The people (and donors) have spoken: TVO will continue free over-the-air broadcasting by Joanne Laucious

Feb 17, 2017

Source: Ottawa Sun

TVO has reversed a controversial decision to eliminate free over-the-air broadcasting in many parts of the province, including Ottawa.

In a statement released Friday, the public broadcaster announced that it will continue to transmit free signals across transmitters in Ottawa, Belleville, Thunder Bay, Chatham, Cloyne, Kitchener, London, and Windsor.

The about-face came after the broadcaster got feedback from viewers, donors, and others, as well as a $1 million infusion from the provincial government.

“We listened to the concerns of people who rely on over-the-air transmission to enjoy TVO programming and we consulted with our primary funding partner, the government of Ontario, about the concerns we heard,” said TVO chief executive officer Lisa de Wilde in the statement.

Earlier this month TVO , which receives $30 million a year from the province and is overseen by the Ministry of Education, announced that it planned to shut down its over-the-air broadcasts in every Ontario city except Toronto as of July 31.

At the time, TVO said it would continue to broadcast over the air in Toronto because of its population density. By keeping its Toronto broadcast array functioning, TVO remained compliant with Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission regulations, allowing it to keep its broadcasting licence.

The change would have affected viewers who receive their TV signals over the air through an antenna, but not cable or satellite subscribers — at least 136,000 people, according to a TVO estimate. It would also have saved around $1 million, which TVO planned to invest in other projects, including its catalogue of content available for streaming online.

The plan angered viewers and the non-profit watchdog group Friends of Canadian Broadcasting, which argued that TVO was a universal service and reducing transmitters would affect those with the fewest viewing options. At the same time, increasing numbers of viewers are cancelling cable and satellite TV services in favour of free over-the-air broadcasting signals and new Internet-based entertainment services such as Netflix.

De Wilde said the province’s $1 million will allow it to continue operating the transmitters while still meeting its commitments to strategic priorities.

© Ottawa Sun