A Short History of Local Programming and Over-The-Air (OTA) Television Broadcasting

For over 50 years, any Canadian with a TV set has been able to watch television programs through over-the-air (OTA) broadcasting – a free wireless television service that has typically included a significant amount of local programming.

Today, alternatives to OTA broadcasting, such as cable, satellite, IPTV and the Internet provide Canadians that are willing to pay for them with greater control over what they watch and when they watch it. Canadians can now view programs not only on television sets but on computers, tablets, and smart phones.

These new approaches provide Canadians with more choice and convenience. However, many Canadians still rely on OTA services and, in particular, local television for their news and information programming.

During Let’s Talk TV: A Conversation with Canadians, Canadians told us that OTA television services and local programming continue to play an important role in their everyday lives.

It is also important to point out that with all the new online options available, many Canadians who decide to cancel their cable subscriptions could still continue to have access to an average of 5 to 9 (or more in certain areas) free high-quality channels with an antenna.

As a result, the CRTC considers that free OTA television is an alternative to cable and satellite television that must be maintained for now (see Broadcasting Regulatory Policy 2015-24). Should broadcasters choose to shut-down OTA transmitters, they will lose certain regulatory privileges, such as their mandatory carriage on the basic package of channels offered by cable and satellite companies and the ability to request simultaneous substitution (For more information about simultaneous substitution, see Seeing Canadian Commercials on American Channels).

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