John White Hughes Bassett (1915-1998)

John White Hughes Bassett
John White Hughes Bassett

Year Born: 1915

Year Died: 1998

Year of Induction: 2000

Pioneer – Member of CAB Hall of Fame

Bassett, John White Hughes (1915-1998)

Media baron John Bassett – parliamentary aspirant, reporter, soldier, newspaper publisher, sports entrepreneur, television station owner, was born in Ottawa in 1915. Educated at Ashbury College and the University of Bishop’s College in Lennoxville, Quebec, he entered the newspaper business as a reporter with the Toronto Globe and Mail, a budding career that was interrupted in 1940 when he enlisted in the Canadian Army with the Black Watch regiment.

Following discharge with the rank of major, Bassett purchased his father’s newspaper – The Sherbrooke Daily Record. In 1952, he bought the Toronto Telegram. In 1959, he turned his attention to television. During the preceding year, the Canadian government had created the Board of Broadcast Governors (BBG), a regulatory body to administer broadcasting. On October 8, 1959, the BBG issued a notice stating that applications for a licence for the first private TV station in Toronto would commence on March 17, 1960. One of the eight applicants was a consortium organized and headed by John Bassett. The BBG approved the issuance of the Toronto licence to Baton Aldred Rogers Broadcasting Ltd. CFTO-TV went on the air in 1960. Shortly thereafter, Baton Broadcasting Ltd., controlled by the Basset and Eaton families, purchased the shares of Aldred, Rogers and other minority shareholders.

CFTO became the flagship station for the CTV Television Network created by Spence Caldwell, to whom the BBG, in the fall of 1961, had awarded a license to organize and operate a network that would connect the other “second” private TV stations from the Atlantic to the Pacific. In due course, the major stations which comprised the network, became its shareholders. This condition continued until December of 1997, when Baton Broadcasting Incorporated took full control of CTV – a long-sought goal of John Bassett – realized just four months before his death.

Meanwhile, the money-losing Toronto Telegram had become a memory after being shut down in 1971. As the President of Baton Broadcasting, John Bassett had by then established CFTO-TV as the leading TV station in Canada and one of the finest on the continent.

When his son, Douglas Bassett succeeded him as President of Baton, John was able to spend more time to pursue his interests in sports and community activities. At one time, he was a major shareholder of the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Toronto Argonauts.

He also accepted an appointment by the Government of Canada as Chairman of the Security Intelligence Review Commission. He was also appointed to the Privy Council of Canada.

In 1985, John Bassett, with the approval of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, was made an Officer of the Order of Canada. In 1992, he was elevated to the highest rank of the Order – Companion of the Order of Canada. His appointment to the Order of Ontario was made in 1988.

John Bassett died at the age of 82, April 27, 1998. In November, 2000, he was inducted posthumously into the CAB Broadcast Hall of Fame.

Written by J. Lyman Potts – October, 2000