Channel swap rocks some viewing habits

Spokane channels replaced by Seattle counterparts

Castlegar Shaw Cable viewers have waved goodbye to its five Spokane-based news feeds. As of July 21, viewers are watching their programs from four Seattle-based and one Detroit-based station.

Chris Kucharski, vice-president of operations for Shaw Communications, explained the change is due to requirements set out by the CRTC (Canadian Radio Television Commission) in order to meet regulatory requirements.

“What we had to do through CRTC directives was to make our signals consistent,” he said.

“Through the CRTC we can only have two time zones in any one city, and what that meant, unfortunately, was dropping the Spokane feed. We did that because we have a limit on U.S. time zones,” he added.

Specifically, Shaw Communications had to make adjustments in numerous cities to partner time zone and stations for consistent Standard Definition (SD) and High Definition (HD) feeds.

“All the U.S. feeds were thus changed to ensure we had HD and SD feeds as we can only transmit two U.S. feeds,” said Kucharski, adding that while he understands some viewers’ frustration at the change, particularly when it comes to reception of Spokane news, little else has changed.

“I totally get the frustration of some of our customers, but it’s important to note that really, the lion’s share of the programming is the same with the exception of the local news. I wish we could get around it.”

Castlegar resident, Sally Williams isn’t buying any of it and said the change is annoying and confusing.

“You can call us stuck in our way, but we sit down at supper and are used to watching the news. Now, with the change are we expected to eat our supper at 3 p.m. so we can watch the news?” asked Williams.

What is particularly galling for Williams is that cities further flung are now receiving the Spokane feed.

“This just doesn’t make sense, especially when Cranbrook, Fernie and Kimberley used to get Detroit news and now they are getting Spokane news.

“We’re the closest to Spokane and yet we lost that feed. I really can’t understand this.”

Williams begs to differ on who is getting that lion’s share of the regular programming.

“We watched PBS and now that is gone. There is not much I like to watch anymore. Now it is endless reruns and reality TV.”

While customers can appeal the decision to the CRTC, Williams is firm in her belief that Shaw Communications should be the leader in that.

“I believe that on behalf of their customers it should be up to Shaw to press the CRTC,” concluded Williams.

While Shaw Communications says their hands are tied, Kucharski did offer a little hope for its Castlegar customers in the form of a future connection to its fibre optic system.

“There may be a longer term solution in play once we are able to connect to the backbone of the network, but right now in Castlegar the systems are satellite set.

“We do have fibre optic through some of our communities and at that point we could potentially reintroduce that feed should Castlegar become fibre optically connected to that backbone.”