Keeping analog transmitters on ‘not feasible’

Some Eastlink cable customers to lose provincial CBC television

Daniel MacEachern dmaceachern@thetelegram.com
Published on July 31, 2012
The CBC building on Prince Phillip Drive in St. John’s. — Photo by Gary Hebbard/The Telegram

The loss of provincial CBC television coverage in rural Newfoundland and Labrador is an unfortunate, but short-term, side effect of the shutdown of its analog transmitters, says a spokesman for the national broadcaster.

Late last week, cable company EastLink said a small minority of its customer base — those whose CBC Newfoundland and Labrador signal comes from analog over-the-air transmitters instead of cable, satellite or digital over-the-air transmission — will lose provincial CBC broadcasting when the broadcaster shuts down its analog transmitters as a cost-cutting measure.

Eastlink said it hoped CBC could delay shutting down the transmitters while it finds a solution for those customers, estimated to number in the thousands — along the Northern Peninsula and the south coast of Labrador — but fewer than two per cent of its customer base.

“It’s not technically feasible to continue operating just a few transmitters,” said CBC spokesman Angus McKinnon from Ottawa.

“The satellite uplink system that feeds all of our transmitters is being decommissioned on July 31, so it’s not really a question of shutting off transmitters one by one and leaving a few up and running here and there.

“It’s really the whole network that’s being shut off at once.”

The affected customers will instead receive CBC Halifax’s television broadcast, which is largely the same as CBC Newfoundland and Labrador’s, but the differences are crucial: provincial news coverage and local programming like Land and Sea, and On Point with David Cochrane.

McKinnon said it’s a temporary situation, as satellite providers, starting in January, will be obliged to provide all local stations to subscribers. EastLink vice-president Dean MacDonald said last week that it’s hoping to find an alternative means, such as a signal from a satellite provider like Shaw.

McKinnon said the decision by the Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission to require satellite providers to offer all local stations means EastLink customers will be without Newfoundland and Labrador CBC for a few months at worst.

“Starting in January, that signal will be available from Shaw,” he said.

“So it’s a really unfortunate situation for the people that are going to be adversely affected, but it is a temporary situation, and the good news is, as I say, that the situation will only last four to five months, and they’ll get their signal back as they have it today.”

dmaceachern@thetelegram.com

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