Councillor- Ward 4 University

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Shaun & Karol Cameron
3016 Rosser Ave.
Brandon, MB R7B-0G9
(204) 724.0334
ward4@brandon.ca

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Councillor- City of Brandon
Ward 4 – University.

Remembering the little station that could- Brandon Sun

FROM THE FILES OF THE BRANDON SUN

BRUCE BUMSTEAD/BRANDON SUN
CKX News staff put on a brave face for their final broadcast 10 years ago. (File)

A little over a decade ago, CKX-TV closed its doors, ending 54 years of bringing Westman to people’s living rooms.

Karen Chrest, the host of the noon-hour show from 2002 to 2009, said she remembers the last day the station was on-air: Oct. 2, 2009.

“I spent the day at the studio, and I just remember we were all in the control room when the final credits faded out and all the monitors went black and there was just this awful silence … It was just a real gut punch to see that happen,” she said.

“We sat there after the monitors were black … I think a lot of people might have underestimated how much that local news mattered until their TVs literally faded to black right in front of their eyes … it was a very sombre, very sad moment.”

The station broadcast its first show on Jan. 28, 1955. For the next 54 years, it aired a one-hour local noon program and an evening newscast from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. It closed down after an ownership deal fell through at the last minute on Oct. 1, 2009.

Shaun Cameron, a former creative writer at the station, said it was a shock for Brandon when CKX went dark 10 years ago.

“CKX, unfortunately, ended up being challenged by bigger media and how bigger media was operating, and I don’t think that, maybe, it was able to weather the storm, so to-speak,” he said.

“When we look back on it now, the community still misses it and misses that sort of engagement — it’s still something that’s close to the hearts of the community.”

The station was able to tell the “hyper-local” stories of the Wheat City and surrounding area through video, something residents are now lacking. It made it easier for people to feel connected to the place they live and their regional community, he said.

“We were often challenged with often being not as technologically advanced as some of our counterparts, but we found ways to make it work, and I think that was what benefited the community, and what benefited the organization itself was people were really good at making it work.”

The best part of working at the station was when people engaged with the programming, Chrest said. If someone called in after a health segment to say they had booked a check-up with their doctor, she knew viewers were paying attention.

“A lot of people grew up with this station, as it was very much part of their lives, part of their families,” she said.

The station has several legacies in Brandon and across the country, Chrest said. Former reporters have gone on to work in cities all around Canada. For those who stayed in Brandon, the connections of the “CKX family” remain.

While the landscape has changed significantly over the last decade, both Cameron and Nate Bower, the station’s former creative director, said the community would still benefit from a local television station.

“Give it another 10 years, and you’re going to have so few people that remember it. Especially kids now, once they become business owners, adults, they’re not going to have memories of CKX and it was such a big loss to the whole Westman area when it closed down,” Bower said.

The station made Brandon a larger centre for Westman, he said. With the lack of a local television station, Brandon lost status in the rest of the province as local voices now don’t reach as far. Bower acknowledges it would take significant resources to get up and running but there still exists a market for local television.

Looking back, Chrest described CKX as “the little station that could.”

“I think that’s something that this city and this area and really all the staff that worked at CKX can be proud of. They put together a really quality product, and it really meant a lot to a lot of people. Even though we had to say goodbye to it, it’s not forgotten.”

» dmay@brandonsun.com

» Twitter: @DrewMay_

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