Selkirk Communications Ltd. (1920's-1989)
In the 1920s, when radio began, it was logical that the first people to start selling radio receivers were the local mechanical shops, since this new “gadget” was battery powered – by larger batteries than the size of a car battery. In Edmonton, Hugh Pearson’s auto shop started CJCA, and Harold Carson in Lethbridge bought CJOC (some say he won it in a poker game!). They started talking about their problems with this new thing called radio.
They both found that they were having difficulty finding enough material for broadcasting, and advertising sales were limited. They decided to form a company, and since they needed money, they asked Jim Taylor of Calgary, who was also in the auto parts business, to join them.
Taylor Pearson & Carson was formed in 1934. It would specialize in station management, programming and sales. In 1936 they formed United Broadcast Sales.
In 1936, James Richardson & Sons. Winnipeg created a broadcast sales company called All-Canada Radio Facilities Ltd. to be the sales agent for their radio station CJRC. Harold Carson liked the name and proceeded to merge the two sales companies using the All-Canada name. Guy Herbert was sent to Toronto to open an office. Two years later they had offices in Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg, Calgary and Vancouver, becoming the largest representative firm in Canada for the next 40 years, in both numbers of stations represented and in billings.
In 1938, the Calgary Herald (Southam Press), owners of CFAC Calgary, decided to get out of direct radio station ownership. They sold CFAC to T. P. & C. - the price was settled at 20% ownership of All-Canada Radio Facilities Ltd.
To solve their own need for programs, and that of other stations as well, they formed a Program Division of All-Canada, to acquire rights for programs on electrical transcriptions. Harold Carson went to New York and Hollywood,(by train), and made contracts for not just Canadian Rights but World Rights (except the USA) to such programs as “The Lone Ranger”, “Guy Lombardo”, The Ronald Coleman Theatre, Eb and Zeb and many, many more. In fact by 1940, All-Canada’s Program division had the largest library of transcribed radio programs in the world.
Along the way, the station management division was formed – ACMO – All-Canada Mutually Operated stations. They offered their experience to owners who had found that running a radio station was more than they had bargained for; they selected and trained people at their own stations, and sent them to locations as far away as Saint John, New Brunswick to start new stations. In many cases, the ACMO arrangement ended up with TP&C buying the stations they were helping – CKWX Vancouver and CFGP Grand Prairie were examples.
In 1949, President Harold Carson decided to add strength to the Toronto office of All-Canada Radio Facilities, where the Program Division was located and where the majority of advertising dollars were originating. He appointed Stuart MacKay as President of All-Canada and moved him from CKWX Vancouver to Toronto.
1953 marked the opening of All-Canada’s Television Division, six months before any private stations came on the air. Reo Thompson was appointed Manager, and in preparing for the sales approach, he and his two salesmen visited a number of U. S. stations in various size markets to learn from their experience when it came to assessing the sales requirements for the forthcoming private Canadian TV stations.
In 1954, All-Canada Radio Facilities Ltd. became All-Canada Radio & Television Ltd., and by 1957 the company represented 15 of the 20 private TV stations on the air in Canada.
T. P. & C. had financial interest in three of those stations, CHCH-TV Hamilton, CHCT-TV Calgary, and CJLH-TV Lethbridge, and those interests resulted in complete ownership of each station after the first few years of operation. T. P. & C. had other minority TV interests – in CHAN-TV Vancouver, CHEK-TV Victoria and CHBC-TV Kelowna, where majority owners bought 100% of the stations.
In 1959 Harold Carson died, and the name of the company was changed to Selkirk Holdings Ltd, with Stuart MacKay as its President. Preparations were underway for expansion.
In 1960, All-Canada moved into a new building at 1000 Yonge Street - The All-Canada building, with facilities in the basement for the Program department’s shipping department, which had had to change with the times and now handled film distribution to TV stations, just as they had done with programs for radio stations in the past.
In 1965, another change in the corporate structure took place as Selkirk Holdings Ltd. became Selkirk Communications Ltd., a public company listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange, with its head office on Bloor St. in Toronto, and Stuart MacKay as President.
During the 1960s, Cable television had started to develop, and Selkirk had interests in 5 domestic and international cable companies, in which they took an active part. In Canada there was Greater Winnipeg Cablevision Ltd. (50%) and Ottawa Cablevision Ltd. (41%), and in the U. S. two systems – one in Irving Texas and the other in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. They also held an interest in Cablevision in Wellingborough, England (50%).
In the late 1960s, All-Canada started a new representative business in the U. S., Selcom Inc., headquartered in New York, and in a year had over 100 radio stations on its list, and offices in seven U. S. cities.
In the early 1970’s, the British government decided to open the airwaves for private radio. Representatives of Selkirk met with a UK group that included newspaper people and was interested in securing a licence, and they ended up with a 46% interest in London Broadcasting Co. Selkirk assisted with the presentation for the licence and London Broadcasting was successful in winning the proposed All-News radio station licence for London. Selkirk was also a consultant and minority shareholder for stations in Wolverhampton – Beacon Broadcasting Ltd. (30 %), - Radio Forth Ltd. (29%), and Radio Victory Ltd. Portsmouth (15% interest). In London the company supplied engineering assistance for the entire time it took to get the station on the air and through their first months of operation – almost a year and a half. Selkirk’s Ottawa News Director, Bill Hutton, spent several years as Managing Director of LBC London.
In the late 1970s, All-Canada bought an existing U.S. TV representative firm, Meeker Television Inc., and changed the name to Seltel Inc., expanding the list of client stations to more 90 cities with offices in thirteen cities.
Just before London Broadcasting went on-air, All-Canada opened Radio Sales & Marketing Ltd., as the sales arm of LBC., London, England’s new All-News radio station.
Over the last twenty years of the life of Selkirk, the firm had many allied operations such as Quality Records Ltd. (manufacturer of music recordings), Selteck Equipment U. K. (representive of Canadian broadcast engineering equipment), Selkirk Films Ltd. (produced Alistair McLean’s “Bear Island”), TOCOM Canada, and TOCOM Inc.U.S.A (37%) (creator of technical programs for Cable operators)
In February 1989, as CHCH-TV was in the middle of the renewal of its TV licence at a CRTC hearing being held in a building on the CNE grounds in Toronto, an aide slipped a note to the Chairman, who after reading the note, announced that this section of the hearing was being adjourned as there had been an announcement that Selkirk Communications had been sold to Maclean Hunter Ltd.
Later in the year, a hearing was held to approve the sale.
See individual station histories for details of the impact of the sale on each of them.
Selkirk Communications Ltd. (1920's-1989) Radio Stations
(Click on the call letters to view individual station histories)