Employees at CHEK-TV in Victoria bought the station from Canwest in 2009 after learning the now-defunct media company was putting it up for sale..
It seems like Canadian media go through a predictable cycle every few months. An outlet will abruptly shut down or lay off some journalists in a bid to downsize their operations; and colleagues and readers alike will tweet their condolences.
In an industry that is increasingly becoming defined by a small number of owners pursuing their bottom lines, the situation can seem hopeless. But what if we were to imagine a different future — one in which media workers held the power and not corporate interests?
Perhaps we don’t have to reach into the deep annals of our mind to picture such a scenario; a small television station in Victoria showed us all it could be done. It was early 2009 when the employees of CHEK, a Canwest owned local TV station based in Victoria, got word that the station was being put up for sale. The station had been on the air at that point for 52 years and was beloved by members of the local community. Still, staff held out hope that the station would be eventually sold to a prospective buyer. This did not come to pass and in July of that year, Canwest announced it would close the station for good.
Not willing to give up, the employees of the station came up with a bold new plan: why not take ownership of the station themselves? So they all pitched in, got together with some investors and put in a bid. Rob Germain, CHEK’s director of news, describes this time as “dramatic.”
“We got a lot of support from the community — we got a ton of support from our viewers, who wrote letters and made it clear to Canwest that they were interested in the station staying on and supporting the employees bid to keep the station going,” Germain says.
It worked and within a few weeks, Canwest agreed to a sale of the station and CHEK was saved.
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