Year Born: 1922
Year Died: 2002
Year of Induction: 1988
Pioneer – Member of CAB Hall of Fame
Weber, John Frederick “Fred” (1922-2002)
Engineer, announcer, future entrepreneur, Fred Weber became a broadcaster in 1940 when he joined the staff of CKOV Kelowna, BC. He was appointed Chief Engineer in 1945. In due course, he joined Ian Clarke in Kamloops (then CFCR) where he installed the first low-power TV station on the North American continent.
Fred’s entrepreneurial skills emerged when he founded Cariboo Broadcasters Ltd (CKCQ) in Quesnel, remained as Managing Director and later President, and returned to Kamloops for a period of three years with CFCR-TV and CFJC,
In 1960, Fred founded Skeena Broadcasters Limited – starting with CFTK Radio in Terrace, with expansion to CKTK Kitimat, CHTK Prince Rupert and CJFW-FM Terrace.
Fred Weber’s next challenge was to bring television service to 250,000 square miles of Northwestern British Columbia – a monumental undertaking that began in 1962. The area was rugged, and the only means of sending the signal to outlying communities from Terrace was by the use of translators situated on many mountain tops which were only accessible by helicopter. Many of these communities had no access of any kind to broadcast facilities, and were not thriving communities that could support television in a monetary way. Funds were tight and Fred Weber came up with a unique idea to assist in the funding of capital necessary for the venture by providing $25.00 TV gift certificates. An arrangement was made with local advertisers whereby the general public would buy a certificate for $25.00, and this would apply against the purchase of a TV set. The sponsor would receive dollar for dollar advertising when the certificates were redeemed by the TV station. This provided considerable funding for the station. Most of the communities that would benefit from the TV station could not provide advertising dollars, but Fred felt morally responsible to provide TV service at no cost to the communities.
In many ways he assumed the mandate of the CBC and made TV a reality in the northern outreaches of British Columbia. The cost of maintenance of these propane-gas-energized translators was tremendous, and access was limited to helicopter. With unpredictable weather, there were many problems, but Skeena Broadcasters Ltd remained a high profile industry in the northwest.
In 1971, Fred Weber, recognizing the necessity of providing further entertainment and education to the people of north B.C., started cablevision services to Prince Rupert, Terrace and Kitimat, which were expanded later to Bulkley Valley and Hazelton.
At the time of the assassination of John F. Kennedy, CFTK-TV was the only station that the people of Alaska could receive “live”. A special memorial program was organized, and because of the fact that programming (on film) reached CFTK three weeks after the original broadcast, Fred Weber donated one full day of coverage of the assassination through to the burial of the President. Appreciative Alaskans continued to pay tribute to that special day and remained fast friends with CFTK.
Through the early years of the company, funds were not flush. However, CFTK-TV won many awards for its local production and coverage of news stories, because the company policy laid down by J. Fred Weber stressed public service and interest in the communities
J. Fred Weber’s interest in technology continued to be evident in the operations of the broadcast outlets. Available to the staff was the most modern equipment obtainable. His was the first business in Terrace to install an IBM computer, and CFTK was the first Canadian station to use the Columbine traffic and program software.
J. Fred Weber’s dedication to the vast area to which he brought AM and FM Radio and TV is reflected in the many roles he played in public life.
He was the mayor of Terrace for 1968-1969 – a President of the Rotary Club, the Chamber of Commerce and Regional Commissioner for the Boy Scouts of Canada. He also served as Chairman on the Regional District of Kitimat-Stikine – the Terrace and District Hospital Association – the Open Learning Agency. He also became President of the Yellowhead Interprovincial Highway Association – Chairman of the Board of Okanagan Skeena Group Co. Ltd – President of Nash Investments (Terrace) Ltd and a Vice-President of Grande Kalam Developments Co. Ltd. In 1990, he became a member of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ Half-Century Club.
In 1988, J. Fred Weber was inducted into the CAB Broadcast Hall of Fame.
Fred Weber died of pneumonia on May 7, 2002 in West Vancouver, B.C.
Written by J. Lyman Potts – December, 1996