Canadian TV makes switch from analog to digital
MONTREAL - Rachel Negre had learned to keep her doors closed while watching TV.
"It takes very little sometimes to mess the signal up. It could be the cat walking by or by opening the fridge or the balcony door," she said.
Snow on TV screens should be a thing of the past for viewers like Negre, as all TV in Canada makes the switch from an analog to digital signal at the end of Wednesday.
CTV Montreal switched to a digital signal following the late news broadcast Tuesday.
The changeover required equipment switches at the broadcast tower that literally towers over the city atop Mount Royal.
The landmark metallic skeletal facility 335 metres above sea level beams out signals for eight TV stations and 14 radio stations. It will now be doing it for TVs exclusively in digital-style, in zeroes and ones.
The digital delivery method is an improvement over the old-fashioned analog signal, still used by an estimated 10 percent of viewers.
For CTV Montreal, the switch meant replacing tons of time-worn analog equipment, some of it used since near the station's inception in 1961.
Those reliable old clunkers have been replaced with much smaller, digital technology.
Dan Kowal helped oversee the switch, which saw 40-year-CTV Montreal station veteran George Lee come out of retirement to lend a helping hand to render obsolete the equipment that used to create decades of broadcasts. "It brings back memories, seeing the old guys," said Lee.
But saying goodbye to the time-worn machinery will lead to improved viewing, as Kowal notes.
"You'll get HD and 5.1 digital sound. That's the beauty of it," said Kowal. "It's much better." Some Montreal viewers have reported receiving up to 27 HD channels with the antennas.
If viewers don't subscribe to cable or satellite TV, they will need a digital converter set-top box or a newer TV with a built-in digital converter to access the digital feeds. CTV Montreal's channel on the digital dial is 12.1.
Those with a relatively recent TV who see a snowy image on TV today should search the menu for the re-scan option, which should re-set the channels.
If you still don't get a signal, it may be that you'll need a different antenna unit.
About 850,000 Canadian households don't subscribe to cable or satellite TV services, said Scott Hutton, the CRTC's executive director of broadcasting.
"If your channel switches to digital and you just try to turn it on, you will have snow," Hutton said of Canadians who only have rooftop antennas, or rabbit ears, and older TVs.
"It just won't be broadcasting anymore," he said.
The bulk of the households are in urban markets, he said, noting that Montreal probably has lowest level of cable or satellite penetration among large centres because those living near Mont-Royal mountain get good reception without it.
The change to over-the-air digital signals provides better picture and sound and also allows broadcasting in high definition. The move brings Canada in line with other countries such as the United States, which made the transition in 2009.
In 2007, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission mandated that all TV broadcasters switch from analog signals to digital by this Aug. 31.
The CBC got a one-year extension from the CRTC to keep its analog signals running until Aug. 31, 2012, in 22 markets, primarily secondary ones. The CBC has said it plans to install a total of 27 digital transmitters across the country.
with files from The Canadian Press