CHEK lives to see another day

Eleventh hour deal with Canwest and $2.5 million from staff and local investors buys new lease on life for Victoria station.

It’s business as usual at CHEK-TV, thanks to last-minute negotiations that saw the troubled Victoria station change hands from Canwest Global Communications to its employees themselves.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, though employees did raise $2.5 million in their bid to keep the 50-year-old station – which services Victoria and Vancouver Island – on the air. Canwest indicated in a release that CHEK was sold for a ‘nominal’ price.

About 45 employees now own roughly 20% of the station, while four Vancouver Island business people also came in as private investors/co-owners, according to CHEK GM John Pollard.

‘Everyone’s working extra hours because we’re all owners now…so it’s a little different situation,’ he says, while praising the station’s employees for stepping up to save CHEK. ‘Part of this was on their shoulders too.’

The change of control and issuance of a new license is conditional upon CRTC approval. Pollard says Canwest still owns the license – while the station is being held in trust by a third party until the CRTC grants the license to the new ownership group.

Canwest had announced in July that CHEK would shut down on Aug. 31 if a buyer did not step forward, prompting employees to submit a bid to buy the station themselves. Other smaller Canwest-owned stations including Hamilton’s CHCH and Montreal’s CJNT were also put up for sale earlier this year because they were losing money.

With their first bid rejected, CHEK employees ‘were dead in the water’ three days before the deadline, according to Pollard, who says thanks to a ‘huge effort’ from Canwest – which also put programming together for the week – they were able to continue negotiations and reach a deal on Friday.

Pollard says details are still being worked out as to who will be in charge of programming and other areas.

Canwest says it will continue to provide transitional support services and leased space to ensure a smooth transition.

From Playback Daily