AM21 and OTA Canadian Stations

Discussion in 'DIRECTV General Discussion' started by gcd0865, Mar 3, 2011.

  1. Mar 3, 2011 #1 of 60

    gcd0865 Legend

    Jul 23, 2008
    Hi All:

    I'd like to recommend that the recently-closed thread on the AM21's OTA reception of Canadian stations should be kept opened and/or merged with this thread, as it raises quite an important issue for U.S. DirecTV customers in Canadian-border areas (within reception range of Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Windsor and Vancouver as examples). As many may know, August 31, 2011 is the upcoming deadline for Canadian TV stations in larger cities to switch to digital broadcasting, with exceptions allowing smaller-market Canadian stations to remain in analog for some additional period of time. Some Canadian stations in larger cities have already begun digital broadcasting, with others beginning at various times up to the August deadline. Thus, this issue is just now starting to take on increased importance for affected viewers (which is probably the reason why the parent thread was resurrected after a long silent period).

    As I understand it, since the AM21 OTA receivers (which can only receive digital, not analog, broadcasts by design) are not capable of scanning for received stations on their own, they can only receive a given OTA station (including subchannels) if that particular station is listed in the Tribune Media/ database AND DirecTV chooses to include that particular station in its on-screen station guide. There have been rumors suggesting that certain low-powered digital stations and certain digital subchannels have not been chosen for guide listing by DirecTV (making them not receivable by the AM21s) because of guide data capacity limitations, although it does not appear that such limitation has been confirmed.

    In many U.S. areas within reception range of Canadian cities, a number of Canadian network stations have been carried by cable companies for years (in analog). These include CBC, Global, CTV, A-Network, TV Ontario and others. Presumably, at least some digital broadcasts for these Canadian stations are either already being carried by U.S. cable companies in Canadian-border areas, or will be carried when they become available shortly. It is perhaps not likely that DirecTV will carry any Canadian networks via satellite once their digital broadcasting begins, for various reasons. However, DirecTV will be at a competitive disadvantage (and its U.S. customers adversely affected) in these areas of the U.S. if it does not at least provide the AM21 with the real and virtual channel assignments for the new Canadian digital stations so that the AM21 can at least receive these Canadian stations via antenna, even if no guide data showing programming is provided.

    As an example, we have six neighboring Canadian network stations in our area (all still in analog for the moment), and when I try to sell friends on DirecTV (hoping to get a few $100 referrals), many say "forget it, no way" as soon as they find out that they can't see "Hockey Night in Canada" on CBC via DirecTV, since every cable provider around here includes CBC in their standard lineup. Hopefully, once more of the Canadian stations begin broadcasting in digital as the year goes on, such that this issue becomes more well-known, DirecTV will at least add the real and virtual channel assignments (along with the station/network identification) for these new Canadian digital stations into its database/guide, so that the AM21s can then receive them. AM21 owners can, of course, just insert a splitter or A/B switch (as I do right now) into their antenna line just before their tv/DirecTV receiver and use the tv's tuner to view those channels that DirecTV won't allow the AM21s to view. But many people don't want the hassle of having to do this switch, as it's more convenient to simply have all receivable channels in a single on-screen lineup, and having the AM21 able to receive these stations is the only way they can be recorded via DVR.

    Hope this is helpful for fully understanding the situation affecting some of us. I'd imagine the same issue could exist for areas in the U.S. near some of the larger Mexican border cities.
  2. Mar 3, 2011 #2 of 60
    Stuart Sweet

    Stuart Sweet The Shadow Knows!

    Jun 18, 2006
    Let's keep this thread going and the old one closed, ok? And in the future please come to me directly instead of questioning my decisions in public. Thanks.
  3. Mar 3, 2011 #3 of 60
    Coca Cola Kid

    Coca Cola Kid Hall Of Fame

    Jul 19, 2009
    Mt. Morris, MI
    Tell them Hockey Night in Canada is simulcast on the American version of NHL Network (DirecTV channel 215).
  4. Mar 4, 2011 #4 of 60

    carl6 Moderator Staff Member DBSTalk Club

    Nov 15, 2005
    Seattle, WA
    I believe some people have experimented with using a different US market that has one or more digital stations on the same channels as neighboring Canadian stations, and been able to "trick" the DirecTV receiver into getting the particular channel. However, the last I heard of this was in the early days of the HR20, which had OTA tuners incorporated into it. I don't know if anyone has tried, or succeeded, in doing the same with the AM21. (I have not read the other thread, so if this has been previously mentioned I apologize for wasting the bandwidth.)

    I do not expect DirecTV will ever have an OTA tuner that will scan for OTA channels, so the best you will be able to do (if you can do it at all), is the above mentioned work-around. Nor do I expect they would incorporate the isolated few bordering Canadian markets. I don't know the legal implications or complications of doing so, but the total potential market is what I would consider trivial compared to the total customer base. Just not the business justification to pursue it.

    Of course, receiving directly on your TV set is the simplest method for those in range of a Canadian market.
  5. Mar 4, 2011 #5 of 60

    Rob77 Godfather

    Sep 24, 2007
    Goes back to the same old issue.....letting the AM-21 scan would be so easy, and yet, D* will not do it. Maybe it's time for some interprising engineer to begin tinkering :)
  6. Mar 5, 2011 #6 of 60

    SamC Hall Of Fame

    Jan 20, 2003
    The AM-21 could "scan" or the whole problem could be fixed via the listings. All they have to do, let us use Detroit for an example, is add the Windsor channel numbers as possible channels to the listings. There really is no reason to even have listings, just have "Canadian" show up in the guide 24/7.
  7. Mar 5, 2011 #7 of 60

    veryoldschool Lifetime Achiever Staff Member Super Moderator DBSTalk Club

    Dec 9, 2006
    While nobody is going to knock on your door and give you a ticket, receiving Canadian channels in the US and US channels in Canada, is against the laws.
    Having either the HR20 or the AM21 scan for channels has always been seen as "a good idea", but the guide data for US customers will be limited to US channels.
  8. Mar 5, 2011 #8 of 60

    TheRatPatrol Hall Of Fame

    Oct 1, 2003
    Phoenix, AZ
    After all these years I still can't believe we don't have a U.S. version of CBC. Yet they can receive all of our network shows and cable channels up there. :confused:
  9. Mar 5, 2011 #9 of 60

    n3ntj Hall Of Fame

    Dec 18, 2006
    What source are you referencing that states that receiving Canadian TV stations in the US, and vise versa, is illegal? So, you say that the cable companies in both countries that carry each other's cross border stations are committing a crime?
  10. peano

    peano Icon

    Feb 1, 2004
    Completely false. It is perfectly legal. WNED in Buffalo (PBS) even markets to Canadians to pledge.
  11. usnret

    usnret Icon

    Jan 16, 2009
    Just hook up a Tivo to an antenna, if your in the Detroit area, and off you go.
  12. veryoldschool

    veryoldschool Lifetime Achiever Staff Member Super Moderator DBSTalk Club

    Dec 9, 2006
    I was going off the SAT limits and reading a Canadian forum, where US OTA is illegal there:

    "I stand corrected"
  13. peano

    peano Icon

    Feb 1, 2004
    US satellite is illegal. OTA is not. Which, when you think about it, is totally ridiculous, but that is for another thread.
  14. veryoldschool

    veryoldschool Lifetime Achiever Staff Member Super Moderator DBSTalk Club

    Dec 9, 2006
    The FCC is fine with Canadian channels here, but the Canadians aren't with US channel there. They're trying to promote their own homegrown industry, but that is for another thread/forum.
  15. James Long

    James Long Ready for Uplink! Staff Member Super Moderator

    Apr 17, 2003
    Technically, NO. One needs a license to receive the Canadian DBS satellites which I doubt Americans bother to get (DirecTV and DISH obtained blanket licenses on behalf of their users for their use of Canadian and Mexican satellites). There are also questions of fraud ... perhaps theft by deception. But you're right, that is not the topic of this thread.

    The topic of this thread is how DirecTV mishandles the reception of OTA ATSC signals by not allowing their customers to receive all of the channels they could if a scan (or even a manual add) feature were available.

    The technical limitations have been overcome by other designers ... I hope DirecTV fixes their tuners - for the sake of those missing local channels as well as those wanting to receive OTA broadcast across the international borders.
  16. TEN89

    TEN89 Legend

    Jun 27, 2003
    i'm with you on that. i live 2 miles from canada and when been getting there channels foe year. but some one from cal don't know that and thinks he knows more then we do.
  17. SamC

    SamC Hall Of Fame

    Jan 20, 2003
    Once more, with feeling:

    Canadian OTA in US: Not illegal. If you live close enough to Canada to pick up a Canadian station, you may watch it all you wish. Further, a specific FCC rule allows cable systems in areas where a Canadian station could reasonabably be picked up via OTA means anyway, to include such stations in their line ups. Neither DBS company ever pushed the matter, but by extension, DBS probably could have, and perhaps still could, include Canadian OTA in its locals packages in places like Detroit and Buffalo. Same rule applies to Mexico, BTW.

    The issue being discussed is that certain DirecTV boxes allows one to add in OTA channels not carried in the locals package, but only those which are in a listing from the Tribune company, which do not include Canadian OTA listings.

    US OTA in Canada: Also not illegal and generally carried by every cable company and DBS provider nationwide, even in the far north and the Maritimes, which are outside the OTA range of US stations (remember 90% of Canadians live within 100 miles of the US border). If you get your TV OTA, fine and dandy. If you use cable or DBS, the CRTC (Canada's version of the FCC) has a rule called "sym-sub" which protects Canadian ADVERTIZERS (not its homegrown industry) by requiring that if a Canadian OTA station and a US OTA station are carrying the same show at the same time, only the Canadian broadcaster's version (with the Canadian ads) will be available.

    "Cable" channels in a cross border mode: Different issue. These channels pay for the rights to a program for the country they are based in and cannot be made available in other countries. Remember the Canadian English population is 1/12th that of the USA, so, every thing else being equal, a Canadian cable channel is only paying 1/12th as much to the program producer or sports league or whatever. To offer the channel in the US would be stealing from the copyright owner. Even if channels are the same on both sides of the border, they are different legal entities, with different ads and different rights fees paid for each. Further Canada, unlike the US, tightly regulates "cable" channels, dictating a list of channels that must be carried, no matter the market forces, and requiring permission to start a new one.

    Cross-border operation of DBS systems: Illegal, or at least actionable as theft by deception.
  18. hancox

    hancox Godfather

    Jun 23, 2004
    You're understating this - It's not that everyone else has overcome anything - DirecTV has essentially invented this design flaw! I still haven't found another commercially-available OTA tuner that doesn't allow scanning, even as a convenience feature only.

    Really amazing this design flaw has perpetuated this long.
  19. gcd0865

    gcd0865 Legend

    Jul 23, 2008
    I can report that the website does have both the channel listings and full programming guide data for all six of the (currrently analog) Canadian OTA stations receivable in this area. Thus, presuming that the same is true once the digital switch occurs later this year (again, in this area), it will simply be up to DirecTV to choose whether to include these stations and guide data for our AM21s (unless there is a station or guide data capacity issue that we don't currently know about).

    This is definitely a DirecTV-created limitation. I was thinking that the lack of station scanning might be a technical limitation based on how the guide data is downloaded and used. For example, if the AM21 had station scanning, the DirecTV main system might have to know what stations were detected and stored into memory by every given AM21, in order to properly provide matching guide data for those stations only. For those AM21s not connected to a phone line or the internet, I don't think there would be any way for the AM21s to communicate information about stations received from scanning back to DirecTV.

    The way I suspect the guide data is downloaded to the AM21s is that the guide data for all regions of the country must be continuously downloaded from the satellite(s) all the time. When a given AM21 is programmed for one or two zip codes, then that particular AM21 can choose to receive any available guide data from the incoming stream of data from the satellite(s) that match its zip code entries, while simply ignoring all other (non-matching) zip code guide data.

    For this reason, I was thinking that a better way to program channels into the AM21s would be to have the user input only their zip code, plus a user-selectable 50/100/150-mile radius from their zip code for channels to be entered into their on-screen guide. Then, the user can simply delete those stations from the resulting list that they don't receive with their antenna. In this scenario, the AM21 would always download station and guide data for stations within 150 miles of the inputted zip code, but the AM21 would simply filter out, or choose to ignore, data for stations not selected by the user as being received. This, of course, would presume that the AM21 has enough capacity for that significantly greater number of stations and significantly greater amount of guide data. This would tend to solve the related limitation of the AM21 having only two zip codes (limiting reception to two cities/markets), while some people (including me) receive stations from more than two cities/markets via antenna.
  20. James Long

    James Long Ready for Uplink! Staff Member Super Moderator

    Apr 17, 2003
    Getting back on track ....

    This thread is about how DirecTV is failing it's customers by not allowing the tuning of non-listed OTA channels (including cross border channels). Not the channel lineups of cable and satellite companies.

    VOS made an error. He admitted it more than once. Lets move on.


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