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Free TV: CTV gets it wrong

I shouldn’t be, but I am surprised at how badly some journalists cover our own industry. I know some are “edited” by their corporate bosses. On Friday night, CTV got the story of the U-S transition from analog to digital TV all wrong. And in this case, you have to wonder if there’s a reason why.

Reporter Tom Walters’ piece left people with the impression that the switch from analog to digital TV broadcasting in the United States means the end of antennas and over-the-air television. He called it the End of an Era.

In fact, nothing could be further from the truth – at least in the United States. There, all the major broadcasters have invested in making the switch to digital, and signals are still being beamed to TV sets right across the country, for free. The only difference is they’re digital signals now, which means they’re clearer and sharper signals. All you need is a converter box to receive them (which the U-S government helped people buy, by handing out millions of dollars worth of coupons), or a new TV. And a good antenna really helps.

So, in the United States, you can still get a wide range of TV signals in most places, for free.

In this country, broadcasters are refusing to make the transition, which is due to take place officially in 2011. Only the biggest cities west of New Brunswick can get digital TV over the air. And broadcasters have no plans to change that.

There’s a great story on cbc.ca that gives an overview of the transition in the U-S and the lack of transition in this country. Now, any wonder why CTV, which has already written off the idea of providing free over-the-air digital TV, would air such an incomplete story?

By the way, my union, the Canadian Media Guild, thinks all Canadians should have access to free TV, even after the digital conversion in 2011 and has provided original research about this to the CRTC. It’s been an uphill struggle.

Walters ended his piece with the Canadian broadcasters’ line (read: excuse): that only 10% of Canadians rely on over-the-air signals for their television, while the rest get cable and satellite, so the digital conversion will mean nothing. He didn’t mention that up to 10 million Canadians will be cut off from having the option of getting free TV in Canada after 2011, because of decisions that CTV and other broadcasters are making now. Would have been a better story, don’t you think?

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