Five Years After the Brink, Victoria’s CHEK-TV is on Stable Footing




  • Investor and saviour Levi Sampson   Photograph By CHEK TV

It wasn’t easy. In fact, it was fraught with speed bumps, personnel changes, uncertainty and a rapidly changing media landscape. But five years after CHEK-TV was saved by its employees from going dark, the station says it is poised for growth.

“There’s a huge sense of accomplishment and there is always more stuff to do, but right now we are in a better position than we have ever been since we became an employee-owned model,” said Levi Sampson, chairman of CHEK’s board and one of the key players in saving the station in 2009. “We have ironed out some of the kinks. We have the best and most cohesive group we’ve had to date. It looks promising.”

That’s a far cry from the dark days when former owner Canwest Global Communications planned to shut the station down.

Canwest put a number of its smaller stations such as CHEK, which is B.C.’s oldest private television station, up for sale early in 2009, citing years of losing money. The company planned to shut the station at the end of August 2009 if a buyer did not come forward.

The Sampson and Pollard families, other investors and CHEK staff rallied to raise enough money to buy the station and keep its lights on.

In 2008, Sampson’s family was also behind an employee-led movement to buy and save Harmac Pulp in Nanaimo.

“Levi Sampson and the Sampson family not only saved CHEK five years ago, they saved Harmac. Both are institutions on Vancouver Island,” said Rob Germain, CHEK’s news director. “[Sampson] has transformed both into employee-ownership models and both are doing very well. They wouldn’t have existed [otherwise].”

                                         CHEK News Anchorman Jim Beatty


For his part, Sampson credits the team around him. “These models work because of the people, and if you don’t have the right mix and people who want to invest wholeheartedly into it, you might as well not attempt it,” he said.

That has required tinkering with the mix over the five years, but Sampson said they have the right group now to start to grow.

That may sound bold in a media landscape where information is available at the click of a mouse or tap of a smartphone screen. Sampson admits there have been some trying moments. But he is steadfast in believing bright skies are ahead.



  1. Saviour, what a joke. This dude is egotistical to the core. If it wasn’t for mummy and daddy’s money. Need I say more… wtf does he know about broadcasting?

  2. You’re so correct Leonard.This dude seems to have forgotten how much monies Graham Barnes put into this venture. If I’m correct, it was about 20%.

  3. Congrats to CHEK on its fifth anniversary of independence from Can’t-west, but I’d rather see the addition of a few classic TV reruns (much as KVOS does with MeTV) and the return of a midnight late movie (like it used to have before the CH/E! era) than infomercials (which nobody watches anyway).

  4. CHEK gets paid for running infomercials, whether anybody watches or not. But it seems whenever I go there for news, CBC is on. Apart from Jeopardy, CHEK is pretty much un-watchable.

  5. It’s very sad to see the animosity, yet one should not be surprised.
    What amazes me in this article is the lack of recognition of John Pollard who orchestrated and had the vision for an employee owned television station. To call Levi the saviour of Chek is a joke indeed. John Pollard was the man who had the vision and the inspiration to put this package all together, as well as the personal Pollard family financial investment. I say, Shame on you Levi for even thinking you can take any of this credit. Thanks PSR for letting me vent on this one

  6. Holy Crap Batman…whatta pile. I agree with tvinsider and the others who know the real story. The Simpsons (sorry Sampsons) have been a joke all along. Pollard, Barnes and the many employees did the saving, not those quoted in this egotistical flight of fancy. Sure wish the Times Colonist would check their facts better.

  7. I heard that CHEK was doing location shots in Calgary for a new mini-series: “The Rise and Demise of NIKO Resources”. Ed Sampson to be played by himself – only he could be larger than life, Levi Sampson to be played by Jesus, and Sheila Sampson to be played by Levi Sampson. Apparently Rob Germain could show up as a special guest star, if he can get his lips off of you-know-who’s derriere:)


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