The TV business is a tough racket these days. Running and independent over-the-air TV station–that is, one that doesn’t have any affiliation with a network like the CBC, Global or CTV–is exponentially more difficult. In fact, it’s such an awful space to be in these days that there are only two indie TV stations in all of Canada: one in Victoria and the other in Hamilton.
CHCH-TV is one of Canada’s oldest TV stations, having signed on June 7, 1954. It’s been through many incarnations and many owners over the decades (Superstation, OnTV, Canwest, etc.) and its current proprietors, Channel Zero, made news last week when they announced that the company that produces the stations’ newscasts has gone bankrupt. There will be much restructuring and many layoffs, adding to the carnage we’ve seen across Canada in the TV, radio and print space this year. It’s a tough, tough time to be a broadcaster in this country.
The station figures more deeply into Canadian culture than most people realize. Martin Short made his first television appearances on CHCH. The station produced Party Game, Tiny Talent Time andThe Red Green Show. And if you’re of a certain age, you will have spent many hours on Saturdays with The Hilarious House of Frightenstein.
I did a bunch of work with CHCH over the years, guesting on shows like Morning Live, a variety of late-night programs and showing up on various programs picked up by the station such as the times I co-hosted The Hamilton Music Awards. But my deepest association with the station was twenty-five years ago when I was named the quizmaster of Reach for the Top in what turned out to be its final season of traditional broadcasts in Ontario. (Reach still exists, but we’re talking the old-school way it was done across the country on various TV stations. Hey, it’s where Alex Trebek got his start…)
We did 31 shows that year, some from the Telecentre on King Street West and others from the main building on Jackson Street. Oh, to have that much hair again…
I have boxes and boxes of VHS tapes of that season sitting in the basement should anyone want them.