Ottawa

TVO dropping over-the-air transmission outside Toronto

Ontario's public broadcaster is about to become less available to the public. TVO is eliminating its over-the-air signal throughout the province with the exception of Toronto in an effort to save $1 million a year.

Ottawa, Belleville, Chatham, Cloyne, Kitchener, London, Thunder Bay and Windsor to lose signal

TVO mascot Polkaroo is flanked by Agenda host Steve Paikin and CEO Lisa de Wilde at a tribute dinner to former Premier Bill Davis in Toronto on Nov. 6, 2013. (TVO)

Ontario's public broadcaster is about to become less available to the public.

TVO is eliminating its over-the-air signal, except in Toronto, on July 31 in an effort to save $1 million a year.

"This announcement reflects the reality of today's media environment," said TVO Chief Executive Officer Lisa de Wilde in a news release.

"TVO has to make tough choices about where to allocate resources in order to move forward with the strategic priorities of digital learning and high-quality current-affairs journalism, as well as cover inflationary pressures."

8 jobs eliminated

TVO Chief Executive Officer Lisa de Wilde says the broadcaster's decision to end its over-the-air signal 'reflects the reality of today’s media environment.' (TVO)

TVO will decommission eight over-the-air transmitters in Ottawa, Belleville, Chatham, Cloyne, Kitchener, London, Thunder Bay and Windsor.

Eight jobs will be eliminated as a result. Only TVO's transmitter in Toronto will be maintained in order to fulfil the requirements of its CRTC licence.

As a result, television viewers outside Toronto who rely on a free, over-the-air signal will no longer be able to tune into TVO for the first time since the broadcaster began operating in 1970.

Viewers who subscribe to cable or satellite TV will still be able to watch TVO. Individual programs will continue to be available online.

TVO said the decision will affect less than one per cent of households in Ontario, but that's when access to programs online is taken into account.

For those who wish to actually sit down in front of their television rather than a digital device to watch TVO, the extent of the impact will be greater.

In a report issued last year, Toronto-based Convergence Research Group estimated the number of Canadian households without cable or satellite service was approximately 25 per cent.

'World is very different today' 

"The world is very different today and people use many platforms to consume media," TVO Vice President Erika Kramer told Alan Neal on CBC Radio's All in a Day.

"We're evolving from a public educational broadcaster to a provider of many educational services on many platforms."

As examples, Kramer pointed to online educational games TVO has developed for Ontario students and the live streaming of its flagship current affairs program, The Agenda, on Twitter. 

TVO has reversed its decision to eliminate over-the-air signals for areas outside of Toronto. (TVO)

Kramer said the eight transmitters being decommissioned did not cover the entire province and that, in fact, TVO's over-the-air reach has been shrinking for years. In 2012 it shut down 114 analog transmitters, leaving many Ontario residents without over-the-air service since then.

Even so, the decision to eliminate the remaining coverage is drawing criticism and raising concerns viewer support of TVO, which relies on donations, sponsorship and government funding, could decline.

"I can understand people being upset about the change," said Kramer. "However, there are many good things TVO does where those donations can help us deliver on our mandate."

now