Shut Off: The Canadian Digital Television Transition

Dr. Gregory Taylor’s book, Shut Off: The Canadian Digital Television Transition is the culmination of Dr. Taylor’s research examining Canada’s transition from analogue to digital television. It has been shortlisted for the 2014 Donner Prize, recognizing excellence and innovation in public policy writing by Canadians.

The Canadian broadcasting industry is highly regulated, yet the digital transition was largely an industry-led project.  This approach failed to deliver a cohesive strategy and saw the Canadian public largely excluded from the process. The Canadian example challenges traditional perceptions of the role of government in Canadian broadcasting, arguing that more market-driven countries such as the United States had far greater public oversight in its national transition.

Canada’s switch to digital calls into question contemporary Canadian media policy dynamics, driven by a vertically converged industry and largely disengaged state actors.  Now, in 2014, the Canadian digital television transition remains incomplete in many areas of the country.

The switch to digital opens new potentially disruptive avenues of content distribution including over-the-top services such as YouTube and Netflix, while simultaneously reinvigorating traditional over-the-air broadcasting via high definition broadcasts, mobile accessibility, and offering multiple channels on one broadcasting license.

The digital television transition, however, is more than just a technological leap. It is a significant moment that challenges core Canadian broadcasting values such as universal accessibility, Canadian content requirements, and the place of public broadcasting within the greater system.  Digital transitions around the world have been by no means uniform and offer policy comparisons with the United States, France, the UK, Australia, Brazil, and China.


The Donner Prize, established in 1998, annually rewards excellence and innovation in public policy writing by Canadians. The 2013/2014 shortlist titles were chosen from a field of 80 submissions; the winner receives $50,000 while each other nominated title will receive $7,500.

 The Donner Prize offers the following assessment of Shut Off:

 “Taylor provides an insightful assessment of a period of technological and economic upheaval in Canadian broadcasting, revealing how digital broadcasting has been the site of dramatic change in the political economy of Canadian media. A strong study that presents the reader with surprising messages, Shut Off challenges old thought and encourages new perspectives on an important subject.”

The winner of this year’s Donner Prize will be announced at an awards ceremony in Toronto on Wednesday, April 30, 2014.

 Dr. Gregory Taylor is currently completing a postdoctoral fellowship at Ryerson University in Toronto.  Gregory attended the Annenberg / Oxford Summer Institute on Global Media Policy in June, 2007, while completing his PhD in Communication Studies at McGill University in Montreal, Canada.


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