The structure of a cable co-operative was uncommon for the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), Canada’s regulator of broadcast licences. Instead of paying dividends to investors, Regina Cablevisiin Co-operative would reinvest profits to improve services to subscribers and enhance its community programming channel. It would have members as well as subscribers. And this business model endures today.
A NAME CHANGE AND A BROADER VISION
In April 2000, Regina Cablevision Co-operative became Access Communications Co-operative. The name change signalled the co-operative’s broader vision: expanding and diversifying to more of Saskatchewan and providing additional telecommunications services, including internet and telephony. Today, Access Communications serves over 235 communities and 170,000 square kilometres of rural areas in Saskatchewan.
From the very beginning, connection to the community was paramount, says Jim Deane, Chief Executive Officer of Access Communications. In the 1970s, the co-operative’s sole video camera was used extensively in – and by – the community. The Co-op later added mobile production units to provide increased on-location broadcast capabilities.
1500 COMMUNITY GROUPS, 100 COMMUNITIES
With AccessNow TV - its local community channels available in over 100 communities – Access Communications broadcasts over 2,000 hours of first-run local programs. AccessNow TV provides “...unique opportunities for local expression in the areas served by the Co-operative,” observes Jim Deane.
As broadcasters consolidate and move to a more regional model, the community channels continue to be a very effective and powerful local broadcast medium. A founding purpose of Access Communications was to “reflect the community back to itself through the medium of television.”In the past year, telethons and fundraisers on AccessNow TV helped raise over $700,000 in support of charitable organizations including the United Way of Estevan, Regina Humane Society, Weyburn and Area Communithon – just some of the 1,500 community groups and events Access Communications supports annually.
TV BINGO AND ITS ROLE IN HELPING SK CHILDREN AND YOUTH
The co-operative’s registered charity, the Access Communications Children’s Fund, plays an important role in the lives of children in Saskatchewan. The Children’s Fund contributes funds to youth-based non-profit organizations, supporting projects for children and youth in communities served by Access Communications. Funding is made possible thanks to charitable donations from the public, fundraising initiatives by Access staff, and profits from its weekly TV Bingo program (which launched in 2006). Since its inception in 1992, the charity has donated more than $2.4 million.
MUCH MORE THAN CABLE TV
Since 1978, the little co-operative that could has grown to become one of Saskatchewan’s largest telecommunications companies. Access Communications provides internet, TV, phone and home security services to residential and business customers in communities and rural areas across Saskatchewan. The co-operative is 100% Saskatchewan-owned and operated, with over 300 employees and seven offices in the province.
We’ll give Jim Deane the final word. “I really believe Access Communications Co-operative does its part to make Saskatchewan a better place. We do that by giving back to the community, providing value to our customers, offering local community programming, and delivering customer service that is best in its class.”
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