Ernest L. “Ernie” Bushnell (1900-1987)

Ernest L. Ernie Bushnell
Ernest L. Ernie Bushnell

Year Born: 1900

Year Died: 1987

Year of Induction: 1987

Pioneer – Member of CAB Hall of Fame

Bushnell, Ernest L. “Ernie” (1900-1987)

Singer – ad agency proprietor – radio station manager – announcer – salesman – CRBC program manager – CBC VP – broadcast management consultant – TV station founder. During his career, Ernie Bushnell was all these things.

In Canada, Ernie Bushnell was “Mr. Broadcasting”. In pursuit of a career in music, in 1921, he joined the Advance Male Quartet on a five-year tour of Canada and the USA: in 1927, Ernie opened the first radio advertising agency in Canada, Broadcasting Services Ltd. in Toronto;  he closed this business to become joint station manager of CFRB radio.

In December 1928, he took an announcing job at the Canadian National Carbon Company’s station in Toronto – CKNC (later bought by the CRBC and became in succession CRCY, CBY, CJBC) and one year later was appointed manager. (some of CKNC’s programs were fed to ad hoc regional networks).

In June 1933 Ernie was drafted by the Canadian Radio Broadcasting Commission to organize its western networks, and in the ensuing 4 months auditioned 2,000 potential artists, as well as planning western-originated programs to the network.

On November 1st, 1933, Ernie was appointed Program Director of the English Language Programs for the CRBC, a position he maintained upon formation of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in 1936. Prior to World War II, on behalf of the CBC, he traveled throughout Europe, and assisted the BBC in organizing its North American Shortwave Service.

Appointed CBC Director General of Programs in 1944. “Bush” was directly responsible to management for control of both program and operating budgets – for the development and supervision of all CBC programs – for the hiring of talent – for policy recommendations and the fulfillment of them when approved. Sharing this responsibility with many able colleagues, he devised, created, produced and controlled most of the programs heard on the CBC networks from 1933 to 1952.

Broadened responsibilities came in 1952, on Bushnell’s appointment as Assistant General Manager of the CBC, and he began to take a leading role in the planning stages for television. On November 11, 1958, he was appointed Vice-President of the CBC.

On December 31, 1959 he resigned to organize the management consultancy company of Bushnell Broadcasting Associates, of which he became President. This led to an application to the Board of Broadcast Governors by E. L. Bushnell Television Company for a license to establish and operate a television station in Ottawa. The License was granted and Ernie put CJOH-TV on the air on March 21, 1961.

As President Ernie Bushnell remained actively involved in the station until his death in 1987.

He was named to the CAB Broadcast Hall of Fame the same year.

Written by J. Lyman Potts – February, 1996