Eastlink asks CBC not to switch signal off yet

Published on July 28, 2012
The CBC building on Prince Phillip Drive in St. John’s. — File photo by Gary Hebbard/The Telegram

Thousands of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians could lose provincial CBC television coverage next week when the broadcaster switches off its analog transmitters.

The national broadcaster will switch off its analog over-the-air transmitters Tuesday, affecting the fewer than two per cent of Canadians who don’t receive CBC’s signal by cable, satellite or digital over-the-air transmission. The CBC had originally planned to turn off the transmitters next year, but accelerated the schedule in an effort to save $10 million.

For EastLink cable customers who don’t have a fibre cable link — along the northern peninsula and the south coast of Labrador — Tuesday’s switchoff means they’ll stop receiving the St. John’s CBC feed — and local news programming and shows such as Land and Sea, and On Point with David Cochrane — and will instead get Halifax’s signal.

EastLink vice-president Dan MacDonald said he couldn’t give an exact number of how many customers would be affected by the change, but it would be primarily more rural communities.

“It would be measured in thousands, but it’s a small percentage of our customers. Now, if you’re one of those customers, you don’t care what the percentages are, you just care that you’re affected,” he said.

Eastlink has asked CBC to hold off on shutting down analog transmitters in Newfoundland and Labrador until a digital connection can be made.

“We understand that CBC is under intense pressure to cut and reduce their budget, and one of the mechanisms that they’re doing that by is to turn off these traditional analog transmitters,” he said.

“Companies like us across the country pick up signals from those analog transmitters and put them over our cable systems to reach those rural customers. So when that signal goes away, there’s no other feasible way to capture that signal.”

MacDonald said he’s confident those customers would have been connected had the shutdown happened next year as originally planned.

“If it had happened in the time frame that we thought, then we believe we would be able to pick it up by an alternative means, for example, off of a provider like Shaw’s satellite,” he said.

MacDonald said Eastlink and CBC have been working together to come up with a solution before Tuesday, said MacDonald.

CBC representatives in St. John’s referred the Telegram to the corporation’s head office in Toronto, but no one was available for comment Friday.

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