Bill Forst (1925-2006)
Forst, Bill (1925-2006)
“Innovative and independent.” These are the first words spoken by veteran broadcasters when asked about Bill Forst. While his career was cut short by an untimely stroke, he remains recognized by his peers as a pioneer and builder in the Canadian broadcasting industry.
Born in 1925, Bill held an avid interest in all things new, and throughout his life he embraced the use of technology. If he couldn’t build it himself, and make it work, he would instead be the first to acquire it in the marketplace. This line of thinking applied throughout his life, and he was known to pursue all things new.
An engineer by profession, Bill’s career as a broadcaster began in 1951 at CKOM, a new radio station in Saskatoon. It continued further as a broadcast engineer at CKRD in Red Deer and then CFRN-TV in Edmonton, but it was only the beginning of a remarkable period of accomplishments. Before the decade was over, he would build CJCD Radio in Dawson Creek, CKSW Radio and CJFB-TV in Swift Current.
When CJFB-TV began broadcasting on December 23rd, 1957, it was only the third station in Saskatchewan. It brought television to Swift Current for the first time in history, and just like radio a year and a half earlier, it was brought by Bill Forst. The call letters FB stood for Forst, Bill. Together with his wife Julie, it marked the beginning of 45 years of local programming and independent ownership.
When the station was launched, it utilized a modular transmitter system, one of the first developed from GE. As television evolved, Bill Forst was one of the first in Canada to attempt his own satellite weather information through the use of antennae-tracking and facsimile equipment. Always looking forward, Bill was also one of the first television broadcasters to introduce automated programming. Early attempts proved unsuccessful, however it never deterred him from attempting to do what had not been done. In many ways, this epitomized his career as a builder and his belief in all things new.
CJFB TV closed its local studios on May 31, 2002 and the station's transmitters, towers and land were sold to CBC television. The call letters remain in use today. CKSW Radio continues to broadcast locally and celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2006. Bill Forst was the person who built both stations and is credited for bringing radio and television to the City of Swift Current.
A prominent member of the Swift Current business community, Bill Forst was a long-time Rotarian, and served with many local organizations. In 2005 he was honoured with a Centennial year citation from the Saskatchewan government. William D. Forst passed away from natural causes on July 27, 2006 at the age of 80. He was predeceased by his wife Julie.
Written by Lee Friesen - January, 2007