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This is Phil Stone, the guest on this tape is John Coleman, vice President, government relations and corporate planning for the CTV Television network.
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John started in broadcasting in 1953 when he worked for British United Press in Vancouver as Western radio editor. In 1954, they transferred him to Regina as Bureau chief.
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And then he rejoined the Regina leader post as a reporter.
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In 1955, he was working in Montreal and then in Vancouver with Canadian National Railways Public Relations Department.
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In 1958, he became public relations manager of Pepsi Cola Canada. 1961 joined the FH Hayhurst advertising agency as a senior account executive 1964 saw him as general manager of Miss.
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Canada pageant 1965 to CKY Toronto as national sales Rep then CFTM Richmond Hill as national sales manager. He joins CTV in 1967 and today. As we said he.
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Vice President, government relations and corporate planning.
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John, it seems a long way around from those early days of British and I depressed.
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Do you remember them?
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Ohh yes, I remember them well.
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As a matter of fact, I worked for Bud Sherman, who as you know, is now Vice Chairman for the CR TC and Bud and I were organizing the Western.
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Set up for British United Press, I serve both as.
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The Regina Bureau manager for him and then prior to that in Vancouver, as the Western Radio wire editor.
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So I remember it very vividly.
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What about the equipment you worked?
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With in those days, well in Vancouver, I was in what was called the Vancouver Sun Tower.
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I think it was the 17th floor, but I can’t really remember.
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And I work from midnight to 8:00 AM.
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We had 17 teletype machines.
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The police radio, telephone hookups with both Seattle and with Winnipeg to organize various feeds and what have you.
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And working alone and and bringing in a a a record player.
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Because I was then and still am a great jazz fan, it seems to me a miracle that I could pay attention to all of the signal bells.
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Do my radio feeds for the wire for the World Report and the World Report in brief, which we call the.
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And still listen to the police radio and be in contact.
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I I don’t think I could do.
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That now, Phil.
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I don’t think they have to.
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Happily, they don’t have to do that.
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Now when you talk about the signal bells.
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That said, there’s something important.
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There are four or five bells that would give you a clue that something important was coming down the wire and there would be an indication of a.
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Feed time and so forth and so on.
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BU P back in those days was not what broadcast news is.
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British United Press in those days was was the only existing private operation and competition with Canadian Press, which had broadcast news.
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We tried to offer a competitive service.
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It did for quite a few years, but British and I have press, as you probably know know is no longer really in service in Canada, United Press International maybe still operating the states.
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I really don’t know.
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I’ve lost track.
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PPI does work at any rate.
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I’m trying to think of what it was like in those early days when you came in there and you had to gather news in a city like Vancouver or you had to have your finger on what was.
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Happening in Western Canada, didn’t you?
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Yes, yes, that’s really what the responsibility was the for time zone differences in whatever we operated the Western.
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Radio wire from Vancouver in reverse mode.
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That is to say, going east to Winnipeg and then the Toronto office handled the east from from.
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I guess the lake head east to Newfoundland.
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So I had half the country for my responsibilities in the midnight data AM shift.
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Were you worried about television in those times?
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I guess when I was there.
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There was CBC and a few markets towards the end, but there really wasn’t any television in those days. And in Regina in 54, my responsibilities were both as Bureau chief for Regina and also sales manager for Saskatchewan. So I spent half my time running around the province.
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Trying to convince radio stations to sign on with BP and I must say I didn’t do very well at that and the other half the time trying to act as Bureau manager and Regina, which would one man Bureau?
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At the tender young age of 21, as the youngest Bureau chief in the United Press Directory at that time, it was a hell of a lot of fun, a hell of a lot of work, but I can’t honestly say I.
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Got a a tremendous amount accomplished.
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I imagine a lot of young people who will hear these tapes in the archives.
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I’m not familiar with the fact that radio stations buy.
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These new services.
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Yes, they do.
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I don’t recall what the formula was then, but it seems to me it was a my very minor percentage of what was estimated to be the gross revenue would be the fee for the year and we would put in a printer.
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Teletype, telex type printer and we would feed the station with a 24 hour digest of news if they operated 24 hours a day.
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Most stations in those days didn’t, of course.
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So 12 intents and purposes it ran from about 8:00 AM till about 2:00 AM you left.
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The radio business per say.
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I worked for a newspaper for a short while, but eventually you wound your way through various.
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Shall we say occupations back to broadcast?
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If I look back on it now, radio has really always been my first love.
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It is to me, the media of imagination.
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You know your mind creates the pictures that radio provides the sketch for, and I’ve always been in love with broadcasting and getting into television.
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Actually started when I was with FH Hayhurst.
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We were responsible for the production of a variety of programs out West.
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Television programs tied and tides and trails produced in Vancouver.
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Circle 7 Ranch, which was produced in Winnipeg in each case by CTV.
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And then the the client that I represented Rock City Tobacco was the sponsor for CTV National News in its first year and I spent a lot of time in Toronto and out West looking after the productions and started out in that end of it.
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So it’s in my blood.
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I think if you were to tap me right now, you’d either get radio signals.
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Television programs, ad agencies created programs and didn’t.
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They yes, if we didn’t create them, we undertook the whole sponsorship and therefore had a significant role in the production of those programs.
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Tides and trails, for example, was on 32 television stations as Far East as I think Thunder Bay.
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But mostly in the West.
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And there were CBC private affiliates and the CTV affiliates.
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I don’t think there are any independents then.
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So it was a lot of fun.
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Running around the country.
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What is your memory of those productions?
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Were they what do you call them?
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Well, yeah, I do.
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I still call them good.
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I think they would stand the test of today’s comparison.
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Tides and trails was done by a guy called Ted Peck, who worked for Chan TV in Vancouver.
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And went all over the West of film producing his program, which as one would assume was about hunting and fishing.
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And it was a lot of fun, and I think the program, if you had it on today, would be just as interesting now as it was then.
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Circle 7 Ranch was a country style musical program half hour.
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And it used a lot of Western or local talent.
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And I think if that program were still on air today, it probably would have just as responsible an audience as it did then.
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It was a good program both of.
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Them were a lot of experimentation that time.
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Not in those two programs.
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What we did in experimentation when I was also with hayers.
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Working with Cfto and CTV, we did an experimental project called Interview for lack of any more creative.
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Well, and John Bassett, in fact, was one of the test interviewers and he he he appeared on camera as a host of the program.
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We produced 13.
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We actually aired 9.
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It was a production initiated creatively by FHA.
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1st for Rock City Tobacco as a vehicle for #7 cigarette.
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And that would have been in the summer of 1962 or three, I can’t remember exactly, but it was in the early years of CTV.
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So my relationship with the network actually goes back, I guess to its first year of operation when I was buying a lot of time and buying a lot of.
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Programming and then of course when I went to Miss Canada pageant for it.
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First year in national telecast, it was on CTV.
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So I guess you could say I’m a complete veteran of CV.
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When you produced.
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That first show for the Miss Canada pageant over some of the problems compared to what we had today be a lot different, wouldn’t it?
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Yes, but I meant mechanical or equipment or personnel.
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No, I don’t.
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It was a live telecast on the Saturday night or the Sunday night rather from the O’Keefe Center in Toronto.
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And live television was then and still is a problem because you have no assurance that it’s going to go well.
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So there is always the risk of live television, but in the generality when I look back on it.
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Interestingly enough, Murray Churchover was the.
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Executive producer for CTV of that program and I’ve ended up working with him ever since.
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Today, he’s president of CTV.
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So yes, and has been his longest serving president in television in the world.
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And I’ve been at his right hand, I guess, since October 74, when I came back from Montreal to my marketing assignments in those days.
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But I don’t think the miscounted pageant telecast the first one ever.
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Nationally in Canada, was significantly different.
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Than it would be today.
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However, there are two interesting features about the first Miss Canada telecast.
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Peter Jennings was the host and we all know where he’s gone since, but not necessarily because of that event.
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And Gordon MacRae was the guest host. It’s interesting that the Canadian production even then used an American headline star, but it was 2 1/2 hours live television that went to three.
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Person 12 minutes and that’s the way of most live telecast.
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So it was a lot of fun doing that.
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It was a great.
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But then you went back to radio, you went to CKY, didn’t you?
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Yes, I I did, yes, I left FH Hayhurst at the invitation of the people who were organizing the pageant because I had worked when I was manager of public relations for Pepsi Cola.
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Pepsi Cola had been a founder.
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Thunder of the Miss Canada pageant when it was still being.
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By the hairdressers in Hamilton before it became a national telecast and I had a lot to do with the pageant in those early days.
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And so when they were going to take that over and have a national telecast, they sought me out.
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I was then working in Toronto with FHA years to become the general manager.
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I thought it was a good idea at the time.
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In retrospect, I don’t think it was really, but it was an interesting experience nevertheless, because as a general manager I had the responsibility for pulling the whole event together, not just its telecast.
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And that was a.
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Lot of fun, but you had we were talking.
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About you’re going to see why.
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And I left there while the pageant was a financial disaster and I ended up looking for work.
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And a fellow.
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The name is Stu.
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You probably know.
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Invited me to join CKE’s national sales force because they wrapped themselves in those days. They may still, I don’t know.
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And so I went into radio directly in marketing.
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Then at the conclusion of the financial disaster of Miss Canada pageant, went on the street as a salesman for CKY, with the advertising agencies in Toronto.
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What was that like?
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And well, that’s a good question.
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How did they receive you?
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It was a terrifying experience for me because I convinced myself at the time that I was not a salesman.
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And I must say, in those days that I had a relatively low opinion of salesman, I quickly realized that there was no reason to have that opinion, because it’s not an easy job at all.
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And I spent a lot of time learning the ropes with Stew.
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Brandy, who was very kind, very patient.
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A lot of people who have gone through our industry started out in essentially the same way in radio marketing in those days.
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I was a complete greenhorn.
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It didn’t occur to me until maybe six months after I’ve been at CKY that what I was doing at cku.
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I was really no different than what I’ve been doing in 53 in Regina, selling British United Press or trying to to recalcitrant radio stations. It was really nothing different than what I’ve been doing as an account executive.
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Selling media plans to the client, for example, or going out and trying to buy time in the regions.
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Across Canada, principally radio, which was a reverse form of selling, even though it was considered a buying process and generally speaking, I realized that I’d been in sales just about all my life and hadn’t understood it before.
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So while it was a new experience because I was.
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Dependent upon my own ability to generate my own revenue and that was a little terrifying.
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I suddenly realized that was pretty damn good.
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But there was a variety to what you were doing.
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CKY was a broad kind of programming station.
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Well, it was.
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It was six or seven in the market out.
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It was about 9:00 or 10 stations.
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And then he went to a country station that was even worse.
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So you were selling?
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Else yeah, it was a little tougher to sell the country music station.
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That meant that you would pretty well gone.
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Round the wheel.
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Oh yeah, yeah, I.
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I treasure those early years when I was in sales because it gave me an infinitely better appreciation for how tough this business really is.
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Radio and television from the sales point of view, especially when you’re an underdog.
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And I think I had a lot of fun being in an underdog position because when I first went to CTV, shortly after the Affiliates had taken over the ownership.
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On the brink of financial disaster, we had an enormous repair job to do for the national image of CTV.
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We had a particular difficulty in Montreal, which is where our I was sent down for the first seven years of my 21 with CTV.
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And it was a great challenge trying to enhance the image of the network trying to bring in the revenue, trying to provide that focus for in those days, we were still producing, I think three or four shows a week in Montreal and I had a supervisory responsibility for that as well as a supervisory responsibility for our news Bureau at the time.
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Which had people like Peter Candus the as the Bureau chief in Montreal and was there over the October crisis and so forth and so on.
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It really is in my blood and.
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I love it.
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Well, you talked about the early days of CTV.
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What was there?
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The big problem, but let’s first of all.
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We had a.
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Let’s talk about why was it created?
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I guess to be candid, CTV came into existence in a sense by default, the then head of the Bureau of Bureau of Broadcast Governors, Doctor Stewart.
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Had received applications for the Toronto television station, the new Independent one.
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Spence Caldwell was a competitor for that.
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He didn’t win the right.
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Joel Aldred and John Bassett and a few people like that got together and got the license.
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Stewart, as I’m told by Gordon Keeble, who’s still to this day, one of my principal mentors, and who was then.
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I guess he would have been.
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Executive Vice president of the early days of CBT.
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And it was a struggle getting viewer acceptance of the program schedule.
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They had only 8 hours a week in the first.
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Years of CTV.
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And getting the stations to cooperate to provide adequate air time for the network programs and getting advertisers to accept the fact that this new network needed revenue.
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And it was a difficult situation. By the time the affiliates took over in 66, the year before I joined.
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The network was on the brink of financial insolvency, and yet the affiliates who who come to understand the value of the network as a central programming entity decided it was important to continue.
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So they embarked on a very adventurous cooperative, non-profit kind of orientation for the network.
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And a couple of us were recruited, Keith Campbell, myself and a few others to come in and take responsible positions with the network and try and improve its image and its.
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And at the time we did, I think where I was responsible in Montreal, we had about 340,000 a year coming out Of Montreal.
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By the time I left, we had about 17 million, seven, seven years later.
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So it was a lot of.
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Fun doing that you have been involved with you with so many.
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Babies and so on.
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Well, what about the government attitude from when you first came around until today, well.
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A year ago November.
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I was responsible for the 4th license renewal in the term that I’d been with the network where I had that responsibility and I was talking to Murray the other day.
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In the 1974, I’m sorry, seven. You know, 74 license renewal. The first one I was involved in, we filed 72 pages of information and that’s all the Commission seemed to want to know about.
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In 1986 in November.
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When we had our last license renewal hearing, we had filed a total of 2211 pages of which about 1800 were on the public record and that’s an indication of how much more complex it’s been, how much more attention the Commission has paid to CTV. I think at the beginning.
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Or the earlier years at least.
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Apart from when the Affiliates took it over, I don’t think the Commission paid that much attention to CTV.
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I think their view was that they licensed the individual station so they would catch it at the end of the pipeline, if you will, and that the network is an entity in those early days didn’t have that large and importance to them.
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I think they then came to realize.
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The network in its own right was a major entity, a major player, if you will, and progressively over the years paid more and more attention to it until the experience we had last license renewal.
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Does it surprise you that while there has been private and?
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Public television networks has never been one in radio. We have the CDC. Well, the CKO News Radio could be counted as one, but across the board, in music and other programs.
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I live in cko Newsradio.
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Well, there are even today forms of radio networks such As for lottery or.
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For sports events and what have you, but they’re limited networks, they’re not well established networks and if you go back in the early days of radio in Canada, there were the semblance of private operated networks.
00:19:47 Speaker 1
Yes, special occasions, right?
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In addition to the CBC’s radio network, never as dramatic or as large or as successful of those.
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I often wonder why, unlike the United States.
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Canada never had a well established private sector radio network or networks.
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Over the years, I suppose it’s because of the economics of scale.
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That just never seemed to offer the resource of necessary excuse me, to support private radio networks in a comparable form to what exists in the United States.
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You worked for a television network early in this interview you talked about.
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How you are a radio?
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Man, how’s your love radio?
00:20:38 Speaker 2
Radio to me, I did a project for the federal government many, many years ago.
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2425 years ago about radio and at that time I wrote that it was a theater of the mind. I still believe that that with radio.
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You don’t have the finished picture in color.
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You’ve got words given to you and sound effects and music, and your mind finishes the picture that you envisage in your mind.
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And I think it’s much more challenging creatively in radio.
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I think radio is also the most portable of our media.
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You can literally take it wherever you are.
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The shower when you’re jogging, when you’re on the beach or wherever else.
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We’re getting portable television now, but it’s not quite the same thing.
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And I think the portability of radio also means that it’s the more personal media it’s it’s one-on-one sort of thing between you’re listening and whoever’s giving you whatever it is you’re listening to, whether it’s words or music or stories or whatever.
00:21:36 Speaker 2
And I’ve always had a terrific respect for radio, especially in the creative area.
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I don’t think we do much creative radio in this country other than the CBC, which is a sad comment.
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I think it has the an enormous potential for filling in the gaps that television leaves.
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I think if you notice that there’s been a drop off of about 12 or 14% of television viewing in prime time, even though the general audience has grown and even though the competition and the diversity of choice has increased, I think it’s indicative.
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Of the fact.
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It is tiring, a lot of the creativity that’s available and at the same time, we haven’t used the creativity that I think is also available in radio.
00:22:19 Speaker 1
Terms different type of person in radio today though, and in and in television.
00:22:22 Speaker 2
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From when it began.
00:22:25 Speaker 1
From when you started to.
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I think when television began.
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It began as an extension of radio, if you will, without appreciating that it was an entirely new media and there were personality factors as a carryover from radio today, however, and there were certain loyalties to stations, for example, in those days.
00:22:47 Speaker 2
But today, there’s absolutely no loyalty to the call letters.
00:22:51 Speaker 2
Or to the other sense of that particular station.
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There is a loyalty to programs and the audience will go to programs.
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However, they best seem to suit their needs.
00:23:02 Speaker 2
I suppose that’s happened to Radio 2, except radio has retained the personality cult type factor in that people make a much more important difference in radio broadcasting than they do in television broadcasting.
00:23:15 Speaker 2
The DJ’s, for example, if you go back on CFRB’s early days in Toronto, I think it’s fair to say that the station survived.
00:23:23 Speaker 2
As successfully as it did, in spite of the increase in competition, principally because the personalities it had on radio.
00:23:30 Speaker 2
I don’t think the same has ever been true of television.
00:23:33 Speaker 2
There may be the Dan Rathers and and his predecessors in television news or, for example, example Lloyd Robertson.
00:23:41 Speaker 2
And those would be the exceptions, not the rule.
00:23:44 Speaker 2
Stars come and go and programs as programs themselves come and go.
00:23:49 Speaker 2
And it there’s not the same kind of sense of how you program radio as you do television.
00:23:55 Speaker 1
Thank you, John Coleman.
00:23:56 Speaker 2
You’re very welcome.
00:23:57 Speaker 2
It was a great pleasure.
00:23:58 Speaker 2
I thank you for the opportunity.
00:23:59 Speaker 2
I’m very flattered to be in.
00:24:00 Speaker 2
00:24:01 Speaker 1
I must say thank you. Thank you. This has been an interview with John Coleman, recorded in Toronto by Phil Stone in April 1988.