Margaret Lyons (1924-2019)
By hiring many new and untried young talents for CBC radio, Margaret Lyons started what some called the “Radio Revolution”, and in the process broke barriers for women in broadcasting. In 1981, Margaret became the managing director of AM radio for the CBC’s English-language Division. Two years later, she became the Vice-President of the English-language Radio Network, making her the first female vice-president at the CBC and the highest-ranking woman since Nellie McClung’s appointment to the CBC Board of Governors in 1936. In 1986 she went to London to become the CBC’s Director of European Operations.
Keiko Margaret Inouye (Margaret Lyons), was born on Nov 21, 1923 to Japanese immigrant berry farmers from the Shiga prefecture in Japan. Margaret grew up speaking Japanese as her first language but was inspired by the Vancouver Province newspaper and hoped to work there. After the bombing at Pearl Harbour in 1941, Margaret and her family were forced out of the Pacific Coast area and moved to Winnipeg, Manitoba. First the family worked as sugar beet farmers and eventually Margaret worked as a cook for two years.
Margaret attended McMaster University as a political economy major and married a classmate, Ed Lyons, in 1949, the year she graduated.
After their wedding, Margaret and Ed moved to London, England. Their daughter Ruth Lyons was born in 1951, followed by their son Erskine in 1958. In 1952, Margaret landed a job as a dictation typist in the BBC’s foreign newsroom. From there, she worked her way up to the broadcaster’s producer training program. Margaret worked in both the French and Japanese sections at the BBC before becoming producer for the Overseas Service in English for Asia division. As a producer for the BBC, Margaret had the opportunity to interview Bertrand Russell and Lester B. Pearson, after he won the Nobel Peace Prize. Pearson inspired Margaret to return home and to use her talents at the CBC instead of the BBC.
In 1960, Margaret returned to Canada where she became a supervisor and started hiring producers and on-air journalists; among them was Mark Starowicz, who soon produced shows that included As It Happens, Sunday Morning and The Journal. She was also responsible for hiring Barbara Frum, Stuart McLean, Peter Gzowski and Michael Enright. In the mid-1970s, Margaret hired 19-year-old Ivan Fecan to create Quirks and Quarks, then hosted by David Suzuki. Fecan would later oversee the creation of other shows, including The Kids in the Hall and Road to Avonlea.
In 1982, Margaret was inducted into the McMaster Alumni Gallery, and in 1996 the university awarded her an honorary doctorate. In 2014, the McMaster Alumni Association presented her with its highest honour, the Distinguished Service Award.
In 2009, Margaret was appointed a Member of the Order of Canada, in recognition of her pioneering role for women in broadcasting and life-long volunteer service within organizations such as Canadian Association of Japanese Language Educators, the William Lyon Mackenzie House Museum and the Ontario Heritage Connection. Upon her retirement from the CBC in 1991, Margaret returned to Toronto to live.
Margaret Lyons died in Toronto on October 5, 2019.