Shaw Wants to Cut Off Free TV to Over 31,000 Rural Canadians

When Shaw acquired Global TV back in 2010, part of the deal required Star Choice (now known as Shaw Direct) to offer free satellite service, as part of a program to replace analog signals, after broadcasters transitioned to digital in 2011.

Now, in a recent application to the CRTC, Shaw is requesting permission to end the free television program—known as Local Television Satellite Solution (LTSS)—which could cut off free access to tens of thousands of Canadians. The program was implemented to serve rural Canadians affected by the end of analog signals, as residents gained equipment from Shaw to access the free satellite TV service.

According to the application:

In the supplementary brief submitted as part of its licence renewal application, the licensee indicated that it will be terminating the Local Television Satellite Solution initiative at the end of this licence term, as per the terms of the tangible benefits set out in Change in the effective control of Canwest Global Communications Corp.’s licensed broadcasting subsidiaries, Broadcasting Decision CRTC 2010-782, 22 October 2010.

Free channels lost would include basic channels such as CBC, Radio-Canada, CTV, Global and Citytv, for example.

Shaw told CBC News it provided equipment to over 31,000 households, but did not reveal how many are still receiving signals. The company defended its position, by noting it ran the LTSS program two years longer than what the CRTC originally demanded.

Former CRTC chairman from 2007-2012, Konrad von Finkenstein, oversaw the transition from analog to digital signals. He told CBC News he was surprised at Shaw’s request to end the LTSS program.

“The whole idea of broadcasting over-the-air is to give people free access to television,” said von Finkenstein, adding, “Just because we made a change in assigning the airwaves [converting to digital] it should not come at the expense of people who were enjoying free TV … before.”

“I don’t understand why they would not [continue],” pointing out Shaw benefited from free advertising and potential leads across Canada, through the program. Shaw has recently offered existing LTSS users two-year discounts on paid TV services, in a bid to get them to pay for television.

The CRTC accepted public comments on the issue up until yesterday. Shaw’s final submission on the matter will be sent to the CRTC later in May.

Concerned resident, Doug Grisack from Lethbridge, Alberta, told CBC News, “Unless I’m willing to give up some of the rent money, I have to accept that I will no longer be able to receive, as a Canadian, CBC programming.”

Affected communities from Shaw cutting off free satellite TV would include the likes of Lethbridge and Fort McMurray in Alberta; Brandon, Manitoba; and Kelowna in B.C., to name a few.