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May 11, 2021 7:34 pm  #1


Cable carriage rules and newer Buffalo stations

It had been my understanding in the 1970s and 1980s  the expectation of cable TV was that local cable providers would, at a minimum, provide subscribers with the same channels that they could receive OTA with a decent rooftop antenna. This is why, for instance, Rochester channels 8 (WROC) and 10 (WHEC) were available to cable subscribers east of Toronto and in parts of Scarborough but were denied to cable subscribers in the rest of Toronto (oh how the listing for channels 8 and 10 in Starweek would trigger my curiosity - forbidden fruit that they were). 

So why is it that newer Buffalo stations such as channel 23, 49, 51, and 67 have never been available on cable in Toronto when (I assume) they would be available as OTA stations to anyone with a good antenna? Did the CRTC once have a rule requiring carriage of US stations that are receivable OTA and then rescind it or was it never an actual rule? 

I assume cable companies would have been able to argue in the late 1960s and 1970s that if they didn't carry the the Buffalo stations that were available at the time then no one would be willing to switch from roof antenna to cable - but that argument became moot by the late 1980s when channel 23 and 49 went on the air thanks to roof antennas becoming largely obsolete due to disuse. (Am I also remembering correctly that cable companies successfully lobbied municipalities to pass bylaws banning or restricting the height of rooftop antennas or otherwise encouraged their removal?) 

Last edited by Hansa (May 11, 2021 9:24 pm)

 

May 11, 2021 8:05 pm  #2


Re: Cable carriage rules and newer Buffalo stations

As I understand it, the CRTC has a list of US stations that are authorized for cable carriage in Canada. Typically they allow the big 4 affiliates plus a PBS station from markets close to the border, and also some superstations such as KTLA Los Angeles or WGN Chicago. At times they’ve also authorized additional stations from border areas, originally independents but these days typically CW affiliates.

Where it gets strange is how they’ve permitted additional border stations from some markets, but not others. The CRTC actually permits almost all the stations in Detroit, Cleveland and Erie to be carried on cable in Canada - not just the major network affiliates and PBS, but also WKBD in Detroit, WUAB in Cleveland, and even more obscure stations like WQHS (Channel 61) in Cleveland, which was carried on cable in Chatham in the 1980s and is now a Univision O&O. But they never allowed WNLO or WNYO from Buffalo.

My guess is that because WUTV and even other Buffalo stations have carried ads for Canadian businesses, and the Buffalo market has traditionally relied heavily on Toronto, Hamilton, and Niagara Region, the CRTC wanted to minimize US advertising opportunities in order to support Canadian broadcasters. The issue doesn’t exist for Detroit or Cleveland because both markets are self-sufficient, and while Windsor directly borders Detroit, it’s not a major source of revenue for Detroit’s stations.

Here on the west coast, we get most of the full slate of Seattle-Tacoma stations, even the CW affiliate (which does sometimes carry Canadian ads such as Leon’s). But we only get one of the two PBS stations in the market. We get KCTS 9 from Seattle, but there is a second PBS station in Tacoma which has a translator near the border, and can be picked up OTA where I live. But I doubt too many people around here have heard of KBTC, since it’s never been authorized for cable carriage here - only KCTS.

Also carried on cable where I live is KVOS Bellingham, which has broadcast since 1953 and has long considered Vancouver and Victoria to be its primary market. But the CRTC actually changed the authorization for that station several years ago to carry the 12.3 subchannel (MeTV), instead of the signal on channel 12.1 (Heroes & Icons). It’s the only situation I’m aware of where the CRTC has not only continued to allow a non-major network affiliate to remain on cable, but to revise which digital subchannel is available. (And I believe also the only instance of MeTV being carried on cable in Canada)

The list of authorized US stations actually was updated within the past couple of years, and it involved the Boston network affiliates. NBC opened a new O&O station there about 3 years ago (WBTS), displacing the NBC affiliation from WHDH. The CRTC actually removed WHDH and added WBTS as an authorized station for Canada at that time.

Last edited by MJ Vancouver (May 11, 2021 8:21 pm)

 

May 11, 2021 8:17 pm  #3


Re: Cable carriage rules and newer Buffalo stations

CW23 and MY49 from Buffalo are still available on Rogers and most other carriers in the GTA..   BUT they are not required to be on Basic cable (CRTC rule).   Perhaps this is why you never noticed them.    They are available on their own and a theme pack...    The digital subchannels are not allowed as of today without CRTC approval.   I think there is a real missed oportunity in Canada with the lack of subchannels.   If done on a national basis, I'm sure it could be justified.    

Last edited by radiokid (May 11, 2021 8:19 pm)

 

May 11, 2021 8:23 pm  #4


Re: Cable carriage rules and newer Buffalo stations

radiokid wrote:

CW23 and MY49 from Buffalo are still available on Rogers and most other carriers in the GTA..   BUT they are not required to be on Basic cable (CRTC rule).   Perhaps this is why you never noticed them.    They are available on their own and a theme pack...    The digital subchannels are not allowed as of today without CRTC approval.   I think there is a real missed oportunity in Canada with the lack of subchannels.   If done on a national basis, I'm sure it could be justified.    

I recall both those stations being available in London when I lived there, but like you say, they weren’t on basic. (We also got WOIO, the CBS affiliate in Cleveland in that group, though not anymore)

 

May 11, 2021 8:26 pm  #5


Re: Cable carriage rules and newer Buffalo stations

Also worth noting that it is rare to find much in the way of Canadian TV on cable in the US, even close to the border. CBC is carried in some areas (notably Detroit, Buffalo and Seattle), but other stations are hit and miss.

Global Toronto is supposedly carried on cable in Port Huron, MI, likely owing to its OTA availability from Sarnia-Oil Springs. I also understand CTV Vancouver to be available on cable in Bellingham, WA (but not other Vancouver stations, aside from CBC). I’ve heard that CFPL London was carried on cable in parts of Northeast Ohio years ago as well.

Last edited by MJ Vancouver (May 11, 2021 8:27 pm)

 

May 11, 2021 8:36 pm  #6


Re: Cable carriage rules and newer Buffalo stations

MJ Vancouver wrote:

Also worth noting that it is rare to find much in the way of Canadian TV on cable in the US, even close to the border. CBC is carried in some areas (notably Detroit, Buffalo and Seattle), but other stations are hit and miss.

Global Toronto is supposedly carried on cable in Port Huron, MI, likely owing to its OTA availability from Sarnia-Oil Springs. I also understand CTV Vancouver to be available on cable in Bellingham, WA (but not other Vancouver stations, aside from CBC). I’ve heard that CFPL London was carried on cable in parts of Northeast Ohio years ago as well.

It's mostly pointless. Canadian networks spend most of prime-time airing US shows, and they must be blacked-out (no simul-subbed) when they do. Good for ex-pats or the curious to catch up on the news, but that's about it.


 
 

May 11, 2021 10:20 pm  #7


Re: Cable carriage rules and newer Buffalo stations

I did a little digging to see what Canadian stations are available on U.S. border city cable systems. BURLINGTON/PLATTSBURG-CBMT/CBFT/CFCF. WATERTOWN/UTICA-CKWS.  POTSDAM/MASSENA-CBOT or CBMT.  BUFFALO-CBLT/CFTO. TOLEDO/DETROIT-CBET/CICA. Erie and Cleveland currently receive no Canadian channels via cable. PORT HURON-Global[Oil Springs] BAY CITY/MIDLAND/FLINT-CBET or CBMT. Duluth receives no Canadian tv but Minnesota cable subscribers closer to the border have access to CBMT AND CKPR. CBWT and CKY are on North Dakota cable systems near the Manitoba border but not Grand Forks. Global Lethbridge and CFCN are on Montana cable systems near the Alberta border but not in Great Falls. Seattle cable only has CBUT. However, systems closer to the B.C. border also have CHAN/CHEK/CIVT.

 

May 11, 2021 11:05 pm  #8


Re: Cable carriage rules and newer Buffalo stations

mace wrote:

I did a little digging to see what Canadian stations are available on U.S. border city cable systems. BURLINGTON/PLATTSBURG-CBMT/CBFT/CFCF. WATERTOWN/UTICA-CKWS.  POTSDAM/MASSENA-CBOT or CBMT.  BUFFALO-CBLT/CFTO. TOLEDO/DETROIT-CBET/CICA. Erie and Cleveland currently receive no Canadian channels via cable. PORT HURON-Global[Oil Springs] BAY CITY/MIDLAND/FLINT-CBET or CBMT. Duluth receives no Canadian tv but Minnesota cable subscribers closer to the border have access to CBMT AND CKPR. CBWT and CKY are on North Dakota cable systems near the Manitoba border but not Grand Forks. Global Lethbridge and CFCN are on Montana cable systems near the Alberta border but not in Great Falls. Seattle cable only has CBUT. However, systems closer to the B.C. border also have CHAN/CHEK/CIVT.

Out of curiosity I looked up Presque Isle, ME - and they actually get a TVA affiliate on cable, CIMT from Riviere-du-Loup, QC. They also get CBC Fredericton, the old CHSJ-TV.

Last edited by MJ Vancouver (May 11, 2021 11:05 pm)

 

May 11, 2021 11:37 pm  #9


Re: Cable carriage rules and newer Buffalo stations

mace wrote:

I did a little digging to see what Canadian stations are available on U.S. border city cable systems. BURLINGTON/PLATTSBURG-CBMT/CBFT/CFCF. WATERTOWN/UTICA-CKWS.  POTSDAM/MASSENA-CBOT or CBMT.  BUFFALO-CBLT/CFTO. TOLEDO/DETROIT-CBET/CICA. Erie and Cleveland currently receive no Canadian channels via cable. PORT HURON-Global[Oil Springs] BAY CITY/MIDLAND/FLINT-CBET or CBMT. Duluth receives no Canadian tv but Minnesota cable subscribers closer to the border have access to CBMT AND CKPR. CBWT and CKY are on North Dakota cable systems near the Manitoba border but not Grand Forks. Global Lethbridge and CFCN are on Montana cable systems near the Alberta border but not in Great Falls. Seattle cable only has CBUT. However, systems closer to the B.C. border also have CHAN/CHEK/CIVT.

Which leads to the question: are the Canadian stations simsubbed on U.S. cable at the same time as the American affiliates are showing a U.S.-produced show? I recall seeing somewhere that, in fact, that's exactly what happens. 

 

May 12, 2021 1:13 am  #10


Re: Cable carriage rules and newer Buffalo stations

If you are in Buffalo NY, they're blocking out their own American channels also.
Try to watch Judge Judy @ 7PM (here in Toronto also) on Seattle's KIRO 7. 
If Buffalo's FOX 29 is carrying the exact same program, Kiro 7 airs infomercials from 7 pm
(our time, week days) until 7:30.  With the message (at the beginning) "KIRO 7 has been paid to air this special program..." 

I wonder if that's what's going on today with the Canadian channels that air American shows in the States instead of their traditional Blue screen that used to inform people that the program they want to watch can be found on the selected American station (that carries the exact same program at that time...)

As for channels 8 and 10, they were dropped because they were "bounce of the lake...best of luck" stations that had reception problems from time to time on cable to the point where either Shaw or Rogers decided to terminate them from the line up. 


RadioWiz & RadioQuiz are NOT the same person. 
RadioWiz & THE Wiz are NOT the same person.
 
 

May 12, 2021 7:29 am  #11


Re: Cable carriage rules and newer Buffalo stations

I remember being in a Scarboro bar many years ago watching a Sunday NFL game on one of the Rochester stations. The signal, while inferior by cable standards, being fuzzy but not snowy, was certainly an extremely watchable by OTA standards. If I had been able to get that type of regular reception out of Rochester with an antenna, I would have been very pleased.

 

May 12, 2021 8:54 am  #12


Re: Cable carriage rules and newer Buffalo stations

Radiowiz wrote:

If you are in Buffalo NY, they're blocking out their own American channels also.
Try to watch Judge Judy @ 7PM (here in Toronto also) on Seattle's KIRO 7. 
If Buffalo's FOX 29 is carrying the exact same program, Kiro 7 airs infomercials from 7 pm
(our time, week days) until 7:30.  With the message (at the beginning) "KIRO 7 has been paid to air this special program..." 

I wonder if that's what's going on today with the Canadian channels that air American shows in the States instead of their traditional Blue screen that used to inform people that the program they want to watch can be found on the selected American station (that carries the exact same program at that time...)

As for channels 8 and 10, they were dropped because they were "bounce of the lake...best of luck" stations that had reception problems from time to time on cable to the point where either Shaw or Rogers decided to terminate them from the line up. 

At one time, Rogers offered 8,10 and 13 to it's Whitby and Oshawa customers. With those communities being closer to Rochester, would the reception have been more reliable?

 

May 12, 2021 9:01 am  #13


Re: Cable carriage rules and newer Buffalo stations

RadioActive wrote:

Which leads to the question: are the Canadian stations simsubbed on U.S. cable at the same time as the American affiliates are showing a U.S.-produced show? I recall seeing somewhere that, in fact, that's exactly what happens. 

Blacked out.


 
 

May 12, 2021 11:37 am  #14


Re: Cable carriage rules and newer Buffalo stations

When cable TV came to Ottawa in the mid 60s, our side of Bank street received WWNY Watertown, channel 7, and WPTZ Plattsburgh on channel 5.  Most of the time the Plattsburgh station was unwatchable.  However, Watertown came in pretty good and there were lots of Ottawa ads on it.  The rate card was lower than the Ottawa stations and viewership was substantial.  Channel 7 even sold to Canadian national sponsors (Molsons) for the Sunday afternoon CBS hockey games!!.  Then, following an outcry they were replaced by the Rochester channels.  Eventually the Detroit and Boston channels were on cable and satellite here.
Now, it is all the Detroit feeds.  So, we get to see all of the Detroit legal firms promising I'll be right there", and "Michigan's first family of Law."
Progress???

 

 

May 12, 2021 12:09 pm  #15


Re: Cable carriage rules and newer Buffalo stations

My first experience with cable tv came in August 1968 on a family vacation to Quebec City. When we stopped at a motel for the night somewhere in Eastern Ontario, I had to find out what channels were available on the b&w television provided. I was very confused. How could you get two different ch 5's with one of them on ch 3. One was WPTZ Plattsburg. The other WHEN [now WSTM] Syracuse. When we got home from vacation, one of my school friends explained this new technology called cable television which guarantees crystal clear reception on all channels. No ghosting, electrical interference from thunderstorms or distorted picture when airplanes flew over.

 

May 12, 2021 12:19 pm  #16


Re: Cable carriage rules and newer Buffalo stations

WUAB 43 from Lorain Cleveland was often a ghosty, analog hot mess on London cable tv during the summer if there was a storm over the Lake.

 

May 12, 2021 3:56 pm  #17


Re: Cable carriage rules and newer Buffalo stations

LOSat wrote:

WUAB 43 from Lorain Cleveland was often a ghosty, analog hot mess on London cable tv during the summer if there was a storm over the Lake.

I have the series finale of Star Trek: The Next Generation taped off of that station. Half of it is practically unwatchable because of how bad the signal was. The beginning and end were fine.

We also used to get the CBS, NBC, and ABC affiliates from Erie. The CBS affiliate, WSEE often had a snowy signal, and the NBC affiliate, WICU often had a poor signal. Incidentally the ABC affiliate, WJET had a good signal and was often better than even WXYZ from Detroit which was sometimes a bit snowy.

I don't ever recall reception problems with the PBS station from Erie (WQLN). I know these days it's brought in by a fibre link, but in the 90s it was picked up over-the-air and was always good.

 

May 12, 2021 4:50 pm  #18


Re: Cable carriage rules and newer Buffalo stations

Hansa wrote:

It had been my understanding in the 1970s and 1980s  the expectation of cable TV was that local cable providers would, at a minimum, provide subscribers with the same channels that they could receive OTA with a decent rooftop antenna. This is why, for instance, Rochester channels 8 (WROC) and 10 (WHEC) were available to cable subscribers east of Toronto and in parts of Scarborough but were denied to cable subscribers in the rest of Toronto (oh how the listing for channels 8 and 10 in Starweek would trigger my curiosity - forbidden fruit that they were). 

So why is it that newer Buffalo stations such as channel 23, 49, 51, and 67 have never been available on cable in Toronto when (I assume) they would be available as OTA stations to anyone with a good antenna? Did the CRTC once have a rule requiring carriage of US stations that are receivable OTA and then rescind it or was it never an actual rule? 

I assume cable companies would have been able to argue in the late 1960s and 1970s that if they didn't carry the the Buffalo stations that were available at the time then no one would be willing to switch from roof antenna to cable - but that argument became moot by the late 1980s when channel 23 and 49 went on the air thanks to roof antennas becoming largely obsolete due to disuse. (Am I also remembering correctly that cable companies successfully lobbied municipalities to pass bylaws banning or restricting the height of rooftop antennas or otherwise encouraged their removal?) 

 
I recall that Metro Cable, before it became Rogers, offered to take down "that unsightly antenna" free of charge if you subscribed. 

Hansa, I also looked at the Rochester channels as "forbidden fruit" and wished they had been available.  I thought at the time their programming was superior to the Buffalo versions.

 

May 12, 2021 4:54 pm  #19


Re: Cable carriage rules and newer Buffalo stations

Ale Ont wrote:

When cable TV came to Ottawa in the mid 60s, our side of Bank street received WWNY Watertown, channel 7, and WPTZ Plattsburgh on channel 5.  Most of the time the Plattsburgh station was unwatchable.  However, Watertown came in pretty good and there were lots of Ottawa ads on it.  The rate card was lower than the Ottawa stations and viewership was substantial.  Channel 7 even sold to Canadian national sponsors (Molsons) for the Sunday afternoon CBS hockey games!!.  Then, following an outcry they were replaced by the Rochester channels.  Eventually the Detroit and Boston channels were on cable and satellite here.
Now, it is all the Detroit feeds.  So, we get to see all of the Detroit legal firms promising I'll be right there", and "Michigan's first family of Law."
Progress???

 

The Watertown PBS signal (then WNPE/I, now WPBS) got a good chunk of their viewer dollars from Ottawa cable subscribers. There was even controversy about what channel it was carried on. Initially it was on cable 4, which was impaired due to CBOT. It was moved to 16, and cleared right up, but out of reach to those without converters to access channels over 13. It was later buried in the 60s, and later the 90s.


 
 

May 12, 2021 9:22 pm  #20


Re: Cable carriage rules and newer Buffalo stations

Citypulse News 15 wrote:

 
I recall that Metro Cable, before it became Rogers, offered to take down "that unsightly antenna" free of charge if you subscribed.

Hansa, I also looked at the Rochester channels as "forbidden fruit" and wished they had been available. I thought at the time their programming was superior to the Buffalo versions.

One difference I recall is that the Rochester's channel 8 (the NBC affiliate until 1989) carried the old Tomorrow Show with Tom Snyder and the (then) new Late Night with David Letterman while WGR didn't (at least not not the former in its dying seasons and not at first in the case of Letterman). I'd seen Dan Aykroyd's Tomorrow parodies on Saturday Night Live and had seen Letterman's short lived morning show and was really excited to see Late Night when it premiered but WGR was running late movies instead (or some other programming) and I had no way of getting the Rochester stations that taunted me in Starweek. 

Ironically, NBC dropped WROC as an affiliate in 1989 because it was preempting (or not carrying) NBC shows too frequently and as NBC was the number 1 network at the time, it was easy for them to convince WHEC to drop CBS and switch to NBC. WROC made the most of their involuntary affiliation switch to CBS.



(go to 7:39)



 

Last edited by Hansa (May 12, 2021 9:58 pm)

     Thread Starter
 

May 12, 2021 10:00 pm  #21


Re: Cable carriage rules and newer Buffalo stations

For some reason WGR refused to carry Later With Bob Costas. The NBC affiliates in Erie and Rochester did but were never available to me on a regular basis.

 

May 13, 2021 1:24 pm  #22


Re: Cable carriage rules and newer Buffalo stations

For many years, there was a receive point somewhere near Belleville or Cobourg for the Rochester stations, and they were sent by microwave to Ottawa. (The logic at the time, I guess, was that it was easier to receive the big 3 from Rochester straight across the lake than it would have been to grab the big 3 from Syracuse, since there's nowhere quite as convenient for receiving those on Canadian soil. And Watertown at the time had just WWNY and later WPBS, with no ABC or NBC.)

The local news here in Rochester used to at least mention Ottawa temperatures. 

The microwave chain from Belleville to Ottawa was decommissioned a decade or so ago, and all those cable systems around Ottawa were switched to Detroit or Buffalo signals available on satellite or fiber. 

As for the UHF stations here, WXXI-TV had some members across the lake who watched us OTA in the analog era, and may have had very limited cable carriage for a time in Cobourg/Belleville. Once WUHF joined Fox, it was uplinked to Canadian satellite and is still a default Fox outlet for more remote Canadian communities in the east that don't get WUTV, WJBK or WFFF. It's on all over the Maritimes, even now. 

 

May 13, 2021 3:49 pm  #23


Re: Cable carriage rules and newer Buffalo stations

fybush wrote:

For many years, there was a receive point somewhere near Belleville or Cobourg for the Rochester stations, and they were sent by microwave to Ottawa. (The logic at the time, I guess, was that it was easier to receive the big 3 from Rochester straight across the lake than it would have been to grab the big 3 from Syracuse, since there's nowhere quite as convenient for receiving those on Canadian soil. And Watertown at the time had just WWNY and later WPBS, with no ABC or NBC.)

The local news here in Rochester used to at least mention Ottawa temperatures. 

The microwave chain from Belleville to Ottawa was decommissioned a decade or so ago, and all those cable systems around Ottawa were switched to Detroit or Buffalo signals available on satellite or fiber. 

As for the UHF stations here, WXXI-TV had some members across the lake who watched us OTA in the analog era, and may have had very limited cable carriage for a time in Cobourg/Belleville. Once WUHF joined Fox, it was uplinked to Canadian satellite and is still a default Fox outlet for more remote Canadian communities in the east that don't get WUTV, WJBK or WFFF. It's on all over the Maritimes, even now. 

According to someone I know in Belleville, WXXI was carried on cable there for many years, right up until the DTV transition; he was very familiar with WXXI. Today they get WNED.

Several Syracuse stations were carried on cable in Eastern Ontario prior to the DTV transition. Notably, Kingston got WSTM (NBC) and WSYT (Fox) Syracuse on cable. Nowadays they get WGRZ (SD) and WDIV (HD) for NBC, and I think WUTV for Fox. Or at least that's how things were in 2014 when I was last there.

My grandparents in the Kingston area got the VHF stations from Syracuse over-the-air using a rooftop antenna with rotor, but they never came in particularly well. WSTM often didn't come in at all, while WTVH-5 and WIXT-9 came in somewhat snowy. The only clear US VHF station they got was WWNY. For Rochester, WROC-8 and WHEC-10 came in somewhat snowy, but I don't ever remember them getting WOKR-13 very well. They didn't have a UHF hookup so they never got WXXI or WUHF, or even WNPE or WWTI.

Last edited by MJ Vancouver (May 13, 2021 4:05 pm)

 

May 19, 2021 10:42 pm  #24


Re: Cable carriage rules and newer Buffalo stations

If memory serves, some of the cable systems up here in the Buffalo area(specifically Niagara Falls and surrounding areas)also carried Hamilton's CHCH(besides CFTO & CBLT); I don't know if that's the case now.

 

May 20, 2021 9:15 am  #25


Re: Cable carriage rules and newer Buffalo stations

ckg927 wrote:

If memory serves, some of the cable systems up here in the Buffalo area(specifically Niagara Falls and surrounding areas)also carried Hamilton's CHCH(besides CFTO & CBLT); I don't know if that's the case now.

I checked the channel lineup for Spectrum Cable in Western NY. Currently, CFTO is on ch 15 and CBLT is on ch 16. No CHCH. I initially searched Comcast/Infinity but couldn't access their channel lineup. I did find a listing of upcoming "Station Contract Renewals" These negotiations sometimes go well. Other times, affilliates disappear leaving many frustrated subscribers. Contracts for a number of major NBC stations end May 31st. Markets affected include NY, Chi, LA, Bos, Phil, DC, Miami and San Jose.