Wednesday morning, like a lot of Yukoners, our power went out at breakfast time. I grabbed my headlight, lit two candles, stoked the stove, and turned on my inexpensive, battery operated AM radio and heard about the power outage.
Over the next hour or so I heard the weather, local and national news, and an intelligent discussion of the upcoming vote on gun registration.
Yesterday I was out in my shop and had my battery-operated AM radio on. The headline story on the national news was the auditor general’s report on how Ottawa had no plan for emergency situations.
Last week the Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission approved the plan to eliminate our 570 CBC AM transmitter in favour of an FM transmitter.
Just what is at stake here?
The 570 CBC AM transmitter has been operating for the past 50 years and provides a strong signal to a roughly 125-kilometre radius of Whitehorse.
Since I’ve become aware of these plans, I’ve noted that it is receivable on any AM auto radio from Haines Junction nearly to Carmacks, to Atlin, BC, and 50 kilometres south of Teslin.
There’s more than 1,000 kilometres of roads and the highest concentration of activity in our territory in this area. With the added investment of a roll of insulated wire this signal is available up to a 325-kilometre radius. I have lived on remote traplines in the Dawson and Mayo areas and have been listening to CBC in this manner since 1972.
The proposed replacement for this impressive communications tool is an FM transmitter.
FM transmission is “line of site” so will only transmit to locations directly in line with the transmitter. In an engineering brief published in the CBC proposal there is a map that describes exactly where to expect FM reception. There are lots of small areas with a lot of dead space in between. It will only be a fraction of the current area.
The CRTC decision makes a couple of statements that need to be challenged. The first is that “1,200 people who currently don’t get 570 AM reception will get FM reception.” This is absolutely false.
An FM signal will not reach anywhere near the area the current AM signal is available. The other is that “some interveners believe they receive a signal from the 570 AM transmitter while they actually receive a CBC signal from one of its rebroadcasting transmitters.”
The AM transmitters in Dawson and Mayo are both low power and only receivable for a few kilometres from town. In both locations I mentioned I was more than 100 kilometres from these transmitters; it was definitely the 5,000 watt 570 AM signal that I’ve been listening to all these years.
Since this discussion has begun, the YTG has given the CBC a three-year extension to its lease for the ground the AM transmitter sits on.
We would hope that the CBC would commit to continuing the AM transmission for this timeframe and hold off on spending $750,000 on another FM transmitter.
We would hope all three levels of government would have a serious discussion of this situation and come up with a plan to maintain our current level of access to the CBC.
This is a discussion that should occur for the whole northern part of our nation.
We have vast areas of land and a small, scattered population. AM transmission covers vast areas and still has a relevant place.
The further you get from town the more important is this link.