Several Manitoba communities set to lose service after Digital TV switchover

Forget the Government of Canada ads about “clearing the snow” from Canadians’ over-the-air TV reception after this week’s digital TV switchover in Canada’s big cities. Some Manitoba communities will have nothing but snow thanks to some little-publicized changes the TV stations are making.

Manitoba’s TV stations aren’t just changing to digital. Many of them are reducing power and some are moving from tall rural towers to city rooftops, reducing their signal’s range.

  • CBC and Radio-Canada used to broadcast from a 324-metre (1,063-foot) tower near Starbuck, Man at 100,000 and 59,000 watts respectively. They’ll be moving by October to the roof of the Richardson Building, and reducing power on their new UHF frequencies to 42,000 watts and 7,600 watts respectively.
  • CTV will be staying put on their Ste. Agathe tower, south of Winnipeg, but reducing power from 325,000 watts to 24,000 watts on Channel 7.
  • Global has moved to the top of the former CanWest building in downtown Winnipeg, and is now on UHF Channel 40 with a power of 25,000 watts. They formerly operated from the CBC’s Starbuck tower at 325,000 watts.
  • Citytv will be continuing to broadcast from its Elie tower, west of Winnipeg, but will reduce power from 325,000 watts to 8,300 watts on Channel 13.
  • Joy TV will continue to broadcast on Channel 35 from their tower just off St. Mary’s south of the Perimeter, but will be reducing power from 22,000 watts to 6,000 watts.

These power reductions are based in part on some controversial calculations made by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission, which oversaw the 2009 digital transition south of the border.

Even though digital TV should require less power than traditional analog TV to produce a watchable picture, many critics argue that the Commission grossly underestimated the power needed for a station’s signal to overcome the challenges of the urban environment, where signal-absorbing trees and buildings and interference from machines and appliances take their toll on a signal.

When the U.S. switched to digital in 2009, some stations frantically sought power increases or to move from the Channel 2-13 VHF to the Channel 14-52 UHF band as it became clear that their digital signals weren’t strong enough to penetrate the urban jungle.

Since there have been a lot of hits on this blog over the past few weeks from people with questions about digital TV in Manitoba, here is a pre-emptive response to the questions some of you will have as to why you can no longer receive your favourite stations — and some suggestions on what you can do about it.

And if you want to get a better idea of what you should be able to receive where you live, check out Your Guide to Digital TV in Winnipeg and Southern Manitoba.

If you live or have a cottage in Gimli/Winnipeg Beach…

  • Radio-Canada Manitoba will remain weak in Winnipeg Beach, even with a rooftop antenna, and will become virtually impossible to receive in Gimli. You’ll probably get better results pointing your antenna east toward their Channel 11 analog transmitter near Fort Alexander.
  • CBC might still have a so-so signal in Winnipeg Beach if you have a rooftop antenna. This signal will become very difficult to receive in Gimli. (Hint: If you point your antenna ESE, you might pick up a weak analog signal from CBC’s Channel 4 Lac du Bonnet analog transmitter. If you point it north, you might pick up another CBC signal on Channel 10 from Fisher Branch.)
  • CTV reception will be very poor, even with a rooftop antenna. (Hint: Viewers north of Inwood might be able to get a weak CTV analog signal on Channel 8 from the station’s Fisher Branch transmitter.)
  • Global, Citytv and Joy TV will be very weak in Winnipeg Beach, even with a rooftop antenna, and will be virtually impossible to receive in Gimli.

If you live in Morden/Winkler…

  • CBC and SRC will become virtually impossible to receive, even with a rooftop antenna. Currently, Morden is on the outer edge of the station’s rabbit-ears range, and Winkler is in the station’s rooftop-antenna zone.
  • CTV and Citytv’s signals will lose strength, and might be difficult to receive with an indoor antenna in the middle of town. Both stations currently offer moderately strong “Grade-A” analog signals or better.
  • Global should be virtually impossible to receive, now that it has reportedly shut down its old analog transmitter.
  • Joy TV will be difficult to receive.

If you live in Portage la Prairie…

  • Radio-Canada Manitoba will become extremely difficult to receive, even with a rooftop antenna. Currently, Portage la Prairie is on the outer edge of the station’s rabbit-ears range.
  • CBC Manitoba will only be putting a very weak “deep fringe” signal into Portage. Currently, Portage is on the outer edge of the CBC’s rabbit-ears reception range.
  • CTV reception will only be satisfactory with a rooftop antenna.
  • Now that its analog signal is reportedly off the air, Global will be very difficult (if not impossible) to receive in Portage. Portage is just outside the western fringe of Global’s digital TV coverage area.
  • Joy TV will be extremely difficult to receive, as Portage will be on the extreme outer edge of its digital reach.

If you live in Selkirk…

  • CTV and Citytv’s signals will lose some strength, and might be difficult to receive with an indoor antenna in the middle of town. Both stations’ current analog transmitters cover Selkirk with a moderate “Grade-A” signal.
  • Joy TV might also lose some strength, with its analog “city-grade” signal being replaced with a digital signal that might not be strong enough to overcome the ground clutter in the middle of town.

If you live in Steinbach…

  • Radio-Canada Manitoba, CBC and Global will all drop from good to marginal indoor reception in Steinbach. Signal quality will depend on how many buildings, trees and other obstructions there are between you and the transmitter.
  • Citytv will be even worse, as Steinbach sits right at the point where any realistic hope of receiving Citytv with an indoor antenna ends.

If you live in Winnipeg…

  • Citytv might be difficult to receive in the eastern half of the city if you’re using an indoor antenna. Signal quality will depend on how much ground clutter — such as buildings and trees — there is between you and the Citytv transmitter.

Incidentally, the stations aren’t necessarily to blame for coverage reductions. The Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission, the federal agency which regulates the airwaves in Canada, invited public comments on both Global’s and the CBC’s plans to reduce rural coverage — and no one objected.


About theviewfromseven
A lone wolf and a bit of a contrarian who sometimes has something to share.

16 Responses to Several Manitoba communities set to lose service after Digital TV switchover

  1. Drew says:

    You folks are in for a real mess with the DTV conversion. Take it from someone who lived it here in the States.

    Whereas standard analog signals gradually lose strength, a digital signal is either “on” or “off.” You either receive a perfect signal, or you receive no signal. Also, a digital signal has less coverage vs a comparable analog signal. What this means is that if you live in a rural area and currently receive channels with some snow, you are likely to receive NO signal on that channel after the digital conversion is complete.

    This is great news for cable and satellte TV companies, of course. For budget-conscious TV viewers, not so much.

  2. theviewfromseven says:

    I agree — I followed the U.S. switchover with interest, and it looks as though the Winnipeg stations learned little from the experience.

    Not to mention that public awareness campaigns here have been much less intensive than what was done in the U.S. in 2009. Thus, I’m getting hits from Google searches from people wondering why Global (ex-CKND/9) has gone “off the air”. (They reportedly ceased analog service on Sunday.)

  3. Christian says:

    What about people in more remote places like Wabodwden ? Would they get a terrestrial signal at all ? If they did they’re screwed as it will be a long time before cable will come to town.

  4. theviewfromseven says:

    Manitobans who get their signals from repeater stations outside of the Winnipeg area will be unaffected for the time being. But those transmitters will need to be converted to digital eventually, which will be a problem in many isolated areas where it’s a very long way to the nearest Source or Future Shop store.

    It’s possible that some of those transmitters will be shut down entirely (as CTV is doing with some of its northern repeaters), and that others will have less range. Many will probably have little choice but to switch to satellite TV.

    Ironically, the more remote areas are taking less of a hit than the cities and towns closer to Winnipeg and in the gap between traditional analog coverage areas (about a 100 km. radius from the transmitter) and the new digital coverage area (about a 50 km. radius).

  5. Bonnie Janzen says:

    I live in Elm Creek Man. and wonder why nothings happened as far as digital tv. all i get is channel 3 & 6 its september 1 and i wonder whats going on. Does this mean i wont get any stations?

  6. theviewfromseven says:

    Hmm, you should be able to get a strong Channel 13 at the very least. What kind of antenna are you using, and in which direction does it face?

    Also, have you done a re-scan since yesterday?

  7. Jim Burnside says:

    All of this so crackberry addicts have more band width uh glad I have not become a crackberry addict. uh

  8. Winni-Pig says:

    Thanks for all this effort!

  9. dwain says:

    any advice on a quality digital antenna?

  10. Jason says:

    Bought this antenna from Tip Top for $49.00 amplified outdoor and get everything clear 13,7,9,35 watching prime time without interuptions. Live close to Wall street North of Portage Ave

  11. Maureen says:

    I live in NE Winnipeg and I have rabbit ears for my TV. While I can pick up the new digital Global quite well – I am having a terrible problem trying to pick up the new digital CTV. If I stand in a certain spot – holding the antenna cord at just the right spot I can get it. I won’t know for another 10 days what will happen with CBC when they go digital.

    Do I now need an outdoor antenna for consistent reception? or do they make good indoor antenna’s? The antenna I am using extends to about 1.5 m and came with my TV about 15 years ago.

  12. theviewfromseven says:

    @ Maureen: CBC will be broadcasting on the ch. 14-52 UHF band, and from Portage and Main, both of which will be good things for Winnipeggers with indoor antennas.

    A fairly consistent feature of all the reception reports I’ve seen on this blog and elsewhere has been that Winnipeggers are having far greater ease pulling in the UHF stations (i.e., Global and Joy TV) than the VHF stations (i.e., CTV and Citytv).

    VHF is to digital TV what AM is to radio. Remember the times when AM signals would be interrupted by loud, crunching sounds every time a thunderstorm passed through the area? A similar thing happens to VHF digital TV signals: all kinds of stuff that merely weakened the old analog signals or caused dots or squiggly lines on the screen screw around with digital signals just enough to make them unreadable.

    A rooftop antenna might be necessary for good reception of CTV and Citytv if they stay on their VHF channels, though you’ll have to point your antenna south to pick up CTV (transmitter location: off Hwy. 75 near Ste. Agathe) and west to pick up Citytv (transmitter location: south of the Trans-Canada Highway near Elie).

    However, both stations have UHF channels they’re allowed to use if need be. Since there’s expected to be a big proliferation in mobile devices that receive digital TV — you’ll soon be able to watch live local TV news while riding the bus or sitting at Starbucks — there will be a lot of pressure on CTV and Citytv to move to the far superior UHF band.

  13. Maureen says:

    Thanks so much. It sounds like we should all be sending in our comments to CTV then – to push them to move to UHF.

  14. Daniel says:

    Hi, I live in St. Adolphe, Manitoba and want to give up my cable for a digital tv antenna. Will I still be able to get stations broadcasting their signals from Winnipeg to St. Adolphe and what type or antenna and range should I look for if I purchase a digital tv antenna?

  15. Maureen says:

    Now I have a question regarding recording the new digital channels with a VCR. Are we still able to record shows through the VCR or is this not possible with digital TV? I have an old VCR which only goes to channel 13. I am also wondering what the channels are now interpretted as – e.g. is CBC – 6, 6-1 or 27? I am still having some trouble with CTV – there is often no signal – I am hoping a new antenna will help.

  16. Ted says:

    I have a rotation rooftop antenna and new digital tv set and I cannot get any signal from any tv stations, just south east of St. Malo. Let’s get organized and demand changes from CRTC to make the tv stations their signals available to ALL manitobans. It appears that TV stations sold out to satellite providers with the tacit approval from CRTC.

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