News | Mountain antenna to receive HD upgrade

City hikes rent for transmission tower

At a public forum Wednesday, plans to modify the Société Radio-Canada (SRC) transmission tower, which crowns Mount Royal, stirred residents’ resentment toward the mountain’s most prominent eyesore.

The tower, which provides television service to Montreal, will undergo internal modifications to implement new high-definition technology, a plan that roused many who resent the antenna that currently juts out from the mountain’s green canopy. With their neckties loosened in sweltering heat, the city and SRC fielded concerns from Montrealers at the meeting who wanted to see the antenna relocated from its present perch.

The modifications are part of Canada’s universal shift to HDTV transmission that will make old transmitters obsolete.

According to CBC Senior Technology Director François Conway, the tower must remain atop the mountain to compensate for the city’s unique topography, which creates a telecommunications “shadow” that blocks service for many residents.

“There has to be a direct line of sight between the antenna and the receiver,” Conway said.

Several Montrealers questioned the antenna’s effects on public health, citing radio wave concentrations that exceed legal limits at multiple points around the antenna.

Conway stressed that the alterations will repair the trouble spots, but clarified that the current levels in those areas – which barely exceed parameters that scientists consider potentially hazardous – are in fact harmless.

“When public safety is at issue, we don’t take any chances,” Conway said.

Kristina Litvin, U1 Management, noted that the mountain, located close to McGill’s downtown campus, provides a necessary break from Montreal’s urban atmosphere for McGill students.

“I love the mountain. It’s the only thing that harnesses Montreal’s natural side, since most of the city is skyscrapers and cars,” Litvin said, adding the antenna’s location and aesthetic disruption are inconsequential.

“I think given that we live in a century where everything is so technologically driven, I’m just glad the antenna’s not in the middle of my living room,” said Litvin.

Wednesday’s forum came in the wake of a new 15-year agreement that hikes the rent that the SRC pays the city for the zone holding the antenna by several hundred thousand dollars annually. The city plans to allocate these funds towards preserving and beautifying Mount Royal.

Although irritated with the augmented fees, Martin Marcotte, the SRC representative who negotiated the new agreement, conceded that the rent increase was not unreasonable.

“The rate is comparable to other metropolitan areas,” Marcotte said.

Hosted by Les Amis de la Montagne, a nonprofit group working to preserve Mount Royal, the bilingual gathering attracted some 35 Montreal residents, ranging from concerned citizens to podium-seeking activists.

Construction on the antenna – expected to last 17 days – will cause interruptions in nighttime broadcasts throughout Montreal.


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