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CBC’s new HD service set to launch March 5

The CBC’s first digital transmitters are tested and ready to bring High Definition television signals to the airwaves in Toronto and Montreal in early March. The CRTC’s ‘must carry’ rules mean that cable and satellite providers serving the two cities will begin to carry the new HD services at the same time.

The Toronto transmitter is on the CN Tower and will carry CBLT and CBLFT—the Toronto feeds of CBC and Radio-Canada. Similarly, the Montreal transmitter will carry both the English and French networks.

Who can receive the new signals?
Most viewers will find the new channels through digital cable and satellite. In Toronto, Rogers Cable and Bell ExpressVu will carry service, although subscribers must have an HD-capable set top box connected to an HD-ready display.

It is possible to receive the new CBC HD service for free over the air, although the equipment is hard to find at the moment. You’ll need a good set of UHF rabbit ears, or one of those big outdoor aerials of days gone by if you live further from the transmitter. You’ll also need an HD TV set with a built-in ATSC tuner. The FCC in the US has mandated that all TVs over a certain size must now contain a tuner, so we can expect that in the future more big-screen TV’s will come with tuners built in. It is also possible to buy a separate ATSC tuner box and connect it to an HD display, but these boxes are not yet readily available in Canada. You can also purchase a PC video card that will receive HD signals over the air. Rumour has it that this is the method used by none other than our CTO, Raymond Carnovale.

Unlike analog TV, the picture quality of the digital over-the-air signal is as good or better than cable or satellite. The nature of the digital signal is such that you either get it or you don’t: you’ll get either a crisp digital picture, or no image at all.

What programming is on the new HD service?
The English Service, CBC HD, will be the CBC Toronto feed, upconverted to digital. Where we have HD versions of programs broadcast on the regular schedule, we’ll simulcast them in HD. Where we have letterbox (16 x 9 aspect ratio) versions of  programs in standard definition, we’ll broadcast those so they fill the screen on wide-screen displays. Although, this won’t be true
HD programming, it will look extremely good.

What about audio?
One of the biggest benefits of HD TV is 5.1 Dolby Surround Sound. Where we have program masters with 5.1 audio, we’ll be able to broadcast home-theatre-quality sound.

For more information, visit the CBC website at

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