Source : Globe & Mail
Canada's biggest television networks have been accused by the federal broadcast regulator of not taking the transition to digital TV seriously enough - and of dragging their feet on millions of dollars of investments needed by 2011 to broadcast in high definition.
"So far, the industry has not shown the sense of urgency that I think is called for right now," Konrad von Finckenstein, chairman of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, told a recent industry gathering.
"Let's face it, there is an elephant in the living room and it is moving very fast. Much more action is required to deal with it."
His comments were made Thursday at a broadcasting meeting in Cambridge, Ont., and are being interpreted within some regulatory circles this week as a shot across the bow at the TV networks.
Mr. von Finckenstein was referring to the upcoming 2011 deadline for the shutdown of over-the-air analog TV broadcasts in Canada. At that point, the country's national networks - such as CTV, CBC, Global and others - will be required to broadcast over the air using digital signals. The switch will allow for HDTV to be watched by antenna, provided viewers have a special digital receiver.
Canadians who subscribe to digital cable through set-top boxes or to satellite TV, regardless of whether they are viewing standard or high-definition signals, will not be affected by the switch, only those watching with rabbit ears.
The networks say putting up new digital towers is costly. But Mr. von Finckenstein pointed out last week that so far only 22 digital antennas have been put up in Canada, compared with 740 high-power analog antennas across the country.
The industry group representing the TV networks said it was surprised at the suggestion the industry is dragging its feet.
"That's an assessment that he is entitled to make. It's not one that I share," Glenn O'Farrell, president of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters, said in an interview yesterday. "We are looking at a 2011 deadline - which is two and a half years away."
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