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Brock Press - News
Published: Tuesday, February 4, 2003

TV station to address 'communication crisis'

By Jared Paton

The Niagara Region will not be silent much longer, as TVN Inc., a St. Catharines-based television station, is hoping to be up and running by Spring 2004.

The brainchild of Wendell Wilks and his son, Tracy, TVN will be a community-based station, servicing the entire Niagara region.

"This is the fastest growing economic community in Canada, and it's odd that a city like Regina can have four stations, while Niagara has none," says Wilks.

A 40-year veteran of the television industry, Wilks was responsible for founding the successful ITV Edmonton and CTS Toronto stations, as well as creating the new Graham Kerr show, The Galloping Gourmet.

Wilks, along with Tracy, TVN's executive-vice president, and Al Lutchin, vice-president of marketing, arrived last spring to examine Niagara's existing media coverage, and discovered something of a communication crisis.

"There is no cost-effective way to reach all 435,000 citizens in the Niagara region right now. The St. Catharines Standard's ownership is fragmented, with poor distribution, and radio only provides pre-packaged music services, with very little local content," says Wilks.

The station will be located in the old courthouse building, which TVN is renovating and restoring at its own expense.

TVN is planning on providing 44 hours per week of original, local programming. This includes a live, two-hour morning show from Niagara Falls, a two-hour afternoon live broadcast from the farmer's market downtown, and a nightly newscast. The other 48 hours of on-air time will be filled with classic movies, a service that is not currently provided to the region.

The station will employ 77 people in full time positions, 60 part-time, as well as numerous internships for college and university students. Also, in co-operation with the First Nations Technical Institute, they will be providing training and employment for Native Canadians.

Six mobile news teams will provide coverage for Niagara as opposed to the current supply of two reporters, one from the CBC who provides French news, and one from CH Hamilton for the English coverage.

The main goal of TVN is to connect the people of Niagara, informing them of the major issues facing the area. Wilks is convinced the station will quickly become known as "green centric." He is committed to conserving the rich farmland from urbanization and reducing the increasing damage that traffic to the U.S. is causing.

Cogeco Cable, St. Catharines sole local news provider, stopped broadcasting its daily news show in September. Unfortunately, Joanne Tweney, the manager of programming and community relations says, "we've found over the years that it's a huge drain on volunteer and staff resources."

In the past, Cogeco has partnered with Brock, and has always provided advertising for non-profit groups. Currently, they are producing four television auctions that have historically brought in over $200,000 for community groups.

Cogeco and TVN will supplement one another, "We want to unify and connect Niagarans ... to reflect the 'real' Niagara to the rest of Ontario."

This article may be found on The Brock Press' web-site.

Listen to TVN's CEO Wendell Wilks on a radio interview from CHSC.
A terrific interview in MP3 format, which you can stream from our site or download in four segments.

To download these files, please RIGHT-CLICK on the link and select "Save Target As" to save the MP3 files onto your computer.
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