So long, and thanks for all the fish

It had the ring of a well-worn chorus from an old country tune: “It’s all about you and me and the people on Main Street.

It had the ring of a well-worn chorus from an old country tune: “It’s all about you and me and the people on Main Street.”

But the phrase is nothing of the kind.

It’s the way local videographer Leonard Alexander, described the focus of the soon-to-be-launched community television channel.

With camera and mike in tow, a group of Whitehorse volunteers will travelling the territory, and beyond, to capture the essence of everyday Yukoners doing their thing.

It lacks a studio, and a lot of gear. In fact, this project has but a single camera, a loaner from Alexander’s personal trove.

Nevertheless, the Yukon Community Broadcasting Society is on the final countdown for its April 1 launch date.

The fledging channel has signed a deal with WHTV, said society executive Sue Edelman.

The society is filling the dead air between the station’s city council and legislature coverage.

The goal is to fill those blanks with local content, from community theatre to oldtimers’ hockey games to experimental student video to news shows to swim meets in Anchorage, said Alexander.

“There’s a never-ending well of material,” he added. “We’re building a TV station for the benefit of the community.”

The project’s success will depend on people’s willingness to step before the lens, said Alexander, a middle-aged fellow who’s quick with a joke and exudes a contagious enthusiasm.

Functioning as a non-profit society, the station will depend on volunteers to bolster content with their own forays into media.

“It’s there for everyone to use, so for gosh sake, people, use it,” he said leaning across the table.

This isn’t a first for Whitehorse.

There was a community channel 20 years ago, but it folded in the mid ‘80s.

WHTV was the original community station, but soon morphed into a larger business, according to the Hougen Group of Companies website.

In the early 1950s, when Rolf Hougen and a small group local businessmen brought television to the territory, WHTV was producing and broadcasting many original shows.

As the station grew, it began importing canned TV shows and sports coverage from the South. By 1977, WHTV had 12 channels.

That year, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission passed regulations that killed community content in Whitehorse.

It was a slow death.

WHTV was no longer obligated to carry it, but kept it up well into the ‘80s, when it finally pulled the plug on shows like Rippling Rhythms.

You might remember it.

It featured a camera trained on a goldfish bowl, overdubbed with easy-listening music.

“At that time, via a business decision, they decided to drop the community aspect of the programming,” said Alexander, noting it had become too expensive.

Since then, nobody has revived it.

Until now.

“There have been many attempts, but no one has been successful until now,” said Alexander.

The idea of resuscitating community television is not new, he said.

This time, however, enough people have come forward to bring it back to life.

What needs to happen to bring filmmaking back to masses?

“We need people,” said Alexander.

“We need people who understand that we need this community service.”

That means warm bodies representing every age, language, culture and religion.

Community TV should reflect life in the Yukon, said Alexander.

To accurately reflect the reality of towns spanning from Watson Lake to Beaver Creek to Old Crow, the channel hopes to air shows created by members from distinct groups.

The Association franco-yukonnaise is already involved, with Sid Noormohamed sitting as a board member and a producer-in-training.

“Eventually, down the road, the French community as a whole will have their own programming, their own shows, their own camera crews,” said Alexander.

Having stood in front of the camera for the BBC docudrama Ice World, which was filmed in the territory, Noormohamed is more interested working from the other side of the lens.

“I wanted to work in the field and to know more about the community,” he said.

Learning to produce TV programs will serve the French population in two ways, he added.

“It’s both for the French community to show who they are, and to show the rest of the community about the French community.”

The society is recruiting those with expertise in audio-visual production.

However, it is just as interested in those like Noormohamed, who want to try their hand at splicing footage.

Training Yukoners to create video is key to achieving long-term goals — surviving and expanding through the North.

“Throughout the lifespan of this project, which we hope will go on for eons, we want the focus of community TV to be on the northern community,” said Alexander from a downtown coffee shop.

“No aspect of northern life can’t and shouldn’t be covered.

“In fact, we’re going to be a universal northern community network.”

Even before launch-date, the society has already make contacts in Inuvik, Yellowknife and Campbell River.

“We’re at such a point right now, with plans and visions for our future,” said Alexander.

“Let’s get this off the ground.”

If no gremlins mess up the system, community TV should be on air come April.

Tune in to be informed, educated and entertained by local talent on Saturday and Sunday afternoons, said Alexander.

Or take a run at your directorial debut.

With the launch date only two weeks away, Alexander is pinching himself to make sure it’s real.

“It’s a labour of love. When we see regular programming, it’ll be a little piece of dream come true.”