CHEK: A Model for Independent Media


They Changed the Channel and Put Workers in Charge

By Abdullah Shihipar , The Tyee/J-Source   Oct. 13 2017

Abdullah Shihipar has written about the media and social issues for numerous publications, including The Globe and Mail, Quartz, Vice, Canadaland, Torontoist and NOW Magazine. This article first appeared at J-Source here.


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.



  1. Congrats on making it work. I wonder if the business model would transfer to areas that are not as specific to audience as Vancouver Island? Life on the island is more community based for obvious reasons.

  2. I was watching DaVinci’s Inquest on Friday night and at
    about the 45 minute mark of the program the screen went
    dark for about one minute. What came back was some
    program in a mid -Eastern language and the letters
    ntv on the screen.

    This continued on into the next hour. My other complaint
    is that recent editions of DaVinci’s code have had
    blotchy video.

    I couldn’t help remarking that for several showings of
    DaVinci …I’ve seen two bedding companies vying for
    customers during the same commercial break.
    Sleep Country Canada and a local bedding manufacturer
    are adjacent commercial slots.

    That should be a no-no.

  3. The CHEK Model does not work without a government (CRTC/BDU) hand out:

    “With LPIF going, CHEK, NTV ask into a different fund

    With weeks to go before the Local Programming Improvement Fund gets cut in half, two independent television stations that rely on it are seeking access to a different fund designed to help small-market stations.

    CJON (NTV) in St. John’s, NL, owned by Newfoundland Broadcasting, and CHEK in Victoria, which is owned in part by its employees who bought it from Canwest, have asked the CRTC to add their stations to the Small Market Local Production Fund.


  4. An insider told me that CHEK gets over two million dollars a year in funding from the CRTC otherwise they would be gone.
    Interesting that they keep claiming to be employee owned.
    The majority of the shares are owned by non employees. In fact I understand the employees own less than 25% and make almost none of the financial decisions. Rogers employees all own shares in Rogers but never make that claim.


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