Questions abound over gambit to save CHEK

How will the Victoria station handle programming and ad sales if the staff manages to buy it from Canwest? What about the CRTC?

Questions remain and time is quickly running out at CHEK-TV in Victoria, where employees are raising money in hope of buying the troubled station from Canwest.

CHEK employees have raised more than $500,000 in their bid to stay on the air past Aug. 31, when Canwest Global Communications plans to pull the plug, though it remains unclear how the 50-year-old station will handle programming and advertising if the effort is successful and the station manages to strike out on its own.

Richard Konwick, assignment editor for the CHEK news department and local union president, concedes that ‘it would be a very difficult first quarter, but we plan to go about getting advertising in the traditional way.’ As for programming, he says the station has some non-Canwest shows lined up for fall, though he did not elaborate.

There is also the issue of the CRTC. If the employees raise enough money – it is hoped private investors will make up the difference – and Canwest agrees to sell rather than shutter the station, that would leave just weeks, at best, for the CRTC to approve the change of ownership. Such things typically take months.

Konwick acknowledges that this is a problem, though again the CHEK staff have a plan. ‘We would have to contract Canwest to run the station until the approval comes in,’ he says. Operations would go in-house, but Canwest would continue to hold the title on the station until the red tape was cleared.

That plan, however, is apparently news to Canwest. Spokesperson John Douglas says he hasn’t been contacted about the possibility of a post-Aug. 31 contract, adding, it would be ‘premature to judge anything we haven’t seen.’ But he agrees that there is ‘no way’ the CRTC could approve an ownership change in the next two weeks. ‘That’s why we gave seven months notice,’ he notes. The CRTC declined to comment on the matter.

It is also unclear how close the employees are to having enough money to purchase the station, as Konwick was unable to comment on how much remains to be raised.


From Playback Daily