José Breton is on a one-man crusade to keep CBC-TV broadcasting its free signal in Quebec City after the digital transition deadline on Aug. 31 because he wants to keep watching Hockey Night in Canada. (Courtesy of José Breton)

A Quebec City man is trying to draw attention to his fight to be able to keep watching Hockey Night in Canada for free on CBC.

José Breton, 49, has started a blog and has been holding up a large sign outside the CBC/Radio-Canada studios in Quebec City reading "We want to watch CBC/Radio-Canada television in English in Quebec City."

After Aug. 31, CBC/Radio-Canada Television will comply with the ruling from the CRTC that requires all over-the-air television broadcasters in large markets to switch their analog signals to digital, bringing on the demise of "rabbit ears" to receive non-cable channels.

The public broadcaster has said most Canadians will either buy a digital converter or subscribe to cable television.

But in some markets where there is duplicate service in English and French and no local programming, one of those "re-transmitters" will be shut down, meaning either the English or French service will only be available to cable or satellite subscribers in selected cities.

'We pay taxes for Radio-Canada, English and French too.' —José Breton, Quebec City resident

On the list of 17 cities where either CBC or Radio-Canada will no longer be free are Quebec City, Moncton, Sherbrooke, Halifax and Fredericton, among others.

Breton said the change is a major problem since in Quebec City, CBC-TV will no longer be accessible for free and the English arm of the public broadcaster is the only one that broadcasts NHL hockey games.

Hockey games in French are broadcast on RDS, the French-language version of TSN.

"Nobody knows [about it]," Breton said. "It's a public television — we pay taxes for Radio-Canada, English and French too."

Breton wants others who will be affected by the change across the country to join his fight for free Hockey Night in Canada.

The mayor of Sherbrooke is already on Breton's side.

"It creates a second class of citizen," said Bernard Sévigny. "People who have money for cable services and other citizens."

The CBC's chief regulatory officer, Steven Guiton, said 93 per cent of Canadians will not be affected by the digital transition because they get CBC/Radio-Canada through their cable subscription.

But Guiton said it's unfortunate that some people will be caught between technologies.

"We're trying to work with the CRTC to make sure that TV is as affordable as possible and if the CRTC does think affordability is an issue, that they do something about it," said Guiton.

According to CBC data, 5.3 per cent of off-air TV viewers will move to a digital converter after Aug. 31, while 1.1 per cent will continue with an analog signal in smaller markets. The remaining 0.6 per cent will be stuck, like Breton, paying for service.

Cities where CBC Television transmitter will be shut down:

  • Saint John.
  • Kitchener.
  • Lethbridge.
  • Saskatoon.
  • Whitehorse.
  • Moncton.
  • Quebec City.
  • Saguenay.
  • Sherbrooke.
  • Trois-Rivières.

Cities where Radio-Canada Television transmitter will be shut down:

  • Calgary.
  • Fredericton.
  • Windsor.
  • St. John's.
  • Charlottetown.
  • Halifax.
  • Yellowknife.