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Veteran broadcast executive Roy Gardner returns to CHEK

CHEK-TV replaced its president and comptroller Friday in a major shakeup at the employee-owned station.

CHEK-TV replaced its president and comptroller Friday in a major shakeup at the employee-owned station.

CHEK Media Group announced that veteran broadcasting executive Roy Gardner was coming out of retirement to take over as president and general manager effective immediately.

Gardner, 68, worked at the station for 15 years in the 1970s and ’80s, serving as general manager before taking executive positions at BCTV and Global BC.

“As a board, we felt we needed to bring somebody with a ton of experience into our general manager role,” said chairman and investor Levi Sampson, who announced the changes at a staff meeting Friday afternoon.

Gardner replaces president John Pollard, who was instrumental in helping employees save the station in 2009 when CanWest Global Communications planned to shut it down.

The Sampson and Pollard families, along with businessman Graham Barnes, as well the employees and their union put up money to buy the station from CanWest.

Comptroller Rod Munro also left the company on Friday.

Sampson said no more changes are planned and insisted that the station is doing well.

“These are just two personnel moves that we decided to make, and the company moves on,” he said. “We felt that Roy would be the guy when he came available to us. His years of experience speak for themselves. He’s got an extensive background in programming and everything else, and he’s our man.”

After leaving CHEK, Gardner spent 21 years at BCTV and Global BC, where he served as vice-president of programming and general manager.

He retired in 2008 and was living in Peachland before taking the top job at CHEK.

“I was asked if I thought I could be of some help, largely in a programming sense,” he said Friday in an interview.

“I have a lot of experience in that regard, and the board, I guess, felt they need to make some change to improve in that area.”

Gardner said he wasn’t looking for another job, but was swayed by his affection for CHEK and his discussions with the Sampson family.

“I honestly got such a deep and sincere feeling that they just cared so much about the station and making it work that I finally said, ‘I’m in,’ ” he said.

Gardner, who is not a shareholder in CHEK, plans to focus in the first months on talking to people in the industry, getting a feeling for available programming and “getting back into the groove.”

The station, he said, seems to be doing well.

“I love the model. I love the concept, the employee-ownership thing … It’s a great way to get people working together, I think.”

Victoria journalist Diane Dakers, who is writing a book on CHEK-TV, said she was surprised at the changes.

“It’s a shame in a way because John [Pollard] was really instrumental in helping the employees buy the station,” she said. “At the same time, Roy [Gardner] was part of CHEK for so long, it’s nice to see it still in the family.”

Founded in 1956, CHEK is the oldest private television station in B.C.