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Provincewide Ontario
City of license Toronto, Ontario
Branding TVO
Slogan Never Stop Learning
Channels Digital: see below
Owner Ontario Educational Communications Authority (Government of Ontario)
First air date September 27, 1970
Call letters' meaning CICA: CI Communications Authority
CICO: CI Communications Ontario
Sister station(s) TFO
Transmitter power see below
Height see below
Transmitter coordinates see below
Licensing authority CRTC

TVOntario (often shortened to TVO and stylized on-air as tvo) is a Canadian province of Ontario. It is operated by the Ontario Educational Communications Authority, a Crown corporation owned by the Government of Ontario. It operates two television stations: CICA (virtual and UHF digital channel 19) in Toronto and CICO (virtual and UHF digital channel 24) in Ottawa, these two stations relay their programming across portions of Ontario through seven rebroadcast stations. It is also available on cable throughout Ontario, and all cable providers in the province are required to carry it on their basic tier.


  • Governance, funding and other responsibilities 1
  • Distribution 2
    • Carriage dispute 2.1
  • History 3
    • 1970s 3.1
    • 1980s-1990s 3.2
    • 2000s 3.3
    • Chairs and CEOs 3.4
  • Programming 4
  • Digital television and high definition 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7

Governance, funding and other responsibilities

TVO is governed by a volunteer Board of Directors, and supported by a network of Regional Councillors from across the province. TVO also reports to the Ontario legislature through the Minister of Education, in accordance with the Ontario Educational Communications Authority Act.

Instead of following the model of the federally owned Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), which shows commercial advertisements, TVO is instead commercial-free in the manner of fellow provincial counterpart Knowledge in British Columbia and the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) in the United States. Despite viewer donations, the majority of TVO's funding is provided by the Government of Ontario through the Ministry of Education, which provides $30 million annually.[1]

As well, TVO is also responsible for over-the-air broadcasts of the Ontario Legislative Assembly in some remote Northern Ontario communities that do not receive cable television access to the Ontario Parliament Network.

In 2002, the Ministry of Education transferred responsibility to TVO for the Independent Learning Centre, which provides distance education at the elementary and secondary school level.

TVO used to operate TFO, a separate but similar network for Franco-Ontarian audiences. Before the launch of TFO, TVO aired French-language programming on Sundays. Even after TFO's launch, TVO and TFO swapped programming on Sundays well into the 1990s. TFO was separated from TVO and was incorporated as an independent agency of the Government of Ontario in 2007.


TVO is Canada's oldest educational television service. It established the country's first UHF television station in 1970, based in Toronto.[2] TVO formerly had the largest over-the-air coverage in Ontario, reaching 98.5% of the province with 216 transmitters; however this is no longer the case as the broadcaster shuttered several analogue transmitters except those located in select mandatory markets, which were converted to digital in 2012 (see Digital television and high definition below). TVO is also broadcast on the Bell TV satellite service on channel 265, and various cable systems servicing Ontario (the alternative choice for those viewers in area formerly served by one of the service's defunct analogue transmitters). On Shaw Direct, the channel is available on 353 (on its Classic tier) or 55 (on its Advanced tier), and in high definition on channel 39 (Classic) or 539 (Advanced).

The main transmitter in Toronto uses the call sign CICA-TV, with its rebroadcasters using CICO-DT, followed by a number to denote their status as rebroadcasters. Previously, many analogue transmitters used the CICA-TV and CICO-TV callsigns, as well as CICE-TV, in the same manner, until the shutdown of TVO's remaining analogue transmitters on July 31, 2012.

TVO's transmitters are primarily located in Ontario, with the only exception being its Ottawa transmitter, CICO-DT-24, which is based at the Ryan Tower at Camp Fortune in Chelsea, Quebec, where it shares its site with its Quebec counterpart, Télé-Québec, and with most of the region's television and FM radio signals.

From the 1970s through the 1990s, TVO ran top-of-the-hour bumpers where an announcer would mention the channel allocation of the service's flagship station in Toronto, along with an allocation for one of its rebroadcast transmitters: "This is TVOntario. Channel 19 in Toronto, channel XX in (city or town)."

Carriage dispute

On June 6, 2012, TVO dropped its signal from cable and satellite providers outside Ontario, due to a carriage dispute over compensation for distributing its signal to its subscribers outside the province. The network reached an agreement with Vidéotron, and then entered negotiations with Shaw Cable, Shaw Direct and TELUS, but failed to reach an agreement with Bell TV. TVO cited that: "...we believe that we have a responsibility to earn revenues from the sale of our service outside of our home province. TVO is willing to consent to cable and satellite distributors carrying our signal outside the province, provided that we're fairly compensated. Since cable or satellite distributors receive subscriber revenues driven by having TVO as part of their offering, we feel it's reasonable to be compensated. Unfortunately, we could not come to an agreement with Bell to compensate TVO for carrying our signal outside of Ontario, and the decision was made to cease offering our signal outside of Ontario."[3] It is unknown if the dispute or carriage restrictions also apply to the few cable systems in the United States that carry TVO.[4]



An early OECA TV logo.

CICA's history dates back to 1970, when its parent organization, the Ontario Educational Communications Authority (OECA), was created by then Education Minister Bill Davis in June of that year. At that time, the OECA produced children's and educational programming, which was aired on commercial television stations.

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, acting on behalf of the Ontario Ministry of Education's television branch, eventually applied for and won a licence for the ministry's television station in Toronto. CICA, with the mandate of "[using] electronic and associated media to provide educational opportunities for all people in Ontario". The "CA" in the CICA callsign was derived from the last two letters in the OECA acronym. CBC initially operated the CICA transmitter while the OECA was in charge of programming. OECA assumed all operations of the station, independent of the CBC, when the provincial government declared the Authority an independent corporation in a 1973 Order-in-Council.

CICA first signed on the air on September 27, 1970, operating at a radiated power of 423,000

In the latter half of the 1970s, the network began adding rebroadcast transmitters in other Ontario communities. Its very first rebroadcast transmitter, CICO, signed on from Ottawa on October 25, 1975.


1981 TVO logo.

In 1987, TVO launched La Chaîne française, a French-language public television network which became TFO in 1994. In 1995, the Ontario government under Mike Harris promised to privatize TVO. They never carried through on this plan, but did cut its budget.


Previous TVO logo used from 1992 to 2006.

The positions of chair and CEO were divided in 2005 with film producer

  • TVO
  • TVOKids
  • Tribute to TVOKids shows from the 1970s
  • CICA-TV/TVOntario History - Canadian Communications Foundation
  • Query the REC's Canadian station database for CICA-TV
  • Query the REC's Canadian station database for CICO-TV
    • (Recnet links cover all repeaters using the above call signs)

External links

  1. ^ TVO facts and figures;;
  2. ^ . See page 10.
  3. ^ Fagstein: "TVO pulled from cable, satellite outside Ontario", June 6, 2012.
  4. ^ Such as Comcast's cable system serving southern Oakland County, Michigan, per channel listings at, zip:"48067".
  5. ^ Canadian Communications Foundation - Fondation Des Communications Canadiennes
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^ History of ILC, accessdate=2008-01-24
  10. ^ Toronto Star: "Saturday Night at the Movies, when going to the movies meant staying in: Howell", August 23, 2013.
  11. ^ Patrick McGoohan Interview
  12. ^ Broadcasting Decision CRTC 2012-414 TVO (CICA-TV Toronto) – Licence amendment to remove all analog transmitters, CRTC, July 27, 2012
  13. ^ Canada Newswire: "CACTUS - Tens of thousands of Canadians to lose free access to CBC TV July 31", July 27, 2012.


Among the transmitters that were converted to digital, the transmitters in Belleville, Chatham and Cloyne were not within a mandatory market. These transmitters were converted to digital on new frequencies (but without high-definition, an on-channel programme guide or other DTV-specific features), as channels 52 to 69 were being reallocated for wireless communication purposes. The conversion of these transmitters took place before TVO's announcement to close down its analogue transmitter network outside the mandatory markets.

On July 31, 2012, TVO permanently shut down its remaining 114 analog transmitters (14 full-power and 100 low-power) without converting them to digital; these were in areas of Ontario not considered "mandatory markets" for digital conversion by the CRTC.[12] In many cases, TVO rebroadcasters were operating from CBC-owned transmitter sites and were shut down as collateral damage to the CBC's 2012 budget cuts. Where TVO owned sites, it provided local communities the option of taking ownership of the towers and transmitters.[13]

TVO staff shuttering Sudbury analog antenna
via a direct-to-cable HD feed. TVO commenced over-the-air HD broadcasting in August 2011, in compliance with the CRTC regulations. Except for Belleville, Chatham and Cloyne, TVO's transmitters are located within mandatory markets for conversion. Not all digital transmitters are currently broadcasting in high definition. high-definitionIn August 2010, TVO began broadcasting in
TVO HD logo from 2010 to 2015

Digital television and high definition

TVO also runs a daily children's programming block called TVOKids, which airs as part of the service's daytime schedule. In April 2015 two children’s programs, co-produced by TVO, have been honoured with a combined three Daytime Emmy® Awards by The National Academy of Television Arts: Dino Dan: Trek's Adventures (Outstanding Pre-School Children’s Series) and Odd Squad (Outstanding Directing in a Children’s or Pre-School Children’s Series and Outstanding Hairstyling).

Programs produced by TVO have been seen outside of Ontario. In the United States, Polka Dot Door and Parlez-Moi were carried by PBS stations, while cable channel Nickelodeon aired Today's Special during the 1980s. TVO has also been a contributor to programs produced by the U.S.-based Agency for Instructional Technology (and its prececessors), such as selected episodes of Inside/Out and Thinkabout; these and other AIT programs were also broadcast on TVO for in-school use. Educational programs by TVO have also appeared on ABC1 in Australia.

Although French-language programs were shown on TVO since its inception and gradually increased in number since then, they eventually moved to the French arm of TVO, TFO (originally known as "La Chaîne française"). When TFO started, TVO would run its English-language shows on that channel on Sundays after 12 p.m., while the English TVO channel presented La Chaîne française programming at that time. This was done to give francophones that did not subscribe to cable some French-language educational programming; it was discontinued in the 1990s after TFO began launching broadcast transmitters in some Franco-Ontarian communities.

Initially, all dramatic programming was required to have some educational content. Actors, journalists or writers were hired to provide commentary on shows that would place them within an educational context. For instance Tom Grattan's War was bookmarked by segments hosted by Andrea Martin that would use scenes from the series to discuss filmmaking techniques. Episodes of The Prisoner were hosted by journalist Warner Troyer whose segments included interviews with the actors and a discussion of various psychological, philosophical or sociological themes regarding the series.[11] Similarly Doctor Who was hosted by science fiction author Judith Merril who would discuss each week's episode to explore various themes in science and science fiction. Saturday Night at the Movies continued to follow this format long after the requirement was dropped because of the popularity of its host, Elwy Yost whose gentle and insightful commentary enriched a generation of viewers.

TVO airs a mixture of original shows, children's programming, British imports, and movies from around the world. In the evenings, TVO runs a mixture of documentary, drama and public affairs programming for adult audiences, including the popular Saturday Night at the Movies, which until its cancellation in August 2013 due to budget reductions,[10] had presented classic films with commentary and interview segments. Late at night, TVO shows educational programming that is designed for teachers to tape and show in school.


Chairs and CEOs

Former logo from 2006 to 2015.

In 2002, the Independent Learning Centre, which is responsible for distance education at the elementary and secondary school level as well as GED testing, was transferred from the Ministry of Education to TVO.[9]

Moreover, programming changes were announced later that day: thirteen hours of new weekly children's educational programming was added, Studio 2 was replaced by The Agenda, and More to Life and Vox were cancelled.[7] The move to digitize services represents a transition; The Globe and Mail quoted TVO CEO Lisa de Wilde saying “while television will remain an important medium for TVO, the days of defining ourselves as only a broadcaster are past.”[8]


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