CRTC orders ads on digital TV switchover

The CRTC has ordered Canadian networks to create and broadcast public service announcements about the switchover to digital TV.

Get ready for a national ad campaign about the transition to digital television.

Some Canadian homes will be forced to buy satellite service if they want to continue to receive TV signals. (Associated Press)

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission issued an order Friday for Canada's over-the-air networks to begin airing public service announcements about the switchover to digital TV, starting May 1.

The CRTC ordered broadcasters to roll out digital TV signals (already sent out in some cities) nationwide by Aug. 31. Analog, over-the-air signals are to be shut down over the following year.

Viewers who rely exclusively on analog signals will have to find a new way of receiving their favourite stations. 

Consumer groups have argued that Canadians are unprepared for the change and urged a co-ordinated national campaign to inform the public.

An estimated 900,000 Canadian households that rely on analog antennas are not equipped to receive digital signals and will have to buy a set-top converter box to receive the new signals. Another 44,000 households live in areas that can't pick up digital signals and will need to invest in a satellite dish.

Broadcasters — such as CTV, CBC and Global — must air at least six, 30-second spots about the changeover every day, the CRTC said Friday.

The federal regulator dismissed objections from Quebecor Media Inc. and V Interactions Inc., who had argued they shouldn't have to air PSAs.

However, at the request of the broadcast industry, the CRTC reduced the amount of information that must go into the announcements. For instance, broadcasters will not have to give the date and time they plan to end their analog signal.

Instead, the PSAs must simply notify consumers the change is coming and advise them they could experience a loss of signal. The broadcaster can then offer a website address where details will be posted regarding what consumers should do to maintain access to their TV signal, as well as plans the network has regarding the digital transition.