digital television

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.

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.

More Free Content Promised

iTunesicon has announced that they will be adding more free content to their catalog, including full length albums and television episodes, which can be streamed to computers and devices using their software and apps.

Full length album previews and television episodes had been available from legal sources for years but I am hoping this will fill in some of the gaps.

For example, we still don’t have services like Hulu here in Canada and some television episodes are inaccessible to us because of distribution rights issues.

The availability of full length album previews may also reduce previewing on peer to peer networks and questionable foreign web sites. And Walmart’s Vudu service will soon be introduced into Canada so consumers should soon be able to access more content.

Download Free TV Episodes and Sneak Peeks on iTunes

CBC Television To Stop Analog Services

CBC Television will be ending their analogue services through-out Canada at the end of this month.

This means individuals that tune into their non-digital Over The Air broadcasts will loose access to CBC and Radio-Canada’s programming.

CBC estimates that this 620 transmitter service reached just 1.7 percent of the population and believes the $10 million expenditure should be diverted to programing.

CBC and Radio Canada will remain accessible on cable and satellite, and are currently broadcasting Over The Air in digital in Canada’s major metropolitan centers.

Cisco Predicts Online Video Explosion

Cisco has released their Visual Networking Index Mobile Forecast for 2011-2016 and it predicts that mobile data traffic will explode because of online video.

The report predicts that in Canada “mobile data traffic will reach 219,897 Terabytes (0.22 Exabytes) per month in 2016” because more Canadians are using their mobile devices to watch movies, television programs, music videos and other content from sites like Youtube.

In 2011, Canada’s mobile data traffic was clocked by Cisco at 10,773 Terabytes (11 Petabytes) per month, “the equivalent of 3 million DVDs each month or 30 million text messages each second.” And their 2016 prediction would equal “55 million DVDs each month or 606 million text messages each second”.

Cisco reported that in 2011 only 57% of that year’s mobile data traffic was video. But predicts that 75% of this traffic will be video by 2016, at 162,179 Terabytes per month.

Digital TV Transition – Less Than 48 Hours

Television in Canada’s major cities will be going digital in less than 48 hours.

In the early hours of the morning on September 1st the vast majority of television networks in these cities will be converting their off the air signal, the television signal that people capture using an antenna, to digital.

If you’re subcribed to cable or satellite, you will not be required to do anything. These companies will likely convert the digital signal to analog for their customers that don’t use HDTV televisions. And those that are already subscribed to their HDTV services will not likely see any change in their services.

If you have a digital tuner equipped HDTV television and an antenna, you will need to rescan your channels to find the new digital channels and repositioned channels. And if you have an outdoor antenna you will probably have no problem watching the stations you already watch, unless you watch CBC and/or Radio-Canada because they have delayed their analog to digital transition for a year in some smaller markets.

Viewers that use indoor antennas will likely need to reposition their antenna and rescan to find the best signal.

Most VHF/UHF antennas will suffice in the major urban centers, including most of the older models. But many sub-urbanites will require attic or outdoor antenna installations to obtain the best signals.

Amplified antennas are another option but these should be able to capture both VHF and UHF signals ; Many antennas claiming to be “HDTV” may only capture UHF signals and some Canadian broadcasters will still be using the VHF band after the transition.

In regards to individuals who use analog televisions or HDTVs that are not equipped with a digital tuner, they will still be able to watch their local stations if they purchase a digital to analog converter box, which will be installed in-between their antenna and television. But as previously mentioned cable and satellite subscribers will not be required to do anything, even if they have analog televisions or HDTV televisions that are not equiped with digital tuners, because these digital signals will be converted into analog signals by their cable or satelite company.

Depending on your viewing preferences and physical location, you may be able to substitute your cable or satelite with digital television, with is usually clearer because it is uncompressed.

I’ve personally disconnected my extra outlets in my second floor bedrooms and replaced them with digital antennas, saving the associated fees and taxes. And i’ve had very good results placing these antennas near my windows.

Like many people in Ottawa, i’m having problems with Global and Omni 2 because of their weak signals. But i’m guessing they will eventually be conhearsed into better coverage.