Hay River’s free television system and community radio are looking for a new home.
The equipment for the radio and TV services was moved out of the Mackenzie Place highrise on the weekend of Oct. 17 & 18, and they are now off the air, although the community radio is still being streamed on its website.
“We had a small window of opportunity to move out before the elevators were shut down,” said Peter Magill, who noted the elevator ceased operation on Oct. 19.
Magill is vice-president of the Hay River Broadcast Society, which operates radio station CKHR 107.3 FM, and a director with the Hay River Community Service Society, better known as the TV society.
“To move all of that equipment from the 17th floor was going to be a major job, so we thought we better do it while the elevators are active because there’s no way that us older dogs are going to be able to drag all that equipment down the staircase,” he said.
Magill noted there was also concern that the power might be shut off in the building.
The television equipment was on the 17th floor, while the radio station operated from space on the third floor.
Magill noted there are still two antennas on the roof of the building for the television system and community radio, which will be taken down by specialists early this month.
“It was just a little too dangerous for us to try to get up there ourselves,” he said.
The equipment has been temporarily relocated to space provided by Super A grocery store while the radio and TV services seek a permanent home.
“We’re still looking for a place,” said Magill.
The television system – a free service that can be picked up with rabbit ears – features a community channel that is also available as Channel 649 on the Bell satellite network.
There were also 12 other channels broadcast to the community, including a movie channel, CBC, Radio Canada, CTV, Global, APTN, American channels from Detroit, and others.
“For some people that are on fixed incomes or who are seniors, these channels were enough and it met their budgetary needs,” said Magill, adding it a valuable service for the community.
The television society is using the interruption in service to assess what channels are being most watched by community members to determine how much space it needs in a new home, and possibly cut the number of channels to help reduce costs.
It has posted a survey on bulletin boards to seek input from the community.
Magill noted each channel requires about four large electronic boxes.
“It was a giant wall of equipment,” he said of the set-up at the highrise.
“We need to assess whether there’s a real desire in the community for the other 12 television channels,” he said. “We don’t have the space to house all of that equipment, so we have to understand how much space we need before we go and get space.”
Another consideration is whether a possible new building will be tall enough so that the radio and TV can be broadcast to most of the community.
Magill said a few locations are being looked at.
The television service is funded each year by the Town of Hay River.
Magill noted that Channel 5 alone is valuable as a way to promote Hay River and the NWT across Canada.
The television service started in 1994, while the radio station was established in 1979.
Magill said it is hoped that a new location can be found for both together.
“What we’re hoping is that we can share a space with both societies,” he said. “They marry well perfectly. They make sense together.”