The board of directors of the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako (RDBN) has approved an increase in funding to the Houston – Smithers Rebroadcasting Society.
The society had requested a 20 per cent increase in their annual operating grant, which has remained the same ($50,000) since 1995. The 20 per cent increase in grant will bring their grant total to $60,000 per year.
The society plans on using this increased grant to add four digital channels – Knowledge Network, Discovery Channel, Family Channel and CBC Vancouver – to the Houston/Topley area, as well as to purchase replacement equipment for their sites.
The new channels, which are already available in the Smithers/Telkwa area, are expected to be on air in the Houston/Topley area by the fall of 2018.
The funding increase to the society will mean an increase in property taxes. Tax rates for municipalities will approximately increase from $0.020/$1000 to $0.024, and for rural areas from $0.0280/$1000 to $0.0336 (rural areas are improvements only).
For a residential property valued at $200,000 in the municipalities, this is an increase of about 80 cents, while for a residential improvement in the rural areas valued at $200,000, this is an increase of about $1.12.
According to Richard Harris, president of the Houston – Smithers Rebroadcasting Society, the group has been facing continuing pressure from increasing costs every year.
The current annual costs for operating all four of their rebroadcast locations is $43,000. The remainder of their funds are used to pay for replacement equipment and unbudgeted repairs to their TV transmitters and antennas.
“We are also in a position where our transmitters need more frequent repairs and a number of our satellite receivers will need replacing due to technology changes in the next year,” he adds.
A 2012 survey conducted by the RDBN showed nearly 90 per cent of respondents supported the continuation of the services provided by the society.
The Houston Smithers Rebroadcasting Society was formed in 1977 to bring a second TV channel to the Bulkley Valley. They started with two transmitters – one in Houston and one in Telkwa, rebroadcasting BCTV from Vancouver.
The transmitters in Topley and on Hudson Bay Mountain were added to ensure as much of the region as possible was covered.
The society is now also rebroadcasting CBC Radio 2 (104.7 in Houston and 88.1 in Smithers) in stereo. This was made possible by donations from the public and the help of CBC.