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We're on the air

Paul Bickford
Northern News Services

Fort Smith (May 01/06) - Fort Smith is getting a new television station.

Uncle Gabe's Friendship Centre is launching the station, which will initially broadcast two hours a day, seven days a week, between 7:30 and 9:30 p.m.

NNSL Photo/graphic

Chris Bird, the executive director of Uncle Gabe's Friendship Centre in Fort Smith, stands next to a camera in the new television station. - Paul Bickford/NNSL photo

Chris Bird, Uncle Gabe's executive director, says programming officially starts May 1.

Bird notes the goal of the station is to initially offer bingo, community announcements and advertising.

"We're looking at expanding our hours to broadcast other events in the community," he says, noting that might include such things as town council meetings, sporting events and the South Slave Friendship Festival.

There is even some discussion about presenting local news, he adds.

"We're tossing those ideas around."

Bird notes Uncle Gabe's has had a licence to broadcast since 1991.

Back then, a community TV station operated for a half-dozen years, offering mainly self-help videos.

Uncle Gabe's has been working on the new project for seven months. It had originally hoped to be in operation in November, but experienced trouble getting some equipment.

It has invested about $20,000 in getting the station up and running. The main expense was $15,000 for a new transmitter, since the old one was no longer usable.

Bird notes the friendship centre already had video equipment and computers, which it gathered together for the station.

"To pick up the station, people have to have a set of antennas, which everyone calls rabbit ears," Bird says.

If potential viewers don't have rabbit ears, they can buy them for $32 plus GST at the friendship centre and some other locations.

As of the middle of last week, two had been sold.

Bird says he has a switch box which allows him to alternate between satellite TV and the antenna. "I found that was the easiest."

The channel has actually been on the air for a couple of weeks, broadcasting music and test pages of ads for Uncle Gabe's.

It has no official name, Bird says. "We just call it Channel 6."