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Excerpts from comments submitted to CRTC

As we wait for the CRTC's ruling, I present below some excerpts of comments submitted to the Commission from Canada's media companies and some ancillary groups.
Of particular interest to members of this forum is information from some firms about their intentions relating to DTV conversion in non-mandatory markets.
Culled from http://support.crtc.gc.ca/applicant/applicant.aspx?pn_ph_no=2010-169&lang=E
Re-arranged in alphabetical order by name of intervener.

Astral
(Direct quote) Astral’s intention is to convert its Dawson Creek and Terrace stations, as well as its Prince Rupert repeater, to digital by August 31, 2011.
Astral’s intention to convert these stations, however, is conditional upon the future resolution of two issues: (a) the renewal of its affiliation agreements with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (“CBC”); and (b) reducing costs associated with the capital expenditures for a new transmitter and new studios.

Canadian Media Guild — Union representing media workers
(Direct quote, with modification where indicated by parentheses) We therefore have four main recommendations during this proceeding:
• Commit to maintaining a universal system of free, OTA television after the transition to digital
• expand the list of mandatory markets to include all originating stations, with a more flexible transition deadline for the stations in the smaller markets.
• launch a multiplexing trial in a smaller community that is not on the current list of mandatory markets for digital conversion, in addition to the conversion trial(s) that you propose take place in the mandatory markets. Such a trial could be financed in part by the small market local programming fund.
• establish a DTV transition committee, primarily to co-ordinate and monitor the public awareness campaign for the transition; participants should include the Commission, broadcasters, Industry Canada and consumer/citizen groups.
(None of the statistics take) into account TV sets in all households, including supplementary sets in BDU households, that are not connected to a BDU service.
The results of a survey conducted by the CMG in Kamloops, B.C., (…) indicate that there is latent interest among cable viewers to switch to OTA viewing. Among existing cable viewers, 20% said they would prefer to watch 3 channels over the air than to pay for cable. The figure jumped to 33% if 6 channels were available, something that would be possible with digital multiplexing.

Canwest
(Direct quote) As indicated in Table A below, our current plan (subject to change) is to discontinue the operations of thirty-five (35) over-the-air analog broadcast transmitters effective 31 August 2011 (with no digital replacement). Eleven (11) of those transmitters are full power as per the above-noted definition of that term.

(The following is my synthesis of Canwest's supplied list in Table A.)
B.C.: Skaha Lake, Salmon Arm, 100 Mile House, Bowen Island, Canoe, Oliver (CHBC-TV-3), Brackendale, Williams Lake, Castlegar, Nelson, Creston, Whistler, Squamish, Revelstoke (x2), Taghum, Grand Forks, Enderby, Quesnel, Santa Rosa, Pritchard, Apex Mountain.
N.B.: Miramichi City, Woodstock, St. Stephen.
N.S.: Antigonish, Mulgrave.
Alta.: Brooks, Burmis, Drumheller, Banff, Coleman, Pincher Creek, Waterton Park.
Sask.: Fort Qu'Appelle.

Note that many of the affected transmitters are operating near or past their useful lives and replacement parts and equipment are increasingly difficult to source and install. Where practical, our intention would be to harvest some of the equipment from the above-listed sites for possible use at other analog sites.
At the remaining analog transmitter sites in the non-conversion markets (see Table B below), our intention is to continue to provide an analog signal until it is no longer possible or viable to do so.1 In those cases, we would then have to decide whether to repair the analog transmitter if parts were available and/or can be salvaged from other analog transmitters, or forego an over-the-air analog signal in that particular market. That is, in these cases, transmitter decisions would be made on a case-by-case basis if and when the analog transmitter in operation is no longer viable.

(The following is my synthesis of Canwest's supplied list in Table B.)
Ont.: Peterborough, Bancroft, Midland, Fort Erie, Sarnia, Owen Sound, Sudbury, North Bay, Sault Ste. Marie, Timmins.
B.C.: Kelowna, Penticton (CHKL-TV-1 and CHBC-TV-1), Kamloops, Courtenay, Wilson Creek, Oilver (CKKM), Vernon (CHBC-TV-2 and CHKL-TV-2), Prince George, Trail, Chilliwack.
Alta.: Red Deer.
Man.: Minnedosa.
N.S.: Sydney, Wolfville, Bridgewater, Truro, New Glasgow, Yarmouth, Shelbourne.

Note that our plan was specifically designed to reflect the Commission’s transmitter policy in non-mandatory conversion markets as outlined in paragraphs 183-191 of BRP CRTC 2010-167. This policy requires an OTA broadcaster to operate a transmitter in a given market if it wants to avail itself of certain regulatory “protections,” such as simultaneous substitution and mandatory carriage. Canwest has argued in past proceedings that this policy requires reconsideration.

CBC
(Direct quote) CBC/Radio-Canada intends to continue broadcasting in analog in smaller markets. The Corporation has 18 transmitters that operate in the UHF Channel 52-69 spectrum in non-mandatory markets, of which 15 are located within the Canada-US coordination zone. We are currently assessing whether it will be possible to continue to operate on analog by way of a change in channel in these markets.

CACTUS — A group representing community TV stations
(Direct quote) We suggest that in any market or community where a public or private broadcaster elects to discontinue service after the digital transition in August of 2011, that the transmission equipment used by that broadcaster either be a) donated to the community or b) space on that tower and access to the existing analog transmitter be granted in perpetuity so that the community would have the choice to:
• Maintain the equipment and offer rebroadcasting services for the departing public or private broadcaster should the community so wish, and/or
• Use the equipment (tower and transmitter) to offer an over-the-air community programming service.
We consider that this would at least partially compensate such smaller markets for the withdrawal of service, and equip them to deal with similar shifts in the communications environment in future.

CCSA (Canadian Cable Systems Alliance)
(Direct quote, with modification where indicated by parentheses) (OTA viewer estimates) contain no allowance for those viewers who receive Canadian cable or satellite services illegally, who pirate foreign satellite services or who rely solely on US off-air border stations.
In short, CCSA believes that the number of legitimate OTA-dependent viewers outside the mandatory markets, those who stand to be truly disenfranchised, has been significantly overstated.

Corus
(Direct quote) At present, it is our expectation that we would apply to convert CKWS-TV Kingston and CHEX-TV Peterborough to digital high-definition (HD) transmission during the 2011/2012 broadcast year. In the meantime, it is our intention to provide a direct HD feed of our Kingston and Peterborough signals by Fall 2010 to Cogeco Cable, the cable licensee serving these markets.
Corus is currently reviewing the implications of converting the remaining five stations to digital at some point in the future. We will advise the Commission of our plans in this regard once we have determined the appropriate course of action.

CTV
(Direct quote) In the non-mandatory markets, CTVgm’s stations will transition to digital as the equipment in the respective locations wears out, assuming that these local stations are financially sustainable. In the meantime, these stations will continue to operate using their analog transmitters after August 31, 2011.
Vancouver would be the most easily achievable as a trial market given that technical resources are available in the region. Vancouver, with its mountainous terrain and tall buildings, would also be a good sample market for other centres across the country.

Jim Pattison Group
(Direct quote) The JPBG stations are not currently mandated by the CRTC to have OTA HD transmitters. JPBG may take a look at that once the decision from this current proceeding is issued, again based on the above-noted assumptions regarding carriage and funding. Accordingly, we currently have no plans to establish digital OTA transmitters; however, we continue to review the matter and will advise the Commission as appropriate if our plans change.

Rogers
(Direct quote) In these non-mandatory markets, we intend, at least in the short term, to align our plans with the majority of other broadcasters: to convert to digital, maintain analog transmitters, or provide a direct feed to BDUs.
We believe that it is in consumers’ best interests for broadcasters to take a consensus approach with respect to transmitters in non-mandatory markets – in our case, Red Deer, Alberta and Courtenay, British Columbia. We are concerned that if we convert our analog transmitter in Red Deer to digital and our competitors do not, then we will confuse consumers and subject ourselves to a competitive disadvantage.

TVA
(Translation) TVA expects its competitors — especially other conventional broadcasters — to follow the guidelines set forth by the CRTC. For example, if CBC does not convert in mandatory markets within the prescribed timeframe, TVA should be compensated for whatever competitive disadvantage to TVA arises from the CBC's non-conformity with regulations.

TVO
(Direct quote) TVO intends to transition to DTV facilities in the six mandatory markets identified by the Commission in Broadcasting Regulatory Policy 2010-167, subject to receiving funding from the provincial government. With respect to the issue of the digital transition outside of mandatory markets, TVO’s plans are at the present time not yet finalized. TVO in many cases shares towers and related facilities with other over-the-air broadcasters. A final determination on the steps taken in these markets will be influenced in part by the steps that other broadcasters will take in this regard.
 

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They should open the market to allow American Networks to place transmitter towers in these smaller markets where Canadian broadcasters think it's not feasible to go digital.

Then we would really see how feasible these markets are when the choice is

1) watch whatever analog signals the Canadian broadcaster is transmitting
2) watch ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, etc. on beautiful HD digital over the air
3) pay a BDU for cable, satellite, etc.
 

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CRTC decision

Today's CTRC Decision includes a note stating:

Please be advised that Friday’s release (July 16th) will be at 10 a.m. [Ottawa time].

Stay tuned for the CRTC's decision for OTA DTV transition tomorrow at 10am (finally)!
 

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Some highlights:

-BDUs (e.g. cable/satellite companies) are authorized to distribute a conventional only package (ie OTA broadcasters from local/regional area) for free (ie no monthly fee) without being subject to fee for carriage (i.e. payment to the TV station). These companies may charge for equipment to use the service (e.g. set top box), installation, and service calls, as well as for electronic program guide. This applies to mandatory and non-mandatory markets. BDUs cannot force a customer to purchase another monthly service (e.g. internet, phone) as a condition to get this one.

-Education and awareness campaigns are expect to start by March 2011 and must include this information posted on a station's web site. Specific requirements, e.g. frequency of PSAs have not been established and may come later.

Trial Markets (not until 2011, but specific start date not yet determined):
-Winnipeg
-Quebec City
 

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And here's the press release issued by the crtc via Canada Newswire (including content mistakes et al)
Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission

Transmitted by CNW Group on : July 16, 2010 10:00

CRTC provides update on the transition to digital television

OTTAWA-GATINEAU, July 16 /CNW Telbec/ - The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) today issued additional information concerning the transition from analog to digital television, which must be completed by August 31, 2011. The CRTC is making this data available to assist the broadcasting industry in its preparations for the switchover.

Canadians who subscribe to cable or satellite television services will not be affected by the digital transition. Only viewers who watch television stations using a "rabbit-ears" antenna may experience some change in the way they receive television signals.

It is estimated that up to 857,000 households in larger markets do not subscribe to either cable or satellite. These consumers may need to purchase digital converter boxes to continue watching local stations on their existing television sets. The boxes cost up to $75 for each television in the home.

In smaller markets, some local stations may decide not to convert to digital, but instead rely solely on cable and satellite companies to deliver their signal to viewers. The CRTC will modify its regulation to allow television distributors to provide a free alternative to affected viewers in those smaller markets. These companies will be able to offer a package of local and regional stations at no charge to viewers. In order to receive the free local package, some consumers may have to purchase a satellite receiver and dish at a minimum cost of $300, depending on the number of televisions in the home. At most, 31,500 households could be affected.

Consumer awareness and education is a key component of the digital transition. Members of the broadcasting industry are expected to actively participate in the creation and implementation of a national consumer education program. Such a program should start no later than March 2011 to ensure Canadians are well informed.

At the request of the industry, the CRTC is prepared to facilitate the establishment of trial markets ahead of the August 2011 deadline. This would provide an opportunity to assess the adequacy of all measures for the transition, including consumer education measures.

For more information, please see the CRTC's fact sheet on the digital transition. http://www.crtc.gc.ca/eng/info_sht/bdt14.htm

Broadcasting Regulatory Policy CRTC 2010-485

http://www.crtc.gc.ca/eng/archive/2010/2010-485.htm

The CRTC

The CRTC is an independent public authority that regulates and supervises broadcasting and telecommunications in Canada.

Reference documents:

News release, "CRTC unveils a new group-based television regulatory policy," March 22, 2010

http://www.crtc.gc.ca/eng/com100/2010/r100322.htm

Broadcasting Notice of Consultation CRTC 2010-169

http://www.crtc.gc.ca/eng/archive/2010/2010-169.htm

These documents are available in alternative format upon request.
 

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Over-the-air digital converter boxes

10. As a result, based on one digital converter box per affected household retailing for up to $75, the aggregated cost to consumers affected by the transition for the purchase of over-the-air digital converter boxes may be up to $64 million.
Satellite receiving equipment

13. Based on one satellite dish and receiver per affected household at a total cost of approximately $300, excluding installation, the estimated aggregated cost to consumers affected by the transition towards the purchase of digital receiving equipment may be up to $9.5 million.
Help me understand how digital converter boxes can be more than Sat. equipment. Did I miss something?
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Trial Markets:
-Winnipeg
-Quebec City
Well, they say that those would be good trial markets, but don't go so far as to set them in stone:

The Commission would also be prepared to adopt regulatory measures to facilitate such a trial in a given market selected jointly by broadcasters. However, the Commission considers it inappropriate to establish trial market(s) in the absence of clarity concerning the timing and scope of a national coordinated consumer education campaign, since this will have a significant impact on the success of any trial market.
 

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@ j0dest3r

The OTA digital converter box costing includes OTA viewers in both mandatory and non-mandatory markets.

The satellite conversion includes OTA viewers in non-mandatory markets, but not mandatory markets, as the OTA viewers in mandatory markets will have access to a digital signal and won't need to resort to satellite.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
Help me understand how digital converter boxes can be more than Sat. equipment. Did I miss something?
Here's the answer, from the CRTC document:

9. Given that in 2009 approximately 7.3% of Canadian households relied solely on over-the-air reception, approximately 826,000 to 857,500 households may require over-the-air digital converter boxes to ensure that viewers in these households maintain access to over-the-air services using older television sets.
12. Given that in 2009 approximately 7.3% of Canadian households relied solely on over-the-air reception and assuming the broadcasters noted in the previous paragraph were to cease over-the-air transmission altogether, up to 31,500 households outside the mandatory markets may require digital receiving equipment, such as satellite receivers and dishes.
 

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There is not going to be much incentive for the commercial broadcasters to cease broadcasting over-the-air - according to the CRTC release, any broadcaster who ceases broadcasting over-the-air will automatically lose simsub rights in that region.

CTV, Global, and others would not sacrifice simsub rights, except maybe in the smallest of markets.
 

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Digital TV: 1 million Canadians not ready (CBC)

Digital TV: 1 million Canadians not ready
Last Updated: Friday, July 16, 2010 | 3:54 PM ET
CBC News

With analog TV signals to be shut down in most Canadian cities in just over a year, nearly one million Canadians aren't ready for the switch, says the CRTC.
http://www.cbc.ca/consumer/story/2010/07/16/con-digital-television.html

Time to make some noise, the questions are flowing on here. LOL
 

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Nothing new in this "decision". Only old observations. No actions. It's our old good CRTC, just one year before the deadline.
 

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There is something substantially new in this release: The government is distancing itself from the responsibility of public education regarding the digital transition, and dumping it on the broadcasters. And they appear to be distancing themselves from offering any financial assistance for equipment necessary to tune digital stations (for older analog tv sets).

Remember, the government will see billions in auction fees for this spectrum (700MHz, or roughly channels 52-69). And despite that revenue, none of it will be earmarked for public education or equipment subsidies, unlike in the US. They're pocketing all of that money....

My take is that broadcasters will simply put emphasis on the fact that their signals will be available over FreeHD satellite, subscription-free. We probably won't hear anything about terrestrial OTA reception. There won't be any "enforcement" of FreeHD access to subscription-free programming in the key areas for OTA broadcasting. We'll probably see partnerships with FreeHD and conventional broadcasters...

This is likely another nail in the coffin for OTA. Especially if the satellite companies offering the signals subscription-free also offer installation services.
 
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