Article by Bob Cooper
West Indies Video (WIV) was created 'on paper' in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma in early 1979 when Mr. Edmund Ewing, an avid amateur ham radio operator from Providenciales was vacationing in Oklahoma with fellow amateur ham radio operator Jay Lieberman of Oklahoma. While in Oklahoma, Mr. Ewing met Mr. Robert (Bob) Cooper Jr. who also was a ham radio operator. Mr. Cooper was already known as the father of home satellite TV having created the first home satellite reception system in 1976. This invention was publicized in a number of electronic and consumer publications and the weekly TV Guide.
Mr. Ewing learned that Mr. Cooper was interested in establishing a research and development facility outside the United States and persuaded him to vacation on Providenciales and view the possibility of establishing the facility here. While vacationing here, Mr. Cooper met Mr. Art Butterfield who intrigued with Cooper's credentials questioned whether it was possible to have American Television on Providenciales using his system. This sparked an idea and once back in Oklahoma, Cooper and Ewing put together a game and business plan for doing just that - having American Television available to homes in Providenciales.
The headquarters were originally located in Grace Bay with signals being transmitted on VHF and shown on Channel 4. During the years 1980 to 1985, the WIV Compound was a testing ground for new technology. Engineers, Scientists, and Radio Hackers (including the Japanese scientist who invented the very first home satellite receiver for Ku band which lead to today's DirecTV) came from Japan, Sweden, the UK, and North America to test satellite and cable television equipment. They all had hair-raising tales of flying on Ed Hager's twin beech when they returned home.
Anyone with a marketable product would send that product down to be assembled and tested in our lab. Our technicians and engineers included Tom Humphries, Doug Dehnert, John Ramsey, Ali Lake, and Marshall Foiles. The test bases always had a new antenna and head end was always filled with audio and video equipment. Our local technicians, Valentine Pratt and Peter Stubbs, were learning new skills and technology each day during that era. Provo was the perfect test ground because there were no over the air radio or TV signals that would be interrupted as a result of the tests.
Word of the activity on Grace Bay reached Grand Turk and during the first three weeks of transmissions, the governor, HE John Strong, cam to Provo and had one question for Cooper: "How can we have this on Grand Turk, and the rest of the islands as well?” Immediately, plans were made to have programming aired on Grand Turk. A tower was erected at Mr. Royal Robinson's home on the Ridge, a transmitter installed and we began over the air broadcast of tapes produced in Provo.
The operations moved to Tower Plaza on November of 1982 with three antennas on site. Every piece of electronics - from Tower Plaza east to Grace Bay - had to be turned around which took a few days and meant that we had to run two head ends until the turn around was complete. We continued to operate on Channel 4, which was offered at no charge to those persons who owned TV sets and VHF antennas. Simultaneously, new pay channels using MMDS technology was introduced. This was the Turks and Caicos Islands first experience with Pay-TV and a number of people worked diligently to make it successful including Verna Rigby who sold the service to new customers and learned to install the new specialized MMDS reception equipment and would complete installations in the afternoons.
It is only fair to recognize persons who have contributed to the successful operation of WIV Cable TV throughout the years. Governor Pratt, Lovey Delancy, Jenkins "Junior" Rigby, Irene Dean, Art Butterfield, David Ward, Royal Robinson, Wendell Swann, Leonard Stubbs, Eldridge Garland, Earl Tucker, Ray Missick, Carolyn Lightbourne, Eddie, Wishnell, Tuncrat, and Loony Abdon. These people made their contributions and moved on. We appreciate their contribution.
In 1984, technicians Valentine Pratt and Peter Stubbs built every mile of cable line in Provo. The first real challenge came when they designed and built the system at Treasure Beach Villas and then went to Grand Turk to design and build the system for Ceday Homes but by then they had already assembled and tested every satellite antenna made at that time.
In 1985, WIV became a public company and shares were sold. There were now a total of seven individuals/companies owning the company. Valentine and Peter were given official titles. Valentine was made Chief of Construction and Maintenance and Peter was made Systems Operations Manager. Valentine and Peter were also given shares in the company with the opportunity to purchase additional shares. The company operated thus until 1994 when it was sold to its present owners (Blanchard TCI) and regained its private company status. We were televising 34 channels of international programming using a dual hard-wire and microwave system (MMDS).
In 1990, the company underwent restructuring. Patti Burke was at the helm and Peter was promoted to Manager, while Mike Scism worked with the accounts and designs. Judy Stubbs was Office Administrator while Velma Smith worked as the Accounts Receivable Clerk. Doris Scism assisted with office management and banking. Valentine was no longer with the company. Our technicians were Howard Stubbs, Kimmeth Harvey, and Andy Forbes. After Judy left us, Lynn Ewing-Chase worked as our Office Manager for some time.
Jim Henry - as a separate entity highlighting real estate properties within the Turks and Caicos Islands - was in charge of local programming on Channel 4. A number of talk shows including "Eye On The Issue", "Parenting" and "Crossroads" were produced while Jim was in charge of Channel 4. In addition, Randy Howell presented a news broadcast. When Jim left the islands unexpectedly, local programming on Channel 4 was suspended until in 2001 when the studios of Channel 4 were reopened under the direction of Samantha Slattery.