Sidney Margles (1939-)
Pioneer - Member of CAB Hall of Fame
Margles, Sidney (1939- )
Attending a teen audience-participation program on CJAD Montreal in the mid-50’s, Sidney Margles acquired a taste for a radio career when he was selected to read a commercial for the sponsor of the show – Coca-Cola. Opportunities followed on a part-time basis to write news stories for CJAD, and it was during his third year of a university education in 1959 that Sidney defected to seize an opening in the news department as a full-time writer.
Writing turned to broadcasting, and in 1960, CJAD provided Sidney with a transmitter-equipped mobile unit – a “studio-on-wheels” which could put a listener at the scene of a fast-breaking or major news event in Montreal and environs. From fires to politics – from celebrations to crisis – from civic issues to public demonstrations, Sid was there, or on call, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Sidney’s most memorable experience began during the dinner hour on a stormy Friday, November 29th, 1963. Sid, at home, received a call about an “explosion” in Ste. Therese – 15 miles from Montreal. His intuition sensed a disaster, and he was on his way even before it was learned that an Air-Canada DC-8 had crashed moments after take-off with 118 people aboard. Sid was the first newsman on the scene and with his microphone in hand was able to immediately confirm the crash and to describe the tragedy. His ensuing reports to CJAD were relayed to the CBS network in the USA and to the Voice of America. For his coverage of this disaster, Sid was the only radio newsman ever to receive an award from the Montreal Men’s Press Club.
Another highpoint was Sid’s coverage from the reviewing stand of the St. Jean Baptiste parade and the disruptive riot, during which Prime Minister Trudeau sat steadfast as other VIPs around him ran for cover.
It was also during the troubled times in Montreal from 1962 to 1970, when bombs were planted in several areas and there were many demonstrations and riots, that Sid was commended by listeners for his reporting. At press conferences held by Premier Bourassa and Justice Minister Choquette, which were conducted mostly in French, Sid’s ability to provide a running translation in English was appreciated by listeners and officials alike.
Also in the 60s, Sid pioneered “information radio”, hosting a weekly program with the Mayor of Montreal, and a similar program with the Premier of Quebec and provincial cabinet - quotes from which were often referenced in local newspapers.
When Standard Broadcast News was established in 1966, linking together stations in cities from Vancouver to St. Johns, Sid’s news reports went national, and sometimes international through NBC News in the USA. His memoirs highlight a historic event in 1979 which took place in Jerusalem to which Sid was the only Canadian radio newsman assigned to cover the historic meeting between Egypt’s Anwar Sadat and Israel’s Menachem Begin. Sid’s broadcasts were transmitted to Standard Broadcast News affiliates and to those of NBC radio.
In 1974, Sidney was appointed Vice-President and General Manager of Standard Broadcast News, moving to Ottawa to head-up the Standard News Bureau, with its staff of three correspondents covering Parliament Hill.
In 1980, Standard Broadcasting Limited received CRTC approval of its application for a new radio station in Ottawa. Sidney was given the task of coordinating the undertaking and supervising the building of new studios and hiring a staff of 50. When the station went on the air in 1981 on 540 khz as CJSB, (later to become CKQB-FM - 106.9), Sid was appointed Vice-President and General Manager.
In 1984, Standard transferred Sid to Montreal to become the President of Standard Sound Systems – a different form of broadcasting which provided Muzak to the Province of Quebec and in the Maritimes. It was at this time that CJAD called upon him to develop a weekly program with clergy similar to one which was aired in Ottawa. It continued on CJAD for several years.
In 1997, Sid retired as President of Standard Sound Systems - 40 years after starting his first paying job at CJAD. But in 2003, the Canadian Communications Foundation sought him out and gave him a mandate to chronicle the history of Canadian News Broadcasting, beginning with the year 1952. As a result, a seven-part history of news broadcasting in Canada can be found on this website.
As a newsman, Sidney Margles played a continuing role in serving the best interests of the people of Quebec. But it was not until he left the airwaves in 1987 that he felt he could find the time to contribute further to the community by seeking and being elected for 12 consecutive years to municipal office in the Town of Mount Royal where he and his wife Merle and 3 daughters lived.
Sydney Margles was inducted into the CAB Hall of Fame in 2009.
Written by J. Lyman Potts - November, 2009