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Wed Aug 16 6:54 am  #1


CN Tower Fire Knocks Many T.O. TV & Radio Stations Off The Air

A fire at the CN Tower's antenna array knocked a handful of Toronto radio and TV stations off the air Wednesday morning. The blaze started after 4 AM and power wasn't restored until 7:42 in the morning - an outage of more than 3 hours. Among the stations affected:

CJRT (aka Jazz FM) 91.1 - completely off air

CHBM (Boom 97.3) stayed on air but much weaker backup signal

CKFM 99.9 -completely off air.

CHIN FM - completely off air.

CFNY 102.1 - completely off air.

In addition, many of the city's over-the-air TV stations were gone, including CBC, CFTO, TVO and Global. The Rogers outlets, including CITY and the Omnis, all remained on.

I never fail to be surprised at how many broadcasters simply don't prepare for this kind of thing. It's rare, true, but it happens and it doesn't have to be a fire. A hydro failure can result in the same problem. As for the TV stations, I can only assume the owners don't believe OTA is a priority anymore and so they don't spend the money to fill that gap. But with more and more cord cutters in the mix, perhaps they should reconsider.

 

Wed Aug 16 7:55 am  #2


Re: CN Tower Fire Knocks Many T.O. TV & Radio Stations Off The Air

What is the point of preparing for this and spending money on it?  It's the first time that I can remember that the CN Tower transmitter has been shut down.

 

Wed Aug 16 8:36 am  #3


Re: CN Tower Fire Knocks Many T.O. TV & Radio Stations Off The Air

CHUM AM had a low power transmitter located close to 1331 Yonge.   The signal would cover a fair chunk of the downtown area.  No idea if this was kept after CHUM group was sold.  Mike cleaver will most likely add details once he sees the post.

 

 

Wed Aug 16 8:53 am  #4


Re: CN Tower Fire Knocks Many T.O. TV & Radio Stations Off The Air

I'm guessing this didn't affect the HD stations since they aren't on the combiner?


Madness takes its toll.  Please have exact change.
 
 

Wed Aug 16 10:26 am  #5


Re: CN Tower Fire Knocks Many T.O. TV & Radio Stations Off The Air

99.9 is back on in analog stereo.  HD has been shut down.
CHUM FM 104.5 back on in analog but HD has been shut down.

In the "old" days, CHUM had a 2nd transmitter site - backup on the old Manulife Bulding at Church and Bloor.  That was the site they moved to after 1331 Yonge - but before CN Tower was operational.  I assume that high cost roof rentals has ended most standby sites, given the reliability of the CN tower and First Canadian Place sites over the years.   Hard to justify thousands of dollars a month of alternate site rentals, when outages are so few...and far between.   Industry Canada also discouraged alternative sites...Safety Code 6 regulations also discouraged use of other rooftops for transmission.
FYI, 99.9 and 104.5 are ON THE COMBINER for their Analog (i.e 40 KW ERP) transmissions.  Their HD (digital sideband) transmissions are on a different antenna and on a combiner for the digital sidebands that only serves 99.9 and 104.5.

Thus any event that impacts the Master FM antenna, (or transmitter rooms/power sources) still impacts these stations.

Not sure the fire had any correlation with Master FM antenna.  Reports suggest that it was in feedline that serves one or more of the TV antennas which are well above Master FM.

99.9 and 104.5 HD antenna (combined) is in the area of the TV antennas.  The VHF and UHF TV antennas as you know, are inside those white cylindrical radomes that taper as you go higher on the tower.   At one time the Ch. 79 was at the top radome.   I belioeve that Master FM is in the lower part of the large radome above the "Upper Observation Deck", and just below the old Ch 5 and UHF DTV installations.

Good illustration of CN tower antennas can be found at  https://alandickbroadcast-public.sharepoint.com/Portfolio/CN%20Tower%20Datasheet.pdf

 

Last edited by tvguy (Wed Aug 16 10:46 am)

 

Wed Aug 16 9:14 pm  #6


Re: CN Tower Fire Knocks Many T.O. TV & Radio Stations Off The Air

After the move of the main CHUM-FM transmitters to the CN Tower, CE Bruce Carnegie and his crew built a 3 thousand watt backup transmitter, antenna and generator on top of the apartment building just south and east of 1331 Yonge.  It was a backup site if anything took out the main site on the Tower.  When the combiner for all of the FMs had to be shut down overnight for maintenance, CHUM-FM was the only station that stayed on air because of the back up site. Bruce was a firm believer (like me) that you needed complete redundancy to be on the air under almost any circumstances.  CHUM AM did not have an alternate transmitter site but one had been planned next to the new CFTR site across Lake Ontario.   The land had been purchased but because of declining ratings and income from the AM station, those plans were scrapped.   The operating site near CFRB's transmitter would have become the backup.  All CHUM facilities had back up generators and even an agreement with CFRB that studio space would be provided if either station lost broadcast facilities as both companies had spare studios.  After all, only two blocks separated the studio spaces.

 

Wed Aug 16 9:18 pm  #7


Re: CN Tower Fire Knocks Many T.O. TV & Radio Stations Off The Air

bell hd radio is still off

 

Thu Aug 17 7:28 am  #8


Re: CN Tower Fire Knocks Many T.O. TV & Radio Stations Off The Air

Given that radio is a major vehicle for communication during a disaster, it's imperative that stations have off-site back-ups. CHUM's, a few kilometres from the CN Tower, is close to ideal.

OTOH, as a DXer I have relished the very occasional outage. I cleaned up during the massiveAug 13 outage about a decade or so ago, catching stations as far away as New Jersey. This time I've just been too busy to go to my usual mobile spot - atop the Scarborough Bluffs (and it's only the HDs that are affected at this point - I was asleep when the fire knocked a few FMs off the air completely).

 

 

Thu Aug 17 9:41 am  #9


Re: CN Tower Fire Knocks Many T.O. TV & Radio Stations Off The Air

I'm going to guess there will be a lot of towers at the new condo at Bloor and aYonge when it goes up.


Madness takes its toll.  Please have exact change.
 
 

Thu Aug 17 2:46 pm  #10


Re: CN Tower Fire Knocks Many T.O. TV & Radio Stations Off The Air

I am told the Bell independent HD antenna for 99.9 and 104.5 burned. They were running 2 GV-30s into it one for each HD frequency. Poof! Wonder who the genius engineer was?

 

Thu Aug 17 2:48 pm  #11


Re: CN Tower Fire Knocks Many T.O. TV & Radio Stations Off The Air

I'd forgotten all about this page but it's a great 'tour' of the broadcast facilities on the CN tower.  'Radiowolf' was  a great guy to have around at the station, and always had something interesting on his desk, from emergency police car lights to canisters of god only knows what .  I hope he's doing well deep down in his US Bunker .

http://www.roadwolf.ca/node/597


Madness takes its toll.  Please have exact change.
 
 

Thu Aug 17 3:16 pm  #12


Re: CN Tower Fire Knocks Many T.O. TV & Radio Stations Off The Air

With the TV Repack and a potential permanent configuration for HD Radio, there's a real opportunity to modernize much of the CN Tower's broadcast facilities. Who will be willing or able to pay for it is a different conversation...

First, the Master FM combiner could be replaced to accommodate HD Radio. Second, with the exception of CFTO, all of Toronto's OTA TV stations could probably be fed through a combiner to a common antenna, post repack. (From what I can tell, all these channels will be omni-directional). They'd then be well positioned to migrate to ATSC 3.0. 

Does anyone have any information on plans take these or similar steps? tvguy, can you fill us in?

Oh, and the owners of the tower have put aside several million dollars for upgrades to the pod over the next few years. How about including a radome clean-up/replacement as well (see photo).

http://i63.tinypic.com/sg2xeh.jpg
 

Last edited by Tim Brown 2016 (Thu Aug 17 3:19 pm)

 

Thu Aug 17 4:51 pm  #13


Re: CN Tower Fire Knocks Many T.O. TV & Radio Stations Off The Air

Hi everyone!  Newbie here, great forum!

Was shocked to see yesterday how much that antenna fire made news, knew right away it was some sort of line burn out.  They explained in the media that the burning was literally on the top most part radome (firefighters had to get thru a 3 foot wide section).   

 

Thu Aug 17 4:57 pm  #14


Re: CN Tower Fire Knocks Many T.O. TV & Radio Stations Off The Air

Tim, you're talking major money here for upgrades like that.  With the corpse mentality these days, they're not going to want to do that as over the air listening and viewing is declining.  Cord cutting for traditional cable continues with most people (at least under 40) wanting programming on their schedule, on demand.  That's what you get on the internet.  Check the focus of most broadcasters these days, including the CBC, making digital delivery over the internet a priority.  As to who's doing the engineering these days, I have no clue.  Most of the engineers involved in the original CN Tower site are long gone, fired because they were too expensive or let go because they refused to compromise on the build.  I remember all the internecine wrangling that went on when the project was being punted around between various station engineers and the convoluted Master FM agreements.  As for HD, there still are very few receivers in Canada.  The people I know whose new vehicles came with HD equipped radios haven't even bothered to figure out how they work, most are using the streaming functions and some satellite radio.  Our listening and viewing habits constantly are changing.  Transmitter sites are very expensive to build, maintain and run.  The bean counters analyze every penny being spent.  It's cheaper to go on line and you don't have to pay the hydro bills transmitters require.  I have skinny cable for TV plus an HD antenna because I can see the Vancouver FM and TV transmitter sites from my balcony.  But watching traditional TV has been pretty much limited to special breaking events and old movies.  We're rapidly trending away from tuning in for a program on the station's broadcast schedules, preferring to watch and listen when we want to, not when they want us to.

 

Thu Aug 17 5:06 pm  #15


Re: CN Tower Fire Knocks Many T.O. TV & Radio Stations Off The Air

We could invite the United Nations to install another mind control eugenics node in the tower. I hear they pay well.

 

Thu Aug 17 5:32 pm  #16


Re: CN Tower Fire Knocks Many T.O. TV & Radio Stations Off The Air

Mike Cleaver wrote:

It's cheaper to go on line and you don't have to pay the hydro bills transmitters require.

Good points Mike. I confess my thoughts are a bit sentimental. Yet I'm pretty sure other large markets in the US have upgraded their Master FM facilities to support HD. Can't say for sure, however.

With a partner, I started a video streaming business last year. Our business case was inspired by a few of the key factors you mentioned. We call it LifeLens. We're really enjoying working with our clients in leveraging the capabilities of streaming video (and audio to a lesser extent). In today's world, almost anyone can be a broadcaster. We help make that possible.

Hope I'm not breaking any rules by plugging the business.

Last edited by Tim Brown 2016 (Thu Aug 17 5:32 pm)

 

Thu Aug 17 5:34 pm  #17


Re: CN Tower Fire Knocks Many T.O. TV & Radio Stations Off The Air

Well...they did re-paint the red parts of the radome this summer so thats a start lol.

http://dailyhive.com/toronto/cn-tower-painter-job-photo-2017

Last edited by markow202 (Thu Aug 17 6:00 pm)

 

Wed Sep 6 5:28 am  #18


Re: CN Tower Fire Knocks Many T.O. TV & Radio Stations Off The Air

Does anyone know if/when the HD subcarrier on 99.9 will be back? It's the only way (other than iHeartRadio) to hear CFRB in my concrete building.