Canada's Digital TV Changeover Runs Into Problems. Sound Familiar?

300,000 Canadians Might Be Without CBC as Broadcaster Deals With Budget Shortfall

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While the U.S. changeover from analog to digital TV was far from, um, seamless, Canada's switch has run into a major roadblock of its own. Canada's Marketing magazine is reporting that at least 300,000 rural Canadians could be without CBC TV, the nation's national TV broadcaster, because it doesn't have the funds to complete the conversion. Only eight of its 600 towers have been changed over.

CBC has a $171 million shortfall this year and is warning that the deadline of August 2011 is going to be problematic. Marketing, one of Ad Age's international partners, notes that broadcasters have been complaining about the cost.

It's also not helping that the government hasn't established a program to pay for converter devices for those Canadians without cable TV or satellite access, like the U.S. has.

"There has to be either from government a realization that the broadcasters can't afford this, or there has to be some help given through some fund if government thinks this is a priority for the broadcasting of Canadian TV signals," said CBC President Hubert Lacroix.

Marketing also notes that there's a group working on the idea of a low-cost cable or satellite solution but that's not in the immediate offing.

There have been similar complaints in other countries undergoing the switch, including Demark, where 20,000 people could be without TV on Nov. 1.

In New Zealand, where the deadline is at latest 2012, a major network is balking at the cost and made a lot of noise about refusing to join a steering group comprised of its rivals.

Perhaps it's only Australia that's finding the changeover easy. Fifty-three percent of Aussies have converted and the deadline isn't until 2013, leading Broadband and Communications Minister Stephen Conroy to remark in August, "Digital switchover is the latest national format change since decimal currency, and progress to date suggests Australians are on board."

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