Monday night: Chek off

Monday night, Victoria's oldest TV station will go dark. Chek-TV has been around for 53 years. It played host to decades of Ida Clarkson. Bruce Kirkpatrick's annoying slice-of-life profiles on cutesy stories. Worst of all: Gordie Tupper (or Tucker-- I don't care). Chek-Around was a show Tupper hosted for some time. How would get on that show? Usually, you'd pay. You'd call them and say you had something interesting to say: if your venture was commercial, they'd hand you a rate card. Pay up and you're interesting. This guy was reknowned for doing only one take: the producer or cameraman would ask to do a second shot or one for safety; confident Tupper would refuse. I was having really mixed feelings about the decline and fall of Chek-TV until last week: they had done a smarmy piece about their efforts to keep the station alive. For the last month, Chek-TV has done a lot of coverage of themselves. They broke from the news and went into ads. Gordie was huckstering some event. He hopped into a convertible car and drove down Dallas Road. The camera was in the backseat from the looks of it. Gordie was driving along with his head turned back to jabber at the camera while he was driving down the road. Who's idea was this? Why didn't anyone say "You can't do that!"-- it's because they're all drinking the same Kool-aid. They were all so disconnected from reality that having a moron drive with his head turned didn't raise any flags-- and no: this wasn't a case where the car on a trailer. Chek doesn't have that kind of a budget.
This disconnection from reality is what killed them. They cut back local programming and then wondered why people didn't watch the station for shows from the US. The station starved out its staff. While teeming with production people, most of them were part-time: always hungry for more hours-- always willing to jockey for favour. This starvation permeated through the whole station: newscasters would go through the nearby Wendy's drive-thru and their bank cards would bounce when they tried to buy a $6 meal. Which is worst: you don't know you're down to $6-; you're down to less than $6 and you can't brown bag it; or that you're forced to eat at Wendy's?

Several weeks ago, the staff came up with a great idea! They could buy the station-- just like the Harmac mill became employee owned. They forgot several things:
  • The Harmac mill deal took months to put together; and the mill had effectively folded up in the meantime.
  • The public has known that the future of Chek-TV were in doubt for almost a year. Maybe the staff knew it longer. They waited until the summer to begin to put an employee purchase plan together. Too late.
  • The transfer would be at the mercy of the Federal government-- the bureaucracy would tick through at its usual speed and take several months to resolve. While the deal churns, CanWest Global would still own the station and all the debt that came with its business-as-usual approach.
  • The Harmac mill closed when the industry hit bottom. It opened at the initial stages of demand rebound. Mass media has much farther to fall: the other CanWest artifact: the Times Colonist is circling the drain: knocked down by the Internet, Craigslist and internal rot.
I worked at CKDA and saw it circle the drain. We came up with ideas to give listeners something new and different. The station didn't go for it: in the battle between business-as-usual and taking a chance, they took the easy route. One of the owners would swirl into the station demand changes, flip out, fire people and then leave like a tsunami and its wake. If you kept your head down, you kept your job. What also did in CKDA was contra. Contra is basically barter. It's good for greasing the wheels, but when all you have is contra, you can't pay your bills with golf clubs.

After midnight, Victoria BC and Vancouver Island will go back to being a one TV station market. In the war of the mega-media, this is one element of the CanWest media conglomerate that is getting turfed from our region. To take back our media and local news delivery, shaking off CanWest is key. I will miss Chek-Six / Chek-TV / Chek / CH / CHTV, etc. but natural selection did it in.

After tonight, there will still be news sources you can use:


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