OTTAWA., May 25, 2012 /CNW/ - In response to federal cuts, the CBC and Radio-Canada plan to switch off more than 600 analog transmitters on July 31, 2012. Canadians outside major cities and provincial and territorial capitals will lose free access to the CBC and Radio-Canada over the air using bunny ears or rooftop antennae. Ontario educational broadcaster TVO is shutting down more than 100 analog TV transmitters on July 31st as well. The affected communities need to act if they want to avoid losing this infrastructure.
Getting the CBC's signal to all Canadians living in communities of at least 500 people was a major policy goal in the 1970s to link the country coast to coast. "This transmission infrastructure is worth millions and has already been paid for by Canadian taxpayers," says Catherine Edwards of the Canadian Association of Community Television Users and Stations (CACTUS). Rather than being scrapped, communities should be given the chance to maintain it themselves. The transmitters and towers can be used not just to continue free CBC service, but also to set up local wireless Internet, mobile service, or community TV."
The CRTC has begun a public consultation on the CBC's transmitter plan. CACTUS is urging town and band councils, community colleges, community media groups and concerned CBC viewers to ask the CRTC and CBC to make the transmission equipment available for local public use by the June 18th dead line. CACTUS has been in touch with federal departments and the CBC to develop a program similar to the federal Heritage Lighthouse Program, in which communities maintain lighthouses that would otherwise be torn down. TVO has already contacted over 100 communities affected by the shutdown of TVO over-the-air signals to offer them the towers and satellite equipment for free. According to TVO, 80% of another set of 100 towers that were decommissioned last year were kept by the affected communities. So far, however, the CBC has stated that it is not planning to consult affected communities and wants "fair market value" for its equipment, even if communities are willing to take over maintenance.
Community rebroadcasting already exists in more than 100 small towns in Canada. Valemont, BC, rebroadcasts six TV channels, including a local community TV service, and three radio channels. Residents pay $40 per household per year for the service. "There is no longer a business case for the large telecommunications companies--and now even the CBC and TVO--to serve many small and remote communities," Edwards adds. "What most communities don't realize is how cost-effective it has become to offer these services using digital technologies, especially if the towers are already there."
An information package developed by CACTUS and the Canadian Media Guild that describes how community rebroadcasting works is available at http://cactus.independentmedia.ca/node/471.
For help writing letters to the CRTC about loss of CBC service, visit the web site of Friends of Canadian Broadcasting at www.friends.ca/free_cbc. For help writing letters about the loss of CBC infrastructure that could be repurposed for rural broadband, see openmedia.ca/lifeline.
For further information:
Catherine Edwards (819) 772-2862