until I get an external antenna.

By then I had switched from Rogers Cable to Bell Fibe TV so I was mostly just watching television programs on demand for free, just like I has done with Rogers. But since Rogers had purchased the rights to the hockey broadcasts there appeared to be issues relating to what could be viewed by what subscribers online.

Now Canadians are being asked to login their cable or satellite provider accounts to view television programs on the major network sites. And the selection of programing is currently  limited to the networks owned by their provider.

Bravo.

Personally I think we should be able to get our local channels off air and online based on our IP address.

There should be enough advertisement revenue there for networks to profit on and cable and satellite providers could always give people access to specialty networks and  on demand programming.

We should be progressing off the problematic off air VHF frequencies and move stations to UHF like most American networks have.

Phase 3 of the “Let’s Talk TV” consultations at the CRTC will begin in April with the publication of details on the public hearing scheduled in September. And from the government’s response last Budget Day, it appears that our cable/satellite channels may get unbundled.

Hopefully this will not be more expensive for consumers, a concern we should all share because these companies have been hiking their rates excessively over the past few years.

The Friends of Canadian Broadcasting estimated in Oct 2013 that many of Canada’s cable companies had hiked their rates from 81% to 96% since 2002 ; Almost five times inflation. And Forbes believes the model is unsustainable so we’ve got to wonder what exactly we’re going to be subjected to as consumers.

Canadian Finance Minister Jim Flaherty had mentioned that “cable-TV companies have become like utilities because there are only so many providers that offer the service in a certain region” in an interview with the Wall Street Journal last October so perhaps the current government is considering regulating them. But I guess we’ll only know for sure after  the public hearings in September.

By the way, you can access information in regards to the previous phases of “Let’s Talk TV” on the official CRTC web site, which includes comments from the public.