Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Legally Free Satellite TV To Come To Canada (No Seriously)

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Just like cell phones, Canadians are about to get something that they desperately need, real competition in satellite TV. A new upstart called Free HD Canada is going to seek a CRTC license to start a third Satellite TV company to serve the Great White North. The name Free HD comes from a proposal to provide Local TV stations for free to those who just buy the dish and receiver and don't choose to subscribe to any additional programming packages. That's all fine and well for those in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal who would get HD for free from the new company (people in those cities can already free High Definition local programming with an antenna.) The remaining 85% of Canadians would get the same standard def that is currently available on over the air broadcast TV.

In response Shaw Direct (formerly known as StarChoice) and Bell TV (the former ExpressVu) are proposing their own Local TV for free packages on their services. Undoubtedly CTV and Canwest Global are backing these proposals as a way to dodge the digital transition that is supposed to happen in 2011. If some executives get their way these free local TV satellite services would replace over the air broadcasting. Broadcast networks are already complaining about the cost of transitioning small market stations to digital for a small audience claiming that less than 10 percent would benefit since that's the proportion of the market that relies solely on over the air broadcast for their television programming. In the United States when the FCC and broadcaster were wrangling out their DTV transition plans the FCC used the percentage of homes that had at least one TV hooked up to nothing other than an antenna and came out with a little under half of homes would benefit from transitioning to digital television.

The proposal to transition from free over the air to free satellite is half baked to put it lightly. Many who watch broadcast television using an antenna may have satellite as an option. Many of those who rent their homes are prohibited from putting up satellite dishes by their landlords. For many others satellite just isn't a practical solution an example is those on both the west and east coasts where frequent poor weather degrades satellite signals to the point where blank TV screens are often seen.

New competition in satellite TV is a good thing, but the proposal it comes with will leave Some Canadians without any source of programming. That is something that is simply unacceptable and the CRTC and elected officials needs to hear loud and clear.

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