Year Born: 1923
Year Died: 1987
Year of Induction: 1993
Pioneer – Member of CAB Hall of Fame
Bruner, Al A. (1923-1987)
Al Bruner was a broadcaster – a dreamer, thinker, optimist, innovator, enthusiast, promoter, leader – and as is said in commercials – “much, much more”.
A young man from Leamington, Ontario, who once sang in Detroit with the famous Wayne King Orchestra, Al found his way into broadcasting as a member of the management team formed by Joel Aldred that put CFTO-TV Toronto on the air in 1961.
Another “idea man”, Ken Soble, President and part-owner of CHCH-TV lured Al to Hamilton as his sales manager and there began an exchange of radical ideas for the future development of televison in Canada. With the backing of Soble, Al set out to build and launch an all-Canadian TV satellite and use it to relay a new Canadian TV program service to automated transmitters coast-to-coast. There was no such TV system (then) in any country in the world. RCA Canada agreed to build the satellite at its Montreal plant. Al had put together all of the contracts for the transmitters and had made a start on the program schedule. However, the broadcast regulators just couldn’t accept the the idea and it was rejected.
Al Bruner then bounced back with his concept of a Southern Ontario-wide service, that would distribute programming from a central point (Toronto) via ground-based microwave circuits. The regulators bought that idea – and the Global Television System was born, with the approval of a combination of VHF and UHF frequencies serving Toronto, Western Ontario and Ottawa. (in the use of UHF frequencies, Global relied heavilly on retransmission by cable).
While Al launched Global, financial difficulties ensued and new owners took over.
But, in the early 1980s, Al was off again, and took another radical idea to what he had hoped were more understanding ears in New York. He had devised a way to run a satellite-to-cable national TV network which would permit national advertising to be customized in each market, such as inserting the names of local dealers. It was unheard of, but Al vowed he had the technicians who could make it work.
He then came up with a plan to assemble a U.S. satellite network whose program schedule would include ethnic programs in several languages emanating from CFMT-TV’s Toronto studios, recognizing that ethnic Americans could get no such service from their own TV station operators.
However, this and other unborn ideas were cut-off when Al died suddenly of a heart attack in a New York post office in 1987.
Among other schemes, his concept for the Global Television System lives on, stretching to Ontario’s borders and, as the result of its acquisition by the CanWest Global System, to the furthest reaches of Canada from the Atlantic to the Pacific.
In 1975, Al Bruner became the first recipient of the Ted Rogers Sr./Velma Rogers Graham Award which honours the person “making the most significant contribution in a single or continuing fashion, to the Canadian broadcasting system, or for exceptional community service in the role of a broadcaster”. He was inducted into the CAB Broadcast Hall of Fame in 1987.
(in compiling this remembrance of Al Bruner, we acknowledge the reminiscences of Al’s close friend, Toronto columnist and writer, Jack Miller)
Written by Ross McCreath – January, 1996