October 27, 2009

Waxing Poetic About CKWS and CHEX

I’m sure people are familiar with the Stop the TV Tax/Local TV Matters cock-sparring that has pitted cable and satellite providers, like Shaw and Rogers, against CBC, CTV, Global and other broadcast entities not owned by said providers.  I haven’t written an article about this “fight” for URBMN, as I find the whole matter ridiculous.

Conventional broadcasters want cable and satellite providers to pay for carriage of local channels, which are CRTC-mandated for inclusion in basic cable packages.  Cable/satellite providers counter by claiming that fee-for-carriage is a cash grab for the networks, since broadcasting isn’t as financially lucrative as specialty cable.  It’s a maelstrom of half-truths picked apart by better people than me.

What I’ve never done for URBMN is actually talk about local television.  This debate has reminded me of my own local stations, Peterborough, Ontario’s CHEX and Kingston, Ontario’s CKWS.

Yeah, I’ve slipped into nostalgia.  Give me a break, I don’t do this very often.

I don’t remember much local television coming from either CKWS or CHEX during my 1980s/1990s childhood, but it did exist.  CKWS had Harrigan, a relatively decent kids’ show from the little I remember of it.  CHEX had The Silver Basketball, which completely wasted Ron Oliver and chrome paint.  I also remember The Silver Basketball not being miked properly.

CHEX’s improbably long-running Campus Quiz was better, a regional variant of Reach for the Top with the shittiest prizes ever.

According to MyKawartha.com, Campus Quiz lasted until 1998, which is testament to the show’s format…or the result of the chicken still running around long after its head has been severed.  The promise of a Grade 8 student winning an INXS CD was never exciting in and of itself.

I remember the news shows with better clarity, particularly CHEX NEWSwatch.  CHEX’s news team in the 1990s featured CHEX newscaster/Campus Quiz host Graham Hart, former Canada AM personality Wally Macht, weatherman Peter Fialkowski and sports anchor Gary Dalliday.  For a metropolitan area of just over 100,000 people, that’s actually very good.  CKWS’ supper-hour news program wasn’t as memorable, largely due to the lack of Fialkowski and Macht.

CHEX and CKWS haven’t been blanched of regional identity like CJOH, CFTO and CityTV Toronto have been.  CHEX and CKWS may have put out crappy programming at times, and the graphics to this day look second-rate on both stations.  They’re still reflective of the Peterborough and Kingston regions, The New Adventures of Old Christine reruns notwithstanding.

CHEX and CKWS’ programs aren’t always pretty – at times, they’re shit – but that’s real, unforced Canadian culture.  People in Eastern and Southern Ontario do recognize John Badham’s voice.  Ontario residents inquire about Harrigan from time to time.  Campus Quiz has, if you can believe this, a Facebook fan club.

The best source of local television for Eastern Ontario was Ottawa’s CJOH, which was mighty in its day.  Nowadays, the station has become buttoned-down, po-faced CTV Ottawa.  While I can’t see CHEX and CKWS expand local programming beyond its weekday human interest show and NEWSwatch updates, that passes for notable in the largely dead local TV landscape.

If nothing else, I’ve written one of the few articles on the Internet that actually mentions The Silver Basketball.  I never thought I’d miss Ron Oliver sounding bored while the kids around him horribly project emotion, but I do.  No one makes shows that earnestly bad anymore.

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