Feature - TV for the times 

Cable 6; Whistler’s most undervalued resource?

By Kara-Leah Grant

Television is a technologically dense, labour intensive industry that requires highly skilled individuals to produce even the simplest of programming. Cable 6, Whistler’s community television channel, is producing hundreds of hours of programming every month with little funding, only three paid staff and the energetic enthusiasm of its volunteers. It is these people that are out every week, filming community events like the Air Band Contest at Myrtle Philip, live music at the Boot, council meetings and Olympic info sessions, not because they have to, but because they want to.

In just two years their dedication and enthusiasm for television has taken Cable 6 from a channel with barely any regular programming, to a channel producing several shows every week, including WAG TV, DIG, The Whistler Elite Fishing Show, K.I.C.S. and the new WORCA TV. But the expansion would not have been possible without the generosity of Whistler Cable and the vision of Don McQuaid.

Two years ago Whistler’s television landscape was desolate. Cable 6 had almost ground to a halt and was sidelined in an office in Function Junction. Lorna Carmichael, after a year of working as a volunteer for the station, had just been hired as director of programming.

"We moved to Main Street two years ago because we wanted to put the studio in a more central position for the community and improve its access for the volunteers coming in." says Carmichael. "The station always had community contact, but it didn’t have all the facilities we have now."

Those facilities came from Whistler Cable, the company owned by the Saperstein family for more than 20 years which operates Cable 6. Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) regulations require Whistler Cable to fund a community channel, which Whistler Cable has always done, but they boosted the resources behind the channel two years ago.

In response to increasing competition, the Sapersteins – in conjunction with McQuaid – did some focus groups and polls in 2000 and discovered the biggest advantage Whistler Cable had over satellite TV was the local content it could offer through Cable 6. Recognizing the community’s needs and the company’s advantages paralleled one another, the company has continued to invest in Cable 6.

With the increased facilities and better access for volunteers, Cable 6 began producing more programs and focusing on what the station’s role should be within the community.

"We want to produce a broad cross section of programming that we feel the community is looking for, kids programming, community events, music programming and sporting events," says Carmichael. "We are trying to cover a diverse range and are trying to get the programming to a quality level, where it’s entertaining rather than just a two hour filming of an event. We also want people within the community to become active participants in making the programming and become part of the programming themselves."

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