CHCO-TV in St. Andrews, NB, Picks Up Content for Bell Formerly Available on Cable

(Condensed from original version in St. Croix Courier, March, 2013)

GRAND MANAN ISLAND-For close to twenty-five years the Boys and Girls Club of Grand Manan has operated a community television station, GMTV on cable channel 10. Village Council [stand-alone productions or publications take itallics; articles or segments within a longer production use quotation marks] on Monday, February 4th was the last telecast. Peter Sesplankis, the Boys and Girls Club manager, says the decision [what decision?] is due to lack of cable
subscribers on the island. "Most islanders subscribe to satellite," says Sesplankis. "We had to cancel our TV bingo last summer because we were not selling enough cards."

Rogers cable offers only 33 analogue television services--virtually the same service the company launched on the island in 1984--while satellite
offers hundreds of digital channels, many in high definition (HD). Rogers also failed to contribute funds allocated for community television to the Boys and Girls Club for their programming services.

"All is not lost for local television on the island," says Sesplankis. "We will continue production of local programs on Grand Mansn but we will now broadcast those shows on CHCO-TV."

CHCO-TV, also known as Charlotte County Television, is New Brunswick's only independent community TV broadcaster. CHCO-TV was uplinked by Bell TV (to satellite channel 539) on December 20th, 2012. "It was probably the best Christmas present any small TV station could ask for!", says Patrick Watt, CHCO-TV station manager.

Since 2010, with strong backing from county residents and local elected representatives, CHCO-TV has made repeated requests to Rogers Cable for carriage across Charlotte County. "We still feel it is a loss for cable subscribers to not see their own county channel" says Watt. "Rogers prefers to carry distant' channels from other Canadian cities coast-to-cost instead of an independent channel from right here in the county."

CHCO's partnership with the Boys and Girls Club will provide a greater variety of programs to all Charlotte County. "It is likely the world's smallest broadcast
television merger!" laughed Watt.

David Welch, Chairman of CHCO-TV, says it is these kinds of partnerships that will make the small channel a success. "We are a community channel, and local access for producers and viewers alike is paramount."

GMTV is not the only new partner for CHCO. Ed Christie, of Harvey Station, operated a community channel out of Harvey High School for 18 years. "Rogers Cable pulled the plug on us in 2009", says Christie. "Now with access to CHCO-TV on satellite, we are producing local programming from Harvey."

Welch says CHCO's focus will remain south-western New Brunswick. "Although Harvey is not in Charlotte County we share a federal political riding and many inter-scholastic events like last weekend's high school basketball tournament are being telecast."

TV Bingo has helped the station stay afloat for almost seven years, and has also grown in popularity. "What the public may not know" says Welch "is that CHCO-TV cannot access Canadian or local broadcasting funds like public and private broadcasters. We are left to our own means: direct fundraising, TV bingo and advertising."

"We are happy to help CHCO with TV Bingo here on the Island", says Sespankis. "It's a win-win situation; funds raised with bingo help make local programs. A portion of the bingo proceeds will also go to youth programs at the Boys and Girls Club." CHCO-TV will continue to present the annual Grand Manan Boys and Girls Club telethon in November. "It should be better than ever!" said Sespankis.

CHCO Television is New Brunswick's only locally owned and operated television broadcaster. It is now available province-wide on Bell TV satellite channel 539.