Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Ditching cable for rooftop antenna

Free over-the-air television signals making a comeback

  • Print
OTTAWA -- A spiny pack of near-extinct, multi-limbed creatures is turning up in cities across Canada, creeping up the sides of buildings and settling on urban rooftops -- TV antennas are making a tentative comeback.

Nobody in the broadcasting industry or the government seems to have a handle on how many Canadians are scrapping cable and satellite in favour of the old-school technology, but there is anecdotal evidence that a mini-boom is under way.

Ironically, it's all being fuelled by the high-tech switch by broadcasters from analog to digital and high-definition channels.

Viewers are discovering they can get over-the-air, digital television stations that proponents say come through even better than on cable and satellite, where signals are compressed.

"And the magic word is 'free,"' says Jon LeBlanc, Canada's antenna guru.

LeBlanc began an "over-the-air" discussion board on www.digitalhome.ca five years ago, where a few diehard antenna fans would pop by. Now he's the most popular forum on the site, with dozens of new people logging on each month to find out about getting hooked up.

LeBlanc himself gets 14 digital stations, including six from the U.S., with his rooftop antenna in Delta, B.C..

"If a person weeds through what they're actually watching, does the value-added provided by a cable company or a satellite company make any sense? In this financial environment, more and more people are saying 'no,'" says LeBlanc, a former high-tech worker.

"To my way of thinking, this is a renaissance of the over-the-air type of broadcasting, and I think the broadcasters, especially the private networks, are missing something here."

Conventional TV broadcasters say they're struggling to survive in a multi-channel universe with dwindling ad revenues. They are pushing the government to provide regulatory and financial relief, particularly when it comes to the cost of converting transmitters to digital by 2011. The industry has not publicly discussed the phenomenon of viewers willingly rejecting the 500-channel universe in favour of signals they can catch locally. The Canadian Association of Broadcasters says it's not something they have noted.

Only one would-be TV broadcaster, Toronto businessman John Bitove, pushed the CRTC last year to allow him to start a Canadian HD network with over-the-air viewers in mind. He was unsuccessful.

The number of Canadians who rely on over-the-air TV is pegged at nine per cent nationally, 16 per cent in Quebec. David Purdy, vice-president of Rogers Communications, predicts those numbers will decline once all stations convert to digital by August 2011. He points to the range of specialty channels, and now video-on-demand, that cable companies offer.

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 25, 2009 A8

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Drew Willy says team couldn't get anything going

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • JOE BRYKSA/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Local- A large osprey lands in it's nest in a hydro pole on Hyw 59  near the Hillside Beach turnoff turn off. Osprey a large narrow winged hawk which can have a wingspan of over 54 inches are making a incredible recovery since pesticide use of the 1950's and  1960's- For the last two decades these fish hawks have been reappearing in the Lake Winnipeg area- Aug 03, 2005
  • A young gosling flaps his wings after taking a bath in the duck pond at St Vital Park Tuesday morning- - Day 21– June 12, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

What's your take on a report that shows violent crime is decreasing in Winnipeg?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google