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Frequently Asked Questions









General

What is digital television?

Digital television (DTV) is a new technology for the broadcasting of television signals. Compared to analog broadcasting, transmitting DTV signals is more effective and provides sharper picture and improved sound. 

What was the reason for the transition to over-the-air digital television?

Over-the-air digital television (DTV) offers more options than analog television. Digital signals provide better picture and sound and take up less airwave space. The freed up space can be used for other purposes like advanced wireless and public safety services, such as those used by police and fire departments. The vast majority of Canadians are not affected by the transition to over-the-air television because they receive their television signals via cable, satellite or the Internet.

When did the transition to over-the-air digital television happen?

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) set August 31, 2011, as the date for Canada's transition to over-the-air digital television in major markets and on certain channels in other areas. Some stations switched before this date. Consult our interactive map to see affected locations and stations, including transition delays in some cases.

Where did the transition to over-the-air digital television happen?

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC)determined that the transition was required in major markets and on certain channels in other areas. Some stations may have also made the switch voluntarily. Consult our interactive map to see affected locations and stations.

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Local Stations

How has the transition to over-the-air digital television affected my area?

Use our interactive map to see which stations were part of the required transition to over-the-air digital television or did so voluntarily. As well, stations in areas not listed may also decide to switch to digital over-the-air broadcasting or discontinue their broadcasting activities. These include CBC/Radio-Canada transmitters that will be shut down as part of the Corporation's decision to discontinue all remaining over-the-air analog broadcasting as of July 31, 2012.

If my city is not on the map, am I affected?

Regardless of where you live, if you receive television signals via cable, satellite or the Internet, your television service is not affected by the over-the-air transition to digital television.

If you use an outdoor antenna or "rabbit ears" and your city is not on the map you may still be affected if local stations in your area decided to switch to digital or to discontinue broadcasting over-the-air. These stations would have normally aired public service announcements to let their viewers know about any plans that would affect over-the-air broadcasting.

What if my local stations are continuing to broadcast in analog?

If your local television stations did not switch to digital and did not discontinue their over-the-air activities, this means that they are continuing to broadcast in analog.

If this is the case, your television set is not impacted by Canada's transition to over-the-air digital television. You will continue to receive your existing television services and will not need to buy additional equipment or subscribe to additional services.

One of my TV stations is not listed, what does this mean?

If one of your stations is not listed, it may be because its broadcast originates from a nearby area. Consult the pages of surrounding areas on our interactive map to find out if this is the case. Please note that our map does not cover stations originating from the United States.

Alternatively, one of your television stations may not be listed because it was not affected by the transition to over-the-air digital television and is continuing to broadcast in analog on its current channel. However, broadcaster plans can change over time, and stations not listed may decide to switch to digital over-the-air broadcasting or discontinue their broadcasting activities. These include CBC/Radio-Canada transmitters that will be shut down as part of the Corporation's decision to discontinue all remaining over-the-air analog broadcasting as of July 31, 2012. Broadcaster plans can change over time, but they would normally advise their viewers of any changes.

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Signal Reception

I no longer have all the channels I used to get in analog. What does this mean?

If you know that one of your local stations has switched to digital, but you are having trouble finding it, try rescanning with your digital-to-analog converter box or digital television set. You may also need a better antenna to improve reception.

In some cases, stations are not yet at full power. In other cases, the station’s digital coverage area may be different from its analog coverage area. Use our interactive map to see if stations in your area are temporarily operating at reduced power and for station contact information. You may want to contact the stations to ask about their signal coverage.

Why is reception of my digital channels better at some times than others?

If the digital channels are frequently on and off after the transition, you may be in an area where over-the-air digital signal is marginal. If this is the case, you may need a better antenna to improve reception. Consult your local consumer electronics store for advice on the choice of antenna.

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Digital-to-Analog Converter Boxes

What is a digital-to-analog converter box?

A digital-to-analog converter box is a unit that connects to your television and that picks up over-the-air digital signals to convert them for display on a standard analog television.

If you have more than one analog television that receives signals with an outdoor antenna or rabbit ears, you need a digital-to-analog converter box for each one. For more information, please consult the Digital-to-Analog Converter Box page.

Where can I buy a digital-to-analog converter box and how much does it cost?

Digital-to-analog converter boxes are available at a number of general and consumer electronics retailers, both in-store and online. They vary in price from $30 to $100, depending on their features. For more information, please consult the Digital-to-Analog Converter Box page.

How do I connect a converter box to my TV? How do I connect a converter box if I have a VCR, DVD player, or PVR?

Because directions vary for different devices – depending on make and model – it is recommended that you consult your user’s manual before beginning installation. Most equipment vendors also offer free 1-800 lines for technical assistance.

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Digital Television Sets

How do I know if my television has a built-in digital tuner?

Look for the term "digital tuner" or "ATSC tuner" or "integrated tuner" on your television or consult your owner's manual. You can also contact or visit the Web site of your television manufacturer. Have your model number close at hand.

What kind of television should I buy?

If you decide to buy a new television, you should consider buying one that has an integrated digital tuner. Remember, you only need to consider this option if you receive your TV signals using an outdoor antenna or rabbit ears and your local broadcasters have switched to digital. If you watch television by cable, satellite, or the Internet, you are not affected by the transition to over-the-air digital television.

For more information, please consult the Before You Buy a Television page.

What is the difference between digital television (DTV) and high-definition television (HDTV)?

High-definition television (HDTV) is a type of digital television (DTV). HDTV has the highest resolution of all digital television formats and offers better picture and sound than regular digital television. Not all digital television is high-definition and you do not require a high-definition television or a subscription to HDTV services to receive over-the-air digital television signals.

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Antennas

Do I need to replace my antenna to receive digital signals? Do I need a digital antenna?

The majority of television antennas that were used for watching analog signals will continue to work with digital signals. There are some instances in which you may need to replace your antenna:

  1. Damaged antenna: Some older rooftop installations may need to be replaced as, over time, rust and wind may have damaged the equipment. This may not have been noticeable with analog television because this technology supports signal degradation (i.e. image progressively becoming more "snowy"). With digital broadcasting, however, a small degradation in places where analog television reception is marginal can cause a complete loss of signal (i.e. image being replaced by a blue screen). This is commonly known as the "cliff effect". Cables, connectors or antennas may therefore need replacing.

  2. Change of coverage zone: Installing a better ("higher-gain") antenna may also be a solution to the "cliff effect" for households located in areas where the coverage of digital signals is different from the analog signals they replaced, or where the existing analog TV reception is marginal. Although it should be very close, the geographical zone covered by digital broadcasting may be different from the one previously covered by analog broadcasting.

  3. Change of frequency band: You may need to purchase a new antenna if a station in your area changed frequency band (moved from the channels 2-13 VHF band to channels 14-51 UHF band or vice-versa) in the process of the transition to digital television. For example, if your favourite over-the-air analog TV station was on channel 5 but moved to channel 25 after the transition to digital, you need to ensure that your antenna picks up channels on the UHF band.

If you decide to buy a new antenna, the best approach is to get an antenna that covers both the VHF and the UHF bands. Check the specifications of the antennas to be sure they cover both bands effectively.

What is the difference between VHF and UHF?

In Canada, TV stations broadcast over-the-air on either VHF (channels 2-13) or UHF (channels 14-51) frequency bands.

For indoor use, a "rabbit ears" antenna works for stations on channels 2-13 (VHF) while a loop, bow tie, yagi or reflector antenna is designed to pick up stations on channels 14-51. Most outdoor antennas are yagi type and come in two sizes: antennas with larger horizontal elements for VHF or with smaller elements for UHF.

If you decide to buy a new antenna, the best approach is to get an antenna that covers both VHF and UHF frequency bands. Check the specifications of the antennas to be sure they cover both bands effectively.

Where should I install my antenna?

Indoor antennas usually provide better reception when located near a window and high above ground. You can also change the orientation and the location of the antenna to improve reception. You may need to run the "scan" function again on the converter box or the DTV set after moving the antenna.

The best place to install an outdoor antenna will vary based on your geographic location, the design of your home, the location of the transmitter and a variety of other factors such as reflections from nearby buildings and trees. In general, the higher up the antenna, the less likely it is that there will be signal degradation due to reflections from other buildings and trees. You may need to try a variety of orientations and placements to get the best reception. Remember, you may need to run the "scan" function again on the converter box or the DTV set after moving the antenna.

I live in a multiple unit dwelling and share a collective antenna. What should I do?

Responsibility for collective antenna systems in multiple unit dwellings should be discussed with your landlord or property manager. The majority of television antennas that were used for watching analog signals will work with digital signals. However, owners or renters of individual units will need either a television set with a built-in digital tuner or a digital-to-analog converter box to be able to watch over-the-air digital channels. The decision to buy a new television or install a converter box will depend of the type of television currently used by the resident, and the transition details of local television stations.

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Rescanning

What is rescanning and how do I do it?

A scan looks for digital channels and saves them to the memory of digital-to-analog converter boxes and digital television sets. It is important to rescan for digital channels periodically because channel information can change from time to time even in the months after the transition.

To rescan, keep the antenna connected to your converter box or digital television set and follow the instructions from your owner's manual. It is also important to repeat the rescan by moving or rotating the antenna. This process may allow reception of more stations.

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Cable and Satellite

Can my cable service provider charge me more because of the transition to over-the-air digital television?

No. The transition to over-the-air digital television only affects Canadians who receive TV signals using an outdoor antenna or rabbit ears. It does not affect Canadians who receive TV signals via cable, satellite, or the Internet.

However, the transition to over-the-air digital television coincided with the start of another process being undertaken by cable service providers: the migration to digital cable. As of September 1, 2011, cable service providers can, if they wish, discontinue their analog cable services and upgrade customers to digital cable.

In addition to better sound and video, digital cable also provides access to enhanced features such as video on demand. Cable service providers may decide to charge customers for these enhanced services.

The migration to digital cable is the result of a decision made in 2008 by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC). The CRTC is an independent public authority responsible for the licensing, regulation, and supervision of all aspects of the Canadian broadcasting system. In view of its autonomy, you can contact the CRTC for more information about this decision.

What is the difference between the transition to over-the-air digital television and the migration to digital cable?

The two processes are the result of distinct decisions made by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC). They affect different types of television services and occurred according to different timelines.

The transition to over-the-air digital television only affects Canadians who receive TV signals using an outdoor antenna or rabbit ears. It was mandated in several regions across Canada where local TV stations were required to either convert to digital or move to another analog channel to continue broadcasting over the air. The deadline for completion of the over-the-air transition to digital television was August 31, 2011.

The migration to digital cable only affects Canadians who receive TV signals by analog cable (that is, cable plugged directly into TV sets without going through a user terminal first). It is voluntary across the country, with cable service providers being allowed to discontinue their analog cable services and upgrade customers to digital cable. Cable service providers are allowed to convert to digital cable as of September 1, 2011, and must inform their customers if they will be upgrading their services from analog to digital cable.

The migration to digital cable is the result of a decision made in 2008 by the CRTC. The CRTC is an independent public authority responsible for the licensing, regulation, and supervision of all aspects of the Canadian broadcasting system. In view of its autonomy, you can contact the CRTC for more information about this decision.

Does the transition to over-the-air digital television impact the quality of the signal I receive by cable?

Canada’s transition to over-the-air digital television does not affect Canadians who receive their TV signals by cable. Cable service providers act as a “converter box” for their customers who subscribe to analog cable by converting the digital signal back to analog, and offer the digital signal directly to their customers who subscribe to digital services.

I live in a multiple unit dwelling and have decided to subscribe to cable or satellite service. What should I do?

A decision to subscribe to cable or satellite service and any subsequent installation of equipment should be discussed with your landlord or property manager. Installation of a satellite dish, for instance, may require permission from your landlord or property manager and may be subject to municipal by-laws. There may also be common direct-to-home satellite and/or cable services already available in your building.

 

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Accessibility

Is over-the-air digital television accessible to Canadians with a visual or hearing impairment?

The technical standards for over-the-air digital television in Canada have provisions for described video and closed captioning. The CRTC is responsible for the regulation of broadcasting and has established accessibility requirements for over-the-air broadcasters. Broadcasters’ obligations to provide these services will be the same under the new over-the-air digital television system.

For more information you can contact the CRTC at 1-877-249-CRTC (2782) or by e-mail via the CRTC Web site at www.crtc.gc.ca.

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CBC/Radio-Canada

Will CBC/Radio-Canada continue to be available over-the-air throughout the country?

CBC/Radio-Canada will discontinue all remaining over-the-air analog broadcasting as of July 31, 2012. If you are in an area affected by this change and wish to continue viewing CBC/Radio-Canada stations, you will need to subscribe to cable, satellite or IP television service for each television set that is affected. Consult the CBC/Radio-Canada Web site for details.

Shaw Direct has put in place an assistance program for eligible households affected by discontinued local stations. Information about this limited-time offer is available on the Shaw Direct DTV Web page.

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