It’s hard to see a TV station in the same light as a pulp mill, but for the people at CHEK-TV, the similarities are all too real.
We all get CHEK on cable, at least until Aug. 31, when CanWest Global is poised to close it down as part of its desperate quest to survive.
Victoria’s CHEK was B.C.’s first TV station when it went on the air in December 1956. And like the pulp and saw mills that for so many years formed the basis of Vancouver Island’s economy, CHEK has become out-moded.
But its 45 employees aren’t giving up without a fight. Like the workers at the Harmac pulp mill in Nanaimo, they’re trying to put together enough of their own money and local investment to keep CHEK chugging.
They have pooled $500,000 and are now trying to persuade the people who used to be their advertisers to kick in the other 75 per cent of the ownership. They say they have a plan to make money by year three. I’m not sure what beans they’re counting, but according to CanWest, CHEK hasn’t made money since the company bought it in 2000.
Even if they do raise enough, it will be interesting to see if CanWest will just go along with a competitive station beaming into the crowded Vancouver market, or if the CRTC will grant the station a new licence. But you gotta admire their chutzpah.
If they succeed in wresting their destiny from the clutches of CanWest, it will be interesting to see what the employees put on the air. The current edition is kind of a clone of the BCTV model in Vancouver, full of comfortable-looking people sitting at a desk and beaming stiffly as they present the news from Victoria, even though “news” and “Victoria” may strike you as a contradiction in terms.
Victoria is world famous as a tourist destination precisely because it’s nice, quiet and clean, and I’m not sure there’s enough going on to drive a local TV channel, never mind the two — CHEK and A Channel — now offering essentially the same product. You can’t blame the folks for trying ... but:
If you’ve worked in TV news, (I spent eight years labouring in the electronic vineyard) you know how absurdly expensive it is to produce. If you want to do a live hit on radio, you press the speed-dial button on your cellphone; TV requires a freaking satellite truck. Industrial production costs just don’t cut it in the 24/7 world of 2009.
Marshall McLuhan, who saw TV as the medium of the global village, would be fascinated to watch it fade to black. How long before his “Medium Cool” gets rigor mortis?
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