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Canada’s Transition to Digital Television: Will Your Television still work on August 31, 2011?

Updated on June 10, 2011

On August 31, 2011 Canadian television stations, like their American counterparts did in 2009, will stop broadcasting their over the air signals in analog and make the switch to digital signals only. It is important to make sure you are ready for this change. Many people may no longer be able to watch television unless they are prepared.

Why is this happening? Since digital signals take up less space than analog ones, this change will free up airspace for other uses, such as advanced wireless and public safety. Digital signals also offer better picture and sound quality. Many of these free over the air channels are in HD. Some people are choosing to get rid of their cable and satellite subscriptions and receive high quality digital channels over the air on large digital ready televisions.

Will you be affected? If you receiveyou television by cable or satellite, relax you’ll be fine. If you have any televisions connected to an antenna, either rabbit ears or a rooftop version you may be affected. Your television must have an ATSC tuner to receive digital signals. If your television was bought in the last few years, it most likely has an ATSC tuner. You can tell because your channels will show up in a digital form, for example 5-1, instead of just 5. If you have an older TV, you will need to find an analog to digital converter box.

Where do you find a converter box? The Source ( does havea couple to choose from. Best Buy ( and Future Shop( also feature some. You may be able to find converter boxes at other electronic stores, local antenna installers, or online. You may also consider purchasing a new television with a digital (ATSC) tuner which are becoming more affordable every day.

Will you receive the same channels as before? Since digital signals are more sensitive than analog you may have trouble picking up some of the channels you did before. Digital television is also ‘hit and miss’. While a weak analog signal may give you a snowy picture a digital signal will break up or ‘pixelate’ and result in a “no signal” sign on your television. You may be able to help this with a stronger antenna. While you may lose a few stations, you may gain some. One of the advantages of digital channels is that it allows stations to broadcast more programming on subchannels of their main channel. You may find additional stations like a weather or music station.

Can you still record favourite television programs with a VCR? Yes, but you will have to make some adjustments. Your old VCR will most likely not have an ATSC tuner, so will be unable to record these new digital signals. Very few VCRs or recording devices come with a digital tuner. In fact, many are now sold ‘tuner free’. If you want to continue to record with your old VCR you will have to record the output from your digital box or TV. Unfortunately this means you will no longer be able to record one program and watch another. Many converter boxes have an energy feature that automatically shuts the box off after several hours. Not too convenient if you are setting to record because your going to be away.

We’re only a few months away. There is a hotline number that may provide more information1-855-DTV-5050 (1-855-388-5050). You can also check out the website. It’s time to get ready for digital TV. Let’s hope we’re all watching television on August 31.

Here are additional resources for Over The Air television:

  • Don’t let anyone try to sell you a special digital or HD antenna. There is no such thing. Any antenna that is able to pick up television signals (usually UHF), even rabbit ears is capable of picking up digital signals.
  • Channel Master also makes a product called the CM-7000PAL which is a DVR made for over the air television. It can store up to 130 hours of programming and can pause live TV. There are no monthly fees for this product.


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