Communities Losing Free TV Have Options: CACTUS

OTTAWA (July 13, 2011) After the digital TV transition comes to Canada this summer, tens of thousands of Canadians will likely lose free TV signals as broadcasters shut down analog TV transmitters and don’t replace them. The Canadian Association of Community TV Users and Stations (CACTUS) has launched a website to help those communities take their TV signals—and their local communications infrastructures—into their own hands.

“More than 100 communities in Canada already maintain their own broadcasting towers and retransmit TV signals to residents for a fraction of the cost of cable or satellite,” says Cathy Edwards of CACTUS. “The communities slated to lose CBC, Radio-Canada and private network signals have options that we can help them explore.”

To visit the CACTUS site, go to:

The Canadian broadcast regulator, the CRTC, has ruled that broadcasters must upgrade TV signals to digital or stop broadcasting in 30 Canadian cities starting September 1. These include provincial capitals, cities with a population of more than 300,000 and/or cities with more than one local station. As a result, sixteen cities will lose free CBC and/or Radio-Canada signals. Hundreds more communities outside these 30 cities may lose free TV signals over the next few years if broadcasters decide not to replace analog transmitters when they reach the end of their useful lifespans.

“Digital TV is being welcomed around the world as a way of improving picture quality and providing more, not less, free TV” Edwards points out. “But in Canada, some viewers actually stand to lose from the transition if communities don’t step in. What most people don’t realize is that digital transmitters can be used to multiplex TV, radio, wireless Internet and cell phone service from the same towers, for a fraction of the price that these services used to cost separately.”

The CACTUS website provides clear explanations of the technology and helps visitors estimate the cost of establishing a local rebroadcasting system. The site also describes how communities can use such systems to generate local TV and radio content.

“The existing broadcasting infrastructure in rural areas should be maintained as a key part of Canada’s digital strategy,” said Edwards. “If these towers are pulled down, communities will forever lose control of their own communications, including the potential to offer local content. The towers are their on-ramps to the information highway.”

“The CACTUS site is a fantastic resource,” says Karen Wirsig of the Canadian Media Guild (CMG). “The CMG has been working for years to ensure that broadcast infrastructure in Canada’s smaller communities doesn’t simply get mothballed. We’ve also long advocated for more local content. CACTUS’s initiative can help smaller communities achieve both.”

The Department of Canadian Heritage launched its own official information site about the TV transition earlier this year at On the page, “Affected, What to Do?” the Department has provided a link to the CACTUS page.

CACTUS is a non-profit association created to help ensure that ordinary Canadians have a voice within the broadcasting system. It represents independent non-profit community TV broadcasters, and the Canadians that use and watch them.

Contacts: Karen Wirsig 1 (800) 465-4149, ext. 243
Catherine Edwards (819) 772-2862