"The TV transmitter infrastructure is worth millions and was paid for by Canadian taxpayers," says Catherine Edwards of the Canadian Association of Community Television Users and Stations (CACTUS). "More than 2000 Canadians protested the shutdown in letters to the CRTC last month. They asked that the infrastructure be offered to communities to maintain for themselves."
The letters came from Canadians served by 217 of the 623 transmission sites. A full list can be found on the CACTUS website at http://cactus.independentmedia.ca, along with information for communities about how transmitters can be upgraded to digital and the towers can be repurposed for community TV and radio, high-speed Internet and cellular service.
"The CBC-TV and Radio-Canada analog transmitter shutdown is a sad chapter in Canada's digital transition," says Karen Wirsig of the Canadian Media Guild. "We understand that CBC is in a financial bind with $155 million in cuts required by 2015. Something had to give. Evidently infrastructure outside of major cities is not a priority for the federal government, despite rhetoric about the digital economy."
Last week, the CRTC ruled that CBC/Radio-Canada could shut down the 623 analog transmitters and repeaters with no conditions and no requirement to reach out to affected communities to offer the mothballed infrastructure.
"This is a major public policy failure," adds Edwards. "Everyone has known that the digital transition was coming for two decades. It's supposed to increase our communications services, yet no one would step up to the plate and take leadership to make sure that neither rural Canada nor our national public broadcaster would be crippled: not Heritage, not the CRTC, not the CBC, and certainly not the federal government."
>"The CBC is behaving as if it were a commercial broadcaster, rather than a public broadcaster. You need only contrast CBC's stance with that of TVO to underline this failure," says Ian Morrison of Friends of Canadian Broadcasting.
TVO is also shutting down over-the-air transmission sites on July 31, but has written to affected communities offering the transmission towers for free.
"The federal government seems to be doing everything it can to cripple the national broadcaster and turn it into a pay specialty service, available to well-heeled Canadians in big cities," says Edwards.
It's not too late for many affected communities to approach the CBC to maintain their own transmitters and towers, as the decommissioning process will likely take several months.