24 October

Free TV will be gone by 2020. Technical flaws with HD over the air, combined with new laws, assure this.

For some time I had been dismayed at how the USA has mandated the termination of regular analog TV as of 2009, but was relieved that Canada had not done the same thing. I just learned that the CRTC in Canada has mandated that as of 2011 no further analog (regular) television will be broadcast in Canada either. In addition, the situation for HDTV over the air, no matter where you live, is much worse than I had realized.

Canada decided (a few years back) to use the ATSC digital TV system, used only by the USA and a couple of other countries, as opposed the the DVB-T standard that was adopted world-wide (including all of Europe). As a result, ATSC devices are going to be more expensive than DVB-T, less compatible with assorted devices, and slower to come to market. Oh, and ATSC doesn't even work as well as DVB-T; nobody really knows yet how to make it work well with mobile devices.

Oh, and more frustrating yet, if you want to receive a full selection of digital TV broadcasts over the air (which is the only non-subscription choice), then in many (most?) you need a complicated set of one or more outdoor antennas, which may have to be to be directed using a rotor! Among other things, that precludes rapidly switching channels (I guess broadcasters love that). Ugh! Antennas on the roof! Wires, cables!

This just amounts to a not-so-slow and ugly death for over-the-air television. How many people are really going to mount an outdoor antenna, or a set of antennas. With rotors! What about those whose home or apartment faces the wrong way? Broadcast TV, and hence free TV, will be gone by 2020 as a result of this move. As the number of viewers shrink, so will the available programming, and prices will go up. That's a death spiral for sure.

Instead, we'll have televison you have to pay for, and for which there is steady feedback to the broadcasters regarding who watched what, and for how long (as already exists with most cable TV devices).

Background information

While standard definition remains the dominant viewing choice the world over, HDTV is already making gradual and progressive inroads. When color TV was introduced, it was developed to be backwards compatible and it gradually forced out black and white TV by being more appealing. In contrast, within the United States, Canada, and several other countries legislative action has been taken to force analog television off the air and replace it with terrestrial HDTV broadcasts. Satellite or cable broadcasting can remain with non-HDTV formats.

The primary reason for this is that digital broadcasting makes more efficient use of the available bandwidth, so if analog broadcasting is replaced by digital, the spectrum space is made available for other uses such as cellular phones or additional channels. More cynical explanations include the fact that forced adoption of digital technology closes the what the rights holding industries called the "analog hole", meaning the ability of home viewers to record or event distribute programming they received.

In the North America at least, digital television occupies largely the same portion of the electromagnetic spectrum as traditional analog television. Due to its digital nature, if the packets making up a program are too badly degraded, no signal whatsoever will be viewable. As a result, in locations with poor reception digital television may not function whereas analog television might still deliver a degraded signal.

On final concern about HDTV broadcasting in Canada, in particular: it doesn't accomodate disabled people properly. For years, there have been legistative requirements re. closed captioning of regular broadcast TV to assist those who are hard of hearing (or vision, since closed caption narratives can be transformed into audio fairly easily -- know any older people?). Quoting from Joe Clark's long article on this subject: "There is no requirement that Canadian HD devices receive, decode, or display captioning. Of course the U.S. has a requirement and we usually get the same equipment, and of course captioning is included in the ATSC specification, but there is no legislative guarantee that caption-capable high-definition equipment actually make it into Canadian homes." (... or that broadcasters insert captions into HD content.)

Well, good riddance. Maybe we'll read books instead.

By Gregory Dudek at | Read (2) or Leave a comment |    
Rate item 83: Rating: 29.1/10 (8 votes cast)
Free digital off air tv working in toronto

I live in toronto Canada and picked up a digital set top converter box a Zenith model from EBay to use with my old CRT Sony Trintron and receive all the us channels in astc digital and all the Canadian channels in the Toronto and Hamilton area except TVO that is only aired in analogue(go back to using tv tuner for this one) for now.Most important is the antenna especially for Buffalo-Niagara falls signals for indoor use i would suggest using an outdoor '4 bay uhf antenna',not rabbit ears but they will pickup some channels, it will give more signal depending on your location i mount mine in the balcony window facing south and used the same antenna for analogue in the past some computer shops in Toronto sell these antennas for 15-35 dollars research more Google them! the channel list is 2 nbc 4 cbs 5 cbc,7 abc 9 ctv11 ch,17 pbs,25 cbl,29 fox,36cts,41 global,47 omni1,51ion,57 city,66 suntv,69 omni2,19 TVO analogue,15 star ray tv local analogue including sub-channels on nbc 2 and pbs 17 Location and antenna position determines how many channels can be picked up!

Posted by: anonymous at December 03,2009 21:02
Re: The end of free TV

Here is an article and some 2013 data that supports this prediction:


Posted by: dudek at November 24,2013 13:52
Please send trackback to:/blog/83/tbping


Posted by: nodronorricl at August 13,2009 14:42
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