In 1967, the Canadian Association of Broadcasters established The Canadian Communications Foundation. Its mission: to “commemorate throughout Canada the development of electronic communications”. In the ensuing years, the project moved forward slowly, perhaps because broadcasters were too preoccupied with the challenges of the present and the future to their industry to be able to properly reflect on or to chronicle the past. But, all the while, a search was carried on to find the ideal vehicle with which to fulfill the mission.
It was not until the potentialities of the Internet were revealed and realized that the ideal vehicle was found and two veteran Canadian broadcasters became actively involved in CCF.
Ross McCreath (1924-2014), a senior executive of long standing with All-Canada Radio & TV a subsidiary of Selkirk Communications, had retired in 1989 as Vice-President of Selkirk, a venerable firm that he had joined in 1949.
Lyman Potts’ (1916-2018) interest in radio started in 1922, when as a five-year-old he watched the transmission towers being erected for CKCK on the rooftops of the Regina Leader buildings. His first broadcast on CKCK ten years later led to a lifetime career, first being hired by CKCK after finishing high school, and culminating in his retirement as a Vice-President of Standard Broadcasting in Toronto in 1981.
Ross, as a sales executive based in Toronto, had served the Canadian broadcasting industry with distinction on dozens of Committees or projects that involved the CAB. He knew virtually everybody that owned or operated radio and TV stations coast-to-coast, as well as having had frequent dealings with national advertisers and regulators.
In 1987, when he started a two-year term as President of the Canadian Communications Foundation, Ross implemented an ambitious project to tape interviews with both retired and active broadcasters who had helped to shape Canada’s broadcast industry. Over eighteen months, some 150 such interviews were recorded and deposited in the National Archives in Ottawa.
By the time Ross retired from Selkirk in 1989, the Foundation had become comparatively dormant, but he had kept copies of those tapes. Then, in 1994, he faced a pressing need to downsize his household inventory in preparation for a move to a condo. He began to search for a place for a site to deposit them for future public access, and his first call was to Professor Jon Keeble at Ryerson Polytechnic University. Jon, while sympathetic, regretted that he could not offer storage space for this type of Archive.
At this point, an approach to the CAB resulted in Ross and Lyman taking over responsibility for the future of the Foundation. A general meeting of CCF members was called, and a new Board of Directors was elected. Ross agreed to serve as President, and Lyman was named Vice-President.
Ross advised the Board of his earlier conversation with Jon Keeble, and reported that Jon had recently called back to suggest that an appropriate home for the interview tapes would be on a website about Canadian broadcasting. The members liked the idea, and encouraged Ross to explore the subject further. Through Jon, Ryerson Polytechnic (later University) worked on a “Prototype Web Page”, which was completed for CCF on June 21st 1995 by Jay Moonah. After approval by the Board, the site was launched on August 9th 1995.In due course, a new Mission Statement was created for the Foundation, which was: “To chronicle and document, in sight and sound, the History of Canadian Broadcasting, by establishing an electronic data base, available to Universities, Colleges, Schools, Libraries, news media and communication centres across Canada and elsewhere, giving free access to all persons interested in the development of Broadcasting and related services.”
Satisfied that CCF was again on the rails and a solid future was assured, the CAB decided to relinquish the responsibility for the Foundation to what became a separate entity as a non-profit organization. CCF’s headquarters were moved from Ottawa to Toronto, and Lyman was able to recruit Peter Searle, a former Vice-President of Standard Broadcasting Corporation, and a practicing Chartered Accountant, to volunteer his services as Secretary-Treasurer.
The day-to-day operation of CCF thus was in the hands of Messrs, McCreath, Potts and Searle, with McCreath and Potts also acting as Co-Editors, responsible for all content on the site.
During these early years, a multi-year annual financial donation from the Canadian Association of Broadcast Representatives (CABR), played a key role in enabling the work of the Foundation to continue, and the website to grow.Ryerson offered crucial assistance in the form of the use of their server to house the data, as well as expertise with the design of the site. Computer whiz Trevor Trinkaus was hired as webmaster. Lyman started writing biographies of members of CAB’s Hall of Fame, while Ross started gathering information on TV.
By 1997, the website carried some 130 biographies and information on most TV stations up to 1965. It involved a lot of contact with old friends and relatives of early broadcasters, to get photos for the bios and details on stations. The Internet proved to be a valuable research tool. What information had thus far been gathered was soon installed, and several people who had come across the site were quick to offer their assistance.
One such boost came from former DJ/newsman Bill Dulmage, who was very interested in Canadian radio, and supplied the Foundation with some 240 radio station histories, which immediately made the site far more interesting. In 2003, Bill came back with another assist of some 300 more radio and TV histories. Bill soon became the Foundation’s main resource for the updating of all the radio and television station histories on the site on a daily basis, and his work has been invaluable in maintaining the accuracy of the material.
If the site was to grow, it was clear that money was needed so that freelancers could be paid to research and write material for the site. In the early years, Ross and Lyman asked their friends in the industry for help, and over a three-year span collected about $ 50,000, which was used to pay out of pocket expenses. CCF had no paid full-time staff or offices: its executives worked out of their homes on a pro bono basis.
CCF’s biggest break came in the year 2000, when BCE purchased CTV, and a substantial grant to the Canadian Communications Foundation was a key element in the attendant “Benefits Package”. This clearly and importantly established the Foundation as being recognized by the CRTC as worthy of broadcasters’ support.
This funding, spread over the 7-year licence of CTV, made it possible for CCF to hire hourly-paid researcher/writers, and enabled the CCF to establish a nucleus of more than a dozen contributors from across Canada. One such new recruit was former CTV VP Pip Wedge, who in October 2004 succeeded Lyman Potts as Vice-President of the Foundation, and would later become President, and then Executive Director.
In May of 2004, a year-long update of the website was completed. Trevor Trinkaus, who re-designed the site in 1999, revamped the website to today’s technical standards, and also made it possible for authorized editors to go into sections of the site and make corrections or additions – a saving of both time and money.
Peter Searle resigned as Secretary-Treasurer at the end of 2006, and early in 2008 the Foundation welcomed former CTV Vice-President Finance and Corporate Secretary Peter O’Neill to the Treasurer’s chair.
In 2006, the CCF was fortunate to receive a grant from CHUM as part of the benefits package attending the acquisition of Craig Media Inc. The following year, Astral included the Foundation in its benefits package in connection with their application to acquire Standard Broadcasting, and the approval of their application provided the CCF with some additional funding over a seven-year period.
Ross McCreath and Lyman Potts, and later Pip Wedge, achieved a great deal over the years, and by 2010 a definitive history of broadcasting in Canada had been made available on-line as a unique resource through www.broadcasting-history.ca.
But, as broadcasting history continued to be made, it became apparent that new financial and human resources would need to be in place, if the project was to remain current and relevant.
It was against this background that, early in 2011, agreement was reached with Athabasca University (AU) for the transfer of the Foundation’s website from Ryerson to the AU server. As part of the Agreement, AU undertook to ensure that the site would be maintained on its server as a work of reference for the foreseeable future, whether or not funding was in place to finance further additions to the content. At this point, Darren Harkness from AU took on the technical management of the website.
Fil Fraser, Adjunct Professor of Communications Studies at Athabasca University, became President of the Foundation in 2011, with Ross McCreath remaining on the Board as Past President. He continued to provide sage advice and input until his death in Toronto on October 7th 2014. In November 2012, Fil resigned the Presidency to become Vice President, with Pip Wedge replacing him in the President’s chair. In November 2013, Dr. Evelyn Ellerman of Athabasca University replaced Fil Fraser as Vice-President of the Foundation. Peter O’Neill became Secretary Treasurer.
On December 31st 2014, Pip Wedge resigned from the Presidency of the Foundation, and on January 1st 2015 Dr. Evelyn Ellerman became President, Jack Ruttle was elected as Vice-President, and Pip Wedge was appointed as Executive Director of the Foundation. Jack Ruttle resigned from the Board at the end of 2017, and as of the Foundation’s AGM in May 2018, Dr. Evelyn Ellerman continued as President, and Tyler Nagel was elected Vice-President.
In April 2015 the Foundation commissioned a design firm to do a major update to the site, and it was anticipated that this extensive work would be completed by the early summer of 2016. Technical and other problems emerged that caused the launch of the new site to be delayed well into 2017, but all the historic site material remained available to the public. Darren Harkness steered this project to a successful conclusion, and also assisted the Foundation in moving the website to a corporate server.
Lyman Potts died on December 9th 2018, at the age of 102.
The following past and present broadcasting industry executives and university faculty members have served on the Board of the Foundation in a voluntary capacity at various times since 1996:
Ross McCreath, Lyman Potts, Pip Wedge, Jon Keeble, Mrs. Peggy Miller, Professor Michael Murphy, Peter O’Neill, Terry Scott, Fil Fraser, Bruce Raymond, Jim Macdonald, Hal Blackadar, Peter Searle, Nevin Grant, Charles Fenton, Bob Macdonald, Yvon Chouinard, Don Smith, J. Terry Strain, Mrs Jean Caine, Gerry Acton, James Nelles, H.T. “Mac” McCurdy, Bruce Hogle, Craig Roskin, Dr. Evelyn Ellerman, Ted Barris, Jack Ruttle, Dr. Asma Sayed, Darren Harkness, Tyler Nagel. Paul Cross, Owen Brierley, Shawn Praskey, and Adam Walker.
The Board of Directors of the Foundation as of the Annual General Meeting of June 12th 2019 were:
Dr Evelyn Ellerman – PhD President; retired Professor, Communications Studies, former Coordinator, AU e-Lab, Athabasca University
Tyler Nagel – Vice-President; Instructor, Journalism, SAIT, Cisco Resident Chair in eLearning SAIT
Owen Brierley – Executive Director and Co-Founder, Edmonton Digital Arts College (former Guru DAC),former President, Digital Alberta
Paul Cross Professor – Radio Programs, Humber College; former on-air radio broadcaster
Jon Keeble Retired Professor, Radio and TV, Ryerson University
Anne MacLennan – Chair, Department of Communication Studies, LA&PS Associate Professor Department of Communication Studies & York-Ryerson Joint Graduate Program in Communication & Culture York University
Adam Walker Manager, Network Intelligence, Former Manager Video Performance,
VOD Core Systems, Rogers Communications
Pip Wedge Executive Director; former VP Programming,
CTV Television Network
Peter O’Neill Secretary-Treasurer; former VP Public Affairs & Corporate
Secretary, Director Government Affairs, Strategic Planning,
and VP Finance, CTV Television Network