CBC faces possible funding cuts and digital conversion challenges

Just for the information of anyone who might care, here are two topics relating to the Canadian Broadcasting Corportaion: a possible funding cut and the impact of impending digital conversion for TV broadcasting.

The prospect of budget reductions is just a discussion point at present. The ruling Conservative party has a stated target of eliminating the federal deficit by 2015, a goal that would require all sorts of cost reductions and efficiencies to achieve.

Heritage Minister James Moore raised the prospect of a 5% cut for the CBC, and discussed other issues relating to arts funding, as a guest on CBC’s Q this past Tuesday. (That 34 minute interview with Q host Jian Ghomeshi, can be heard here.)

Next, as has already occurred in the U.S., Canadian TV stations in designated markets have made – or will be making – a switch to digital signal broadcasting. Cable and satellite viewers will not notice any difference. But those who get their signal in the free/off-air manner (as with “rabbit ears”) will need a conversion box. Or they may simply be out of luck. As detailed in this Globe and Mail article, after August 31,

All broadcasters are required by the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission to go digital in 30 mandatory markets, including all provincial capitals and cities with a population over 300,000. The CRTC is letting broadcasters keep analog signals going only in rural locations outside the mandatory markets.

However, the bilingual CBC-Radio Canada, which has hundreds of transmitters scattered across a vast country, says it cannot afford to invest in digital even in all the mandatory markets – and in a mandatory market where there is no new digital transmitter, the broadcaster will still be forced to shut off the analog service.

While it is statistically true that the vast majority of TV viewers just use cable, shutting analog services down will disproportionally hurt poor, elderly or rural viewers – for whom cost or availability are significant barriers.

It would be nice if the legitimate needs of non-cable subscribers can still be met, even as technology marches on.

There’s also a worthy debate to be had about ownership and allocation of spectrum space along with any revenue it may generate. The same Globe and Mail article puts that this way:

Neither the CBC nor the commercial broadcasters have received any government funding to replace transmitters, although the spectrum they are freeing up – by moving to signals that take less space on the airwaves – is expected to earn the federal government billions when it is sold off to mobile providers in 2012. The last spectrum auction, in 2008, raised $4.25-billion.

Out of curiosity, were you aware of this impending change? Will it affect your ability to access CBC’s television programing? And were you adversely affected when the U.S. made this same conversion a few years ago?

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2 Comments on “CBC faces possible funding cuts and digital conversion challenges”

  1. JDM says:

    “shutting analog services down will disproportionally hurt poor, elderly or rural viewers”

    Oh my gosh!

    Social Security reform, no. The elderly.
    Medicare reform, no. The elderly.
    TV reform, no. The elderly??

    Those who think we can keep borrowing from our grandkids and great-grand kids for our own excesses need to go take out a loan for $2Million, live it up, and pass the bill on to your own kids when you’re gone.

    It’s time to get real about our national borrowing addiction.

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  2. Bret4207 says:

    “…Neither the CBC nor the commercial broadcasters have received any government funding to replace transmitters, …”

    That’s called an unfunded mandate Lucy. We do it all the time here. Get used to it. There’ll probably be a lot more it it in the future.

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