Pierre Juneau (1922-2012)

Pierre Juneau

Year Born: 


Year Died: 


Year of Induction: 


Juneau, Pierre (1922-2012)

Pierre Juneau, a strong cultural sovereigntist throughout his long career, was frequently described as tough, even steely. In 1989 he described himself as a bit shy, not a gladhander; also idealistic and persistent – “I guess that has something to do with what you call toughness.”

He was born in the Montreal suburb of Verdun, one of five children of a building materials salesman. He married Fernande Martin in 1947 and they had two sons and a daughter. After graduating from the University of Montreal, he studied philosophy at the Catholic Institute of Paris and the University of Paris where he met Pierre Elliott Trudeau, later to become prime minister. Back in Montreal, Juneau went to work for the National Film Board in 1949 and was one of a group, including Trudeau, that launched the intellectual journal Cité libre in 1950.

By 1964 he was senior assistant to the commissioner and director of French-language production at the NFB but in 1966 left to become vice-chairman of the Board of Broadcast Governors. When the BBG was replaced in 1968 by the Canadian Radio-Television Commission, Juneau became its first chairman and remained in that position until 1975.

Concern over foreign ownership of broadcast stations came to a head in 1968 and the government issued an order-in-council requiring that all broadcast undertakings licensed by the CRTC be at least 80 per-cent Canadian owned. Juneau told broadcasters Canadian stations must reflect Canadian life and maximums would be set for foreign content.

The CRTC also created a Canadian content policy for music programmed on radio stations, requiring no less than 30 per cent should qualify as Canadian. In 1970, Juneau was acclaimed by the Canadian music industry as the man of the year. In 1964, RPM Magazine had instituted music industry awards. In 1971, they were renamed after Pierre Juneau, although spelled Juno after the chief Roman goddess. 

A CRTC policy which didn’t work was the banning of the use of microwave by the cable TV industry to move U.S. signals to communities that otherwise couldn’t receive them.

Prime Minister Trudeau appointed Juneau communications minister in August 1975 but Juneau resigned two months later after he failed to win a parliamentary seat in a by-election in the Montreal riding of Hochelaga. Trudeau appointed him as a policy advisor and in 1976 he was appointed chairman of the National Capital Commission. In 1980 he was named deputy minister in the communications department in addition to duties as undersecretary of state.

In 1969 he had said the CBC was not doing enough to foster national unity. In 1982 he was appointed CBC president and quickly faced accusations of centralizing power in his Ottawa office. CBC vice-president Peter Herrndorf resigned in 1983 in protest, although he was later quoted by the Globe and Mail saying Juneau “defended the CBC very well. He wasn’t able to fend off the budget cuts but I’m not sure anyone could have … it was a tough period.” During the period, the CBC suffered $100-million in budget cuts and hostility from the Progressive Conservative government which had succeeded the Trudeau Liberals. During Juneau’s tenure, a CBC Broadcast Centre was built in Toronto, centralizing previously scattered operations, and the 24-hour news and information channel NewsWorld was launched in 1987.

Juneau retired in 1989. He came out of retirement briefly in 1994 to oversee operations of Maclean Hunter Ltd. during CRTC hearings to approve a $3.1-billion takeover by Rogers Communications Inc.

Pierre Juneau was appointed an Officer in the Order of Canada in 1975 and was a member of the Royal Society of Canada, the organization founded in 1882 for the promotion of learning and research in Canada.

 Pierre Juneau died on February 21st 2012. Leonard Katz, Acting Chairman of the CRTC, made the following statement :

“We are saddened to learn of the passing of Pierre Juneau, who played a seminal role in the promotion of Canadian culture during his many years of public service. We are especially indebted to the leadership he provided to the CRTC as its first Chairman from 1968 to 1975. We join Canadians in celebrating his legacy as the architect of Canadian content regulations, and the dynamic cultural industry that has since flourished. His passion and wisdom will be deeply missed, and we offer our condolences to his family and loved ones.”

Written by Pip Wedge – April, 2002