Bad reception

If you’re one of those people with rabbit ears who watches only the TV channels that come over the airwaves (and probably a bunch of content online), then you may have had difficulty lately catching some shows on the tube after 1am or even midnight sometimes. It’s not a glitch, but rather both a test of and a sign of what’s yet to come.

After midning today, all the time soon (photo by Jason C. McLean)

You see, by August 31st 2011 the latest, all over-the-air TV signals in Canada will be converted to digital. As American readers undoubtedly are aware, that move already happened south of the border in 2009.

Apparently the broadcast spectrum, which is used not only by TV, but also radio, cellphones and emergency communications, is getting quite crowded these days and something has to give. Since digital TV signals take up considerably less space on the spectrum than traditional analog signals and offer better picture and sound, they were the natural choice.

While this change doesn’t mean anything for cable or satellite subscribers as well as those with no TV whatsoever who only watch shows online…if at all, it does mean additional investment for people who pull in their signals from the air. Rabbit ears and antennas will still work, if and only if you buy an analog to digital converter.

Some of these devices cost $75 so it may be a bit of an investment for some, considering some TVs are cheaper and many times you can pick up a new tube for free if you know someone who’s giving one away. It’ll be interesting to see how many over the air TV viewers get these devices, how many switch to cable and how many abandon the format entirely and start watching all of their content online.

This could very well be the end of classic, basic TV as we know it. With a good chunk of radio already going to satellite services and online, the airwaves that have been the conduit for our media signals for over 50 years may be drastically different in less than a decade.

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