Home / Workplace Directory / Canadian Media Guild / 84% say it’s unfair to lose free TV signals in smaller cities

84% say it’s unfair to lose free TV signals in smaller cities

An overwhelming majority ? 84% ? of residents in one of the Canadian cities that risks losing over-the-air television after 2011, says it is unfair that they will be deprived access to free TV signals. The poll was conducted in Kamloops, a city that is representative of the hundreds of communities across Canada that are excluded from a recent CRTC ruling requiring broadcasters to provide over-the-air signals in only 29 major cities after the transition to digital TV.

That ruling from the CRTC stands to take away the option of watching TV for free, over the air, from 11 million Canadians ? about 30% of the population ? who live outside the biggest cities.

“This poll confirms that people don’t think the two-tier approach to television service is fair,” says Lise Lareau, national president of the Canadian Media Guild. “How can we simply accept a plan that hands free TV service to big-city Canadians and cuts off everyone else?”

The poll also shows that people reject the alternative being proposed by the industry ? to force viewers who rely on free, over-the-air TV in those communities to start paying for cable or satellite. None of those who currently watch the three available free channels in Kamloops exclusively using rabbit ears or an antenna say they would pay for cable or satellite if those free signals disappear in 2011. Nearly half of this group says they would simply live without TV while 42% say they’d watch TV shows on the internet.

Right now, 6% of people in Kamloops watch TV over the air. The poll revealed that these viewers are committed to free TV viewing. In addition, there is significant interest among those who subscribe to cable and satellite for a modestly improved menu of free TV channels.

In fact, one-third of Kamloops residents say they would rather watch six free TV stations than pay for cable or satellite if the stations included the three that are currently available ? CFJC (a local affiliate of the E! network), Global BC and French-language CBC ? as well as CBC (English), CTV and the Knowledge Network. Younger people are even more interested in the free TV option, with 42% of people aged 18 to 34 saying they would rather watch six free stations than pay for cable or satellite.

Vector Research + Development conducted the poll in mid-July. The CMG, which represents employees at Canadian broadcasters, including CBC, TVOntario and APTN, commissioned the poll because it is concerned about the number of Canadians being left out of the transition to digital TV and believes too little attention is being paid to what will happen to those people after the switch in 2011.

More than three-quarters of people in Kamloops know only a little (50%) or nothing (26%) about the transition to digital TV scheduled for 2011.

“The shut-down of free, over-the-air TV in hundreds of communities is being treated like a state secret,” Lareau points out. “Very few people in the industry want to talk about over-the-air TV and the government has been silent.”

Over-the-air viewers are more faithful to Canadian TV programs, the poll indicates. Of the Kamloops residents who watch TV exclusively over the air, 62% say they watch Canadian programs most often. That compares with only 27% of cable viewers and 23% of satellite viewers.

“Given the crisis in Canadian TV, does it really make sense to cut off the viewers that watch Canadian programs the most?” Lareau adds.

Digital broadcasting offers the ability for broadcasters to carry more than one channel on a single transmitter. The process, called multiplexing, is already used in the U.S., Europe and other countries around the world. Research has shown that broadcasters could use it in Canada as an affordable way to bring free digital TV to communities like Kamloops. Broadcasters could share a single transmitter, and the associated costs, to provide up to six free channels.

“Canadians need to know there is a viable way to save, and even improve, free TV and no one is telling them about it,” Lareau says. “The CRTC and the government should rethink the way they are handling the transition to digital TV.”

Slightly more than one-fifth of Kamloops residents say they would pay up to $80 for a converter box that would allow them to watch free digital channels over the air on their analogue TV set, assuming they had access to those signals. However, only 1% of residents say they would pay $500 for a satellite receiver to pick up five or six channels on a satellite service with no monthly fee.

Vector Research + Development conducted the telephone poll of 502 residents of Kamloops, BC, between July 13 and 15. There is a 95% certainty that the survey results do not vary by more than 4.4% in either direction from results that would have been obtained by interviewing all adults in the city of Kamloops.

This is the first survey to explore Canadians’ views on over-the-air TV.

Click here to view the full report on the poll.

Click here to find out more about free TV in Canada.

Find Member Resources

Popular Topics

Scroll to Top