The Miracle Channel Association, a non-profit, interdenominational, charitable society, applied to the CRTC in September for a licence to operate a TV station in Lethbridge. CRTC hearings to review the application were heard the following June.
The proposed station had been the goal of Pastor Dick Dewart for several years. Between 1986 and 1991 he operated a pirate station to relay U.S. evangelical broadcasts. The station was closed by the RCMP and the grassroots revolt would be a factor in the CRTC developing a policy for religious broadcasting. Dewart was founder and president of the Miracle Channel Association.
On April 4, the CRTC approved an application by Victory Christian Fellowship of Lethbridge (1983) Inc., on behalf of a society to be incorporated, for the operation of an English-language television programming undertaking at Lethbridge, operating on channel 17 with an effective radiated power of 31,600 watts, to broadcast religious programming from local studios and other Canadian sources, as well as religious programming originating in the United States. The licence would expire on August 31, 2001. The proposed television station and studios would be located within the Victory Christian Fellowship Church, situated on the outskirts of Lethbridge. All programming would be religious in nature and would include talk and information programs, church services, drama, music and programs for children and youth. The schedule included programs directed towards aboriginal people and specific ethnic groups. Victory's proposal for single-faith ownership of an undertaking dedicated solely to the broadcast of religious programming was one of the first such applications to be considered by the Commission following the release of the Religious Broadcasting Policty in 1993. Victory made a commitment to broadcast a minimum of 7 hours each week of programming from a variety of faith groups and denominations in the local area. Victory advised the Commission that it would actively solicit programming from other faith groups and denominations on an ongoing basis, and that it would make "reasonable efforts" to assist groups that do not have the resources to produce programming. The Commission noted Victory's proposal to broadcast a minimum of 70% Canadian content from 6:00 a.m. to midnight, and a minimum of 80% Canadian content from 6:00 p.m. to midnight.
On January 14, CJIL-TV Channel 17 (Cable 5 in Lethbridge) signed on the air. "The Miracle Channel" was on the air 18 hours a day, and largely operated by volunteers of the Victory Christian Fellowship. The call letters stood for Christ Jesus is Lord. The transmitter was located one mile east of Lethbridge. The station had an effective radiated power of 31,600 watts (100,000 watts peak) video and 3,160 watts (10,000 watts peak) audio. The founders described it as "the first Christian television broadcasting licence in Canadian history".
CJIL-TV was commercial-free and depended on the support of donors and viewers to continue as "a unique and significant contributor to the airwaves of Western Canada". Some revenues were also derived from the sale of air-time to broadcast ministries. The station aired programs which it described as "positive, character-building and entertaining for children". Saturday mornings featured a full slate of children's programs from its studios. Other children's programs were scheduled weekday afternoons to serve children arriving home from school. Youth programs were also featured, as were daily talk shows dealing with marriage, finances and relationships. CJIL was an affiliate of the Trinity Broadcasting Network from the U.S.
CJIL-TV had its signal expanded nationally on September 11 thanks to satellite and cable.
At some point in time, CJIL-TV expanded its broadcast day from 18 hours to 24- hours-a-day.
Due to an extra-marital relationship, Dick and Joan Dewart resigned from the Miracle Channel Association on May 20. Mervyn Mediwake became the iterim chief executive officer.
Gordon Klassen, Vice President of Corporate Affairs at Miracle Channel was no longer with the company.
On July 12, the CRTC administratively renewed the licence of CJIL-DT and its transmitters until August 31, 2013.
The CRTC approved an amendment to the licence for CJIL-TV to add a new post-transition digital television transmitter (CJIL-DT) at Lethbridge, operating on channel 17 with maximum effective radiated power of 8,600 watts (average of 2,800 watts), directional antenna, effective height of antenna above average terrain of 133.5 meters, using the existing antenna site.
The deadline for the conversion to digital television in mandatory markets was August 31. CJIL-TV made the change on August 24. The station continued to use channel 17 (17.1 digital). The rebroadcast transmitter at Burmis was to shut down by August 31.
On May 10, the CRTC approved anapplication to recognize CJIL-TV as a small-market, independently owned television station eligible for support from the Small Market Local Production Fund. The applicant stated that CJIL-TV met the following eligibility criteria: the station must be independently owned (i.e. not owned by one of the larger ownership groups identified in Broadcasting Public Notice 2003-37); the station must be available over the air; the station must serve a market with a population of fewer than 300,000; and the station must provide local programming. In support of its application, Miracle Channel Association also noted that the Lethbridge market was comparable to that of Medicine Hat, which had a 42% penetration rate of direct-to-home (DTH) broadcasting distribution undertakings, as detailed by the Canadian Association of Broadcasters in its submission in response to Broadcasting Notice of Consultation 2009-411. MCA further noted that religious stations such as CJIL-TV provide an important service to their community and that CJIL-TV was required by condition of licence to provide a "balanced" service reflecting differing viewpoints and the community it serves. MCA added that no other religious over-the-air station served a small market and that the Fund's annual growth exceeded the impact of adding one station. Finally, MCA cited its financial need, including costs to pay for its own DTH distribution amounting to $480,000 annually.
Written by Bill Dulmage - Updated May, 2012