POLITICS

Emergency alerts now available for most Canadians; some broadcasters not ready

03/31/2015 07:33 EDT | Updated 05/31/2015 05:59 EDT
OTTAWA - The country's telecommunications regulator says the majority of Canadians will now be able to receive emergency alert messages through their radio and television services.

But the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission is "disappointed" that some television providers aren't ready.

The CRTC says five companies, Bell, Bell Aliant, MTS, Shaw and Soetel notified them that they would not be ready for the March 31 implementation date. It says customers can switch providers without having to give a 30-day notice if they want to ensure they receive emergency alerts.

The CRTC says the broadcasters have had more than enough time to prepare and have "reluctantly" granted the companies an extension of six months to comply.

The regulator says the alert messages can be issued by fire, police and public health personnel to notify Canadians of Amber Alerts, tornadoes, water contamination and the like.

Radio stations, cable and satellite companies, over-the-air television stations and video-on-demand services are required to issue these emergency alerts.

"We will not hide our disappointment that certain television service providers are not ready," said CRTC chairman and CEO Jean-Pierre Blais in a statement.

"Depending on their response, Canadians may want to consider changing providers to ensure they can receive emergency alert messages when they watch television."

Bell said the delay is due to technical issues.

"We face some technological challenges in implementing the technology across Bell's various TV services," said Bell spokesman Scott Henderson.

"We asked for a three-month extension for Bell Aliant and six months for Bell, to which the CRTC agreed."

Relations between the regulator and Bell have been troubled lately.

Bell Media president Kevin Crull demanded that CTV journalists, a property it owns, not give any airtime to Blais after the CRTC announced broadcasters must offer a low-cost package to consumers, according to a report in the Globe and Mail.

Crull later apologized for trying to meddle with editorial decisions.