Citytv celebrates 50 years

A technician working on the Citytv sign in downtown Toronto circa 1987 (Toronto Public Library Archives/Andrew Stawicki)

Citytv is celebrating the 50th anniversary of its first broadcast this week. City launched on Sept. 28, 1972 on channel 79 from its studios on 99 Queen Street East in Toronto, the former home of the Electric Circus Nightclub.

The company was made up of 36 founding investors, including channel licensee and cable TV pioneer Phyllis Switzer, television host Moses Znaimer, broadcast lawyer Jerry J. Grafstein, and film producer Edgar A. Cowan.

Known for its innovative programming and loose delivery style, the channel gave birth to original programming like Cityline, Electric Circus, Breakfast Television, and Late Great Movies, in addition to news delivered unconventionally with no desks and anchors reading the news standing up or on stools.

CHUM acquired 89% of Channel SeventyNine Ltd. in 1977, selling 21.9% to the City founders group and employees, reducing its interest to 67%. CHUM went on to acquire a 100% interest in 1981. In 2006, Bell Globemedia acquired CHUM Ltd. The CRTC approved the acquisition on condition that CTV sell off its five Citytv stations in Toronto, Portage La Prairie/Winnipeg, Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver. Rogers Communications reached a deal to buy the stations from CTV the following year and has owned them since.

Among the on-air segments looking back at five decades of Citytv, was a piece celebrating the station’s iconic continuity voice, reporter and late night anchor Mark Dailey, who was with City for 31 years, up until his passing in 2010. Other alumni over the years include Brian Linehan, Gord Martineau, Jeanie Beker, J.D. Roberts, Ivan Fecan, Jay Nelson, Dini Petty, Jeff Ansell, Bill Cameron, Stephen Lewis, Peter Gross, Jim Tatti, Christopher Ward, John Burgess, Bob Hunter, Anne Mroczkowski, Glen Cole, Ann Rohmer, John Gallagher, Monika Deol, Denise Donlon, Steve Anthony, Avi Lewis, Kevin Frankish, and Avery Haines, among many others.

In reflecting on the anniversary, current Breakfast Television co-hosts Dina Pugliese and Sid Seixeiro ruminated on growing up with the channel.

“A videographer…I didn’t know what that was until I saw City,” said Pugliese. “It was this scrappy, personality driven, instead of stilted, prompter-reading journalists. They were unconventional. You saw people that looked like you, that talked like you…shout out to Harold Hosein who did weather, JoJo Chintoh who was live on the scene, Laura DiBattista the first Italian I saw…”

“Gord Martineau and Anne Mroczkowski…that’s still, with the greatest respect to everyone in the city, that’s still the best news duo in the history of the city in my opinion. When CityPulse was king,” said Seixeiro. “Gord and Anne, they set the standard.”

 


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