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65 years since CHBC TV first beamed into Kelowna households

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It’s been 65 years since the warm glow of local television programming was first beamed into Okanagan homes in the form of CHBC TV.

After what’s described in archive newspaper copy as an arduous construction effort, including the blasting of rocks, building of roads and draping of power lines, live broadcasting in Kelowna began on Sept. 21, 1957, and a few days later in Penticton and Vernon.

“Television has come to the Okanagan Valley,” a Kelowna Daily Courier article from the day before programming went live, proclaimed. “For the first time in the long and colourful history of this, the greatest fruit growing area in Canada, people can enjoy the finest in television entertainment.”

The multipage spread heralding live, local TV offered everything from tips on how to watch TV to where, locally, one could buy the latest and greatest television.

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One of the many headlines included said, “Baby sitter problem? Then get a TV.”

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Chris Sobon, Global Okanagan’s current news manager, said there were only 500 homes with television receivers in September of 1957, but a year later that number had risen to 10,000 homes.

“The station ordered two studio cameras, but supplies were limited due to so many TV stations coming on the air in North America,” Sobon said.

“The result was that they had to make do with a single camera; on loan, for almost a year before the order was filled. The station relied on 16 mm film developed first by a local photo lab and then in-house.”

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Things were going pretty smoothly, but the technology was still a bit cumbersome. A year later, to cover the opening of original floating bridges, an event that featured Princess Margaret, Sobon explained that the station had to be dismantled and moved to the shores of Okanagan Lake to broadcast the event.

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“Our very first live remote,” he said.

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It was one first among many but arguably, one of the most important being in 1986 when CHBC-TV made a commitment to become “The Okanagan’s Very Own, CHBC” and differentiate the company from the forty TV signals being distributed by cable in the market.

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“A direction was set to produce quality local programs and commercials, as well as being more involved than any other media in the 55 communities served by the station,” Sobon said.

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“The company has been recognized and rewarded over the years for this direction with increased ratings. In 1995 we alone won 13 TVB Retail Commercial Competition Awards, one CAB Gold Ribbon Award for promotions, three CanPro Gold Awards for Eco Watch, Okanagan Magazine and Weather Bears Food Bank Promotion, as well as the RTNDA award for the best newscast in Canada for the medium-sized markets.”

In 1958 the station held an open house for the community. Global News
Jamie Tawil anchors the Global Okanagan newscast and Chris Sobon (right) is the news manager. Global News

Today, the station is part of Corus Entertainment. In 2016 the company acquired Shaw Media’s assets consisting of many specialty channels as well as Global’s conventional stations in Vancouver, Okanagan, Edmonton, Calgary, Lethbridge, Saskatoon, Regina, Winnipeg, Toronto, Montreal, Halifax and Saint John.

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Many familiar faces have come and gone over the years, including two Kelowna mayors. These days, Jamie Tawil along with Kimberly Davidson are the Global Okanagan anchors. The slate of broadcast reporters includes Klaudia Van Emmerik, Jules Knox, Megan Turcato, Jasmine King, Taya Fast, Sydney Morton, Victoria Femia, Travis Lowe and Jayden Wasney. They’re supported by an online team that includes Doyle Potenteau and Kathy Michaels.

Behind the lens are Steve Beskidney, Dan Couch, Bryon McLuckie and Jeff Martin, along with editor Dallas Dippel.

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