I am not particularly happy to hear that CHCA television is a casualty in the current Canadian television storm.
I’ve mentioned my obsessive love affair with TV many times over the years and it all began in the late 50s when my parents bought their first television set and put the world in our living room.
CHCA TV was the first educator I had in those heady pre-school days and the lessons have not ended to this very day.
I was a disciple of nearly everything CHCA had to offer from Smokey’s Cabin to Outdoors Unlimited to the first moon walk that actually was a walk on the moon. I was a TV star on Trapper Dan’s Cabin when my mom’s hand crafted pirate costume won a Halloween contest for me at the old TV hill location east of town.
My acceptance speech was nothing more than a goofy “stare directly into the camera” grin but it made me a star and CHCA was the reason for my very brief stardom.
There were plenty of highlights over the years on CHCA which included watching my older brother on a local teen dance show prove that comedy is best when it’s unintentional and spontaneous.
I watched my dad fight nerves every year as he called the bingo numbers for a car prize in an annual K of C fundraiser broadcast on CHCA and later CKRD TV.
Call letter changes aside, we have always had a local broadcaster since Dec. 11, 1957. The bygone era of CHCA live broadcasts included many local events like the Red Deer Parade and the Farmer’s Bonspiel. Not earth-shaking events by today’s standards but definitely with a Red Deer stamp on them.
CHCA is a victim of a massive change in the television universe where literally hundreds of channel options don’t necessarily mean better options.
Instead cable choices overlap the same program choices on a multitude of channels.
This sleight of hand will add mucho dollars to your monthly cable bill but much less to your actual TV enjoyment levels. I guess if you can’t smother them with channel quality, at least baffle them with channel quantity.
The other issue faced by CHCA is the satellite business which does not include local broadcasters in their channel choices.
Why I don’t know, but there are clearly many satellite subscribers in the Red Deer area with no access to local TV. This is an ironic twist when one considers the CRTC and their addiction to over-regulation on so many other issues.
So now we have our local TV station thrown into a corporate Hurricane Katrina in which their parent company faces the new reality of revenue freefall and some rough choices about the company kids like CHCA TV.
The media business is no different than any other business in which a handful of major sharks like Can West Media and CTV have devoured small fish like CHCA with approximately the same level of compassion as a real great white.
The golden days of CHCA included local ownership with a genuine focus on local issues.
That was the real strength of the station, along with a long list of very good people who made CHCA great over the past 52 years. All of them deserved a much better ending to this story.
Jim Sutherland is a freelance writer living in Red Deer.