Doug Gale (1930-2011)
Gale, Doug (1930-2011)
Over a long career in television, Doug Gale earned an industry reputation for creative packaging and blockbuster programming in Canada. Born in Hamilton in 1930, where he received his public and high school education, Doug was working as a portrait and wedding photographer in 1955 when a friend suggested he apply for a job at CHCH TV in Hamilton, then only a year old. Starting out in the film department, splicing commercials into film reels, Doug quickly rose to become the head of the department in 1958, and from there became program director in 1965.
After CHCH disaffiliated from the CBC to become Canada's first independent station, Doug was thrust into the world of program acquisition from US studios and distributors in a big way. CBC and CTV had the advantage of being able to acquire national rights to U.S. shows, but Doug was able to forge purchasing alliances with other stations across Canada, as even stations affiliated with CBC and CTV still had slots in their program schedules that needed to be filled. The result was a loose coalition of stations with enough buying clout to land shows like Combat, 12 O'Clock High and Ben Casey for Canadian audiences. Also during this time CHCH became known as the "movie station", as Sam Hebscher was recruited from the management of several theatres to acquire what became an extensive library of films.
In the 1960's and 70's the US networks frequently ran specials. Increasingly Doug acquired Canadian rights to these specials and in close collaboration with CHCH's marketing guru, Gary Buss, the specials were packaged as Event Television. Before the term was coined, CHCH was becoming a true superstation.
As now, Canadian TV stations and networks could air Hollywood studio programs before they were aired in the US. So it was under Doug's leadership that CHCH was able to claim the world television premiere of the movie the Godfather. Other shows that got their Canadian television debut on CHCH were Miami Vice, All in the Family and L.A.Law .
The acquisition of midweek broadcast rights to Toronto Maple Leaf games in the late 1970's was a move that led to the development of the CHCH mobile production division, which eventually provided production services not only to CHCH but for networks in Canada and the US. CHCH crews became much sought after because of their technical skills.
Under Doug Gale's direction, with the strong input of his General Manager Frank DeNardis, the 1970's and early 1980's were golden years for CHCH in terms of profitability and audience. "We were able to air some fantastic shows in those days," Doug remembered.
Canadian programming was not neglected during this period. Titles like Party Game, the Pierre Berton Show, Tiny Talent Time and Under Attack were Southern Ontario mainstays. The Hilarious House of Frightenstein continued to be syndicated in Canada and the US, nearly 40 years after its first production. CH's production initiatives brought the station many CanPro Awards from its peers.
As successful as CHCH had become, by the mid-1980's changes were looming on the Canadian broadcast landscape. The first was the emergence of Global as a serious Ontario competitor with Doug for US programming. With a broader signal base than CHCH, Global was able to amortize its programs over a broader market. Soon the price of programming became increasingly expensive and CHCH started losing programs in bidding wars with its rivals. "The beginning of the end of CHCH's heyday was the loss to Global of the soap opera the Young and the Restless," Doug recalled.
In 1988 Doug retired as president of CHCH and shortly after his departure the station underwent a series of ownership changes in quick succession. In the early 1990's CHCH was purchased by WIC Western International Communications, and Doug was brought back to program the station again-something he did with success, in a time of increasingly fierce competition for programming. Doug Gale retired for good in 1993, leaving a unique legacy of innovation and creativity in Canadian television.
Doug Gale died on February 23rd 2011, after a short illness.
Written by John Best - October, 2010