Community TV in Campbell River B.C. Under Threat

Larry Widen of Campbell River, Vancouver Island, submitted this letter to his local paper. It concerns an offer by Shaw (delivered in the form of a letter to every homeowner) to buy the co-op-owned cable system for $3,000 per person. Read on...

THE CRTV QUESTION ~ IT’S ABOUT COMMUNITY PRIDE

I cannot remember the year but it was, I think, in the early 1970s that I had the privilege of serving as the president of CRTV. I am proud that during my term as president the extremely rigid provisions that must be met to sell CRTV were written into the bylaws. I mention this to make it clear that I have a personal and sentimental bias in my arguments that CRTV should remain a community owned and operated enterprise.

To support my argument for continuing with a community owned CRTV it is necessary to take an all too brief and incomplete look at the community spirit that is Campbell River.

· Some fifty years ago a small group set out on an impossible dream to bring cable TV to Campbell River at a time when no private enterprise had any interest in doing so as there was no profit to be made.

· A need for a public boat ramp in Campbell River resulted in a small group doing the organizing, fund-raising and getting the authorization and producing a public boat ramp on the spit.

· Jack Caldwell, the first lawyer to set up a practice in Campbell River, and others worked long and hard to realise their objective of our own hospital for Campbell River.

· In the 50s I recall meeting a chap named Ed Meade who was promoting the establishment of a museum in Campbell River. Today we have a wonderful museum that is second to none.

· Campbell River’s Maritime Center is a tremendous project that has now to be given national status.

· The Rotary Club’s sea walk is a prominent example of what the many Campbell River service clubs have accomplished.

· All one needs to do is look around Campbell River to create an almost endless list of quality community projects that have been produced.

All of the above projects, listed or not listed, were made possible with the hard work by dedicated residents and only with the support of Campbell River’s strong community pride and spirit.

The public boat ramp on the spit has recently been torn up without any consultation with those who promoted and built it. Indeed some were out in their boats only to return to find the boat ramp gone. Community pride and spirit were betrayed in this case. Perhaps, even now, a new public boat ramp could still be included into the new waterfront park on the Spit.

Our very own fully functioning hospital is under threat by the imposition of a so-called regional hospital. If the regional hospital model is adopted our Campbell River Hospital will certainly cease to exist, if not immediately then over time due to the cash flow demands of a large regional hospital. Only the residents of Campbell River coming together with their strong community spirit can now save our community hospital.

Let us not allow the fate of CRTV to follow the fate of the public boat ramp or the possible fate of Campbell River’s own hospital. Has Campbell River lost the once strong city pride and community spirit to be able to maintain and improve on our collective community achievements of the past?

There is most certainly the temptation of a one time cash payment from the sale of CRTV in competition with the choice of embarking on a project to upgrade CRTV to a full range of services for members at a cost and quality extremely competitive in the cable market place.

The major companies know that a full service cable system in Campbell River will produce good corporate profits. True, the major cable companies have many advantages due to their ownership in industry related companies including TV signal providers. Notwithstanding the major companies’ advantages Sandy and I are more than prepared to forgo a one-time cash payment to maintain our locally owned and controlled CRTV. If Shaw or Rogers can do it with a profit we can do it at cost.

During my term as president of CRTV in addition to being assigned the task of drafting the revised bylaws I was also assigned the task of building a cable broadcasting studio and putting Campbell River Cable 10 into the home of every subscriber. With the technical advice of Ed Selby, the head technician at the time, co-operation from the staff union, community support, the hiring of a programming coordinator and volunteers to operate the studio and do the programming CRTV channel 10 made it onto the cable. With local ownership and control cable 10 has continued to enhance our community pride and spirit and must be protected. Our current community programming is by any comparison exceptional. This experience of course adds to my personal and sentimental bias in this matter.

I commend the current board of directors and management for commissioning the report that provides a course of actions required to maintain CRTV as a publicly owned cable system for Campbell River and area. I support starting to do all the technical upgrades recommended at the earliest possible date. Notwithstanding the report’s other option to sell and Shaw’s current offer to purchase CRTV and even considering my personal bias in this matter I still sincerely believe that CRTV can and should be saved.

It is very important to maintain CRTV if we are to maintain our community spirit for we cannot lose one without doing severe damage to the other. The CRTV board of directors has properly placed the challenge before us as the owners. I am certain that this community can rise to the challenge, save and enhance CRTV as well as our community pride and spirit.

I support Campbell River over Shaw, Rogers or any other cable company.

Larry Widen