Canada to look into free HDTV


TORONTO -- Canada's TV regulator will consider licensing the country's first free, over-the-air high-definition TV network next year.

The Canadian Radio-televisions and Telecommunications Commission has scheduled public hearings for Feb. 11 to hear applications from two contenders: Vancouver-based HDTV Networks, and YES TV, which proposes to launch a regional HDTV station based out of Toronto.

John Bitove, CEO of HDTV Networks, said his proposed TV network aimed to wow Canadians with "the latest innovative technology in television programming which they will be able to access from us for free."

The English-language HDTV service would reach Canadian homes nationwide via over-the-air transmitters in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and Halifax.

YES TV proposes to air each week 126 hours of HD programming, half of which would be Canadian.

YES TV also promises a local daily newscast, unlike HDTV Networks which proposes only a national newscast out of Vancouver.

Canadian broadcasters have progressively introduced HD programming on their schedules, which viewers access through a HD hookup box from their cable or satellite TV operator.

But no Canadian over-the-air broadcaster has yet transitioned to an entirely HD schedule.

The CRTC will follow up public hearings in February with a decision on whether to license one or more HD over-the-air TV networks, or none at all.