It was 10 years ago today that CHEK News staff saved the station and became North American’s only employee-owned television station.
“Congratulations to the whole team at CHEK TV on your 10 years of independent TV,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a video greeting. “Thank you for all the great work you do in your community and beyond and remember, we appreciate everything you do. A strong, independent, free press is the cornerstone of a free society. Keep it up, CHEK!”
CHEK is British Columbia’s oldest private television station, first signing on the air on Dec. 1, 1956.
On July 22nd, 2009, Canwest announced it would be shutting CHEK down as it had failed to find a buyer for the station. But CHEK employees weren’t going down without a fight.
They organized a community-driven campaign to try and save Channel 6 and in addition to the employees putting up money, investors were found to help finance the deal.
A total of $2.5 million was raised for the buyout.
“I am so grateful to all of you — the employees who took it upon themselves to save CHEK,” federal Green Party leader and Saanich-Gulf Islands MP Elizabeth May said today. “Ten years as Canada’s employee-owned TV network, bringing us news and local events.”
The station was slated to go to black on August 31st, 2009 but negotiations with Canwest continued around-the-clock.
A deal was reached and CHEK staff took control of the station on September 4th, 2009.
Despite having no on-air programming or advertising lined up past August 31st, staff kept the station on the air and in the last decade, the station has thrived.
“Over the past ten years, CHEK has become a true success story,” Levi Sampson, chair of CHEK’s Board of Directors, said. “Not only does this station bring local stories and local programming to viewers of Vancouver Island, we employ 60 professionals who make their homes right here on the Island.”
While other media outlets are cutting back, CHEK has added staff and increased its local programming and commitment to the community.
“Congratulations CHEK TV on 10 years of employee-driven, independent broadcasting,” Premier John Horgan said. “You tell the local stories people want to hear. Keep it up and all the best for many, many more years to come!”
“Congratulations CHEK TV on 10 years of amazing, community-focused journalism,” added Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps.
Vancouver Island-born celebrities, who grew up watching CHEK, are also sending their congratulations.
“We appreciate you, we value you, the community needs you,” world-renown music producer David Foster said from Los Angeles. “We love you, we support you, and what can I say except I’m a fan. Happy 10th anniversary, I hope they’ll be 100 more!”
“Congratulations on this incredible achievement,” Disney and Nickelodeon star Calum Worthy said. “I grew up watching you, I still watch you religiously and I am so, so happy for you. Congratulations!”
Thank you to all of our viewers on Vancouver Island and beyond for helping to saving us a decade ago and for continuing to support us.
Over the next two weeks, CHEK will host its flagship newscasts from ten locations on Vancouver Island. CHEK News at 5 pm will broadcast live from Campbell River, Comox Valley, Port Alberni, Nanaimo, Cowichan Valley, West Shore, Esquimalt Navy Base, Saanich and Victoria’s Inner Harbour.
On Sept. 20, the newscast will air back at the CHEK studios in Victoria with a celebration for staff, clients and community partners. On tap will be a special CHEK Pilsner, brewed by Spinnakers of Victoria to mark CHEK’s ten years of independence. CHEK Pilsner is also available for a limited time at select liquor stores, where part proceeds go to Jeneece Place, a home where children and their families can stay while receiving medical care in Victoria.
“Without the support of our viewers and local advertisers, CHEK would not be celebrating our 10th anniversary this month,” Rob Germain, general manager of CHEK, said. “Thank you for the past ten years, and we look forward to the next decade.”
CHEK News begins the new fall season with a brand new set built locally by Victoria’s Belfry Theatre. CHEK News has also recently launched a newly designed website, developed by local firm Caorda.
Other local programming by CHEK includes a new season of Game On! – the only half-hour weekly sports program in BC. CHEK is also launching a new season of Cooking on the Coast, now hosted by Chef Michael, and sponsored by Country Grocer and Cold Star Solutions. As well, watch for new episodes of Trend, hosted by Amy McGeachy and CHEK Around, hosted by Veronica Cooper.
CHEK favourites such as Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy and 60 Minutes are also back. New to CHEK this fall will be X-Factor UK and a showcase of locally produced documentaries.