Filling the TV void in Red Deer

When CHCA-TV signs off for good on Aug. 31, Red Deer will be without a local television station for the first time in 52 years.

When CHCA-TV signs off for good on Aug. 31, Red Deer will be without a local television station for the first time in 52 years.

But other broadcasters whose signals reach homes in the region might adjust their operations to fill the void.

Tim Spelliscy, Global TV’s vice-president and general manager for Edmonton, Red Deer and the prairie region, said his network will continue to cover Central Alberta using its Edmonton resources. These include a helicopter and a satellite truck, with the latter able to operate as a mobile production centre.

“We specifically got the satellite truck to go to Red Deer, to go to Lloydminster, to go to Fort McMurray,” said Spelliscy.

He added that Red Deer is only about an hour’s drive from Global’s station in Edmonton, which should allow for coverage of scheduled news events here.

Global is pondering additional means of covering the Central Alberta news scene, said Spelliscy. This could involve local freelancers or even a news bureau.

“We’re still reviewing the precise plan, and there will be an update on it before the end of the month.”

He said Global, which is owned by Canwest Global Communications Corp., currently relies on freelancers in Grand Prairie, Fort McMurray and Jasper, and these have worked out well.

CBC Television might also increase its presence in Red Deer, said Mike Linder, the network’s programming director in Edmonton.

“We are looking at it very seriously and we do think there is likely opportunity down the road,” he said, pointing to freelancers as a possibility.

Currently, said Linder, CBC is dealing with reduced resources and an expanded programming mandate, so it could be months before the situation in Red Deer can be addressed.

“There’s a lot on the plate right now.”

Citytv currently has two “video journalists” in the city — one full time and one part time — said an official with the Rogers Media network.

Questions about Citytv’s future plans for Red Deer were referred to Richard Hiron, general manager for Citytv Edmonton. He replied via email.

“Citytv’s plan is to continue servicing local communities with news coverage as we have done in the past. We have a team in our Red Deer bureau who will continue to file Central Alberta stories on a regular basis.”

CFRN-TV Edmonton has operated a Red Deer bureau since 1990, broadcasting regional newscasts to the area as part of its Edmonton newscasts.

But when owner CTVglobemedia renewed its broadcast licence with the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission earlier this year, it obtained approval to discontinue this local programming.

Inquiries to CFRN-TV were referred to CTV Edmonton vice-president and general manager Lloyd Lewis, who could not be reached for comment.

Also providing programming in the Red Deer region is Shaw TV.

It repeats a 30-minute current affairs program during the day, and also provides other programming.

A call to Shaw TV was directed to a company official who is away until next week.

Canwest announced on July 22 that it is pulling the plug on its Red Deer station at the end of this month.

CHCA-TV was founded in 1957 as a CBC affiliate. It later operated as CKRD-TV, until returning to its original call letters in 2005.

hrichards@bprda.wpengine.com

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