Jay Switzer (1956-2018)

Jay Switzler

Year Born: 1956Year Died: 2018

Switzer, Jay (1956- )

The son of cable pioneer Israel (Sruki) Switzer and CITY-TV co-founder Phyllis Switzer,  Jay was born in Calgary in 1956.   After residing for brief periods in Estevan and Weyburn, Saskatchewan, and Lethbridge, Alberta, where Sruki was building Cablesystems while Phyllis raised a family of three kids and completed a post-graduate degree in psychology, the Switzers arrived in Toronto in 1967, when Sruki joined Maclean-Hunter.

Jay’s first introduction to the business of broadcasting came when Phyllis asked her 13-year-old son to attend a CRTC hearing in Trois Rivieres and bring back a report for her regulatory newsletter. Then, when CITY-TV went on the air in September 1972, 16-year-old Jay’s first full-time job was on the station’s switchboard.  He later worked for the Financial Post, before studying for and obtaining his MBA at the Ivey School of Business at the University of Western Ontario. While still working on his MBA, Jay worked part-time in 1981 on the financial plans for several applications for Pay TV licences by David Graham’s Cablecasting Ltd.

CHUM Limited had acquired CITY-TV in 1978, and in 1983 Jay returned to work there on a full-time basis as program manager for CITY-TV and MuchMusic, and worked closely with Moses Znaimer on both the company’s domestic and foreign programming (where he soon cornered the Canadian market on some of the best movie packages coming out of Hollywood) and the sale of the station’s home-grown programs and formats – such as Fashion Television and Movie Television, and MuchMusic – to broadcasters around the world. This led to Jay being named to head up CHUM Television International early in the 1990s; in March 2000 he was made Senior Vice-President and General Manager for all television and related services emanating from CHUM’s Toronto operation, and in October 2000 he became President of CHUM Television.

In the spring of 2001, he was the prime mover in the deal that brought CKVU Vancouver into the CHUM fold, and in November 2002 he was promoted to President and Chief Executive Officer of CHUM Limited. When CHUM founder and controlling shareholder Allan Waters stepped down on December 2nd 2002 at the age of 81, Jay assumed day-to-day control over the entire CHUM broadcasting empire.

Jay’s industry association involvements included the Vice-Chairmanship of the Television Board of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters, of which he was a Director, and membership of the Board of the U.S-based National Association of Television Program Executives;  he was a past member of the Board of the Banff Television Foundation Board of Governors, and a member of the Toronto Film Board. He also was a great supporter of Ryerson University, and joined their Advisory Board for the Faculty of Radio and Television Arts in 2012.

 In June 2007, after the CRTC had approved CTVglobemedia’s application to acquire the assets of CHUM Limited,  Jay stepped down from his position at CHUM. 

 In October 2008, it was announced that Jay had joined the Board of Directors of OUT-TV, a Canadian gay and lesbian specialty channel.  From 2009 to 2011 he served as Chairman of the Board of GlassBox Television.

In July 2010. it was announced that the CRTC had approved Jay’s applications for four new Category 2 HD speciality movie channels, to be called Velocity, Adventure, KISS and The Love Channel.  Jay was given a time frame of 36 months in which to achieve sufficient cable and satellite company commitments to carry the channels, and for Jay to get them operational.

The four channels launched on November 23, 2011 under the blanket branding Hollywood Suite, with Jay Switzer as Chairman of Hollywood Suite Inc. They underwent rebranding in 2011, and again in 2015.

On August 29th 2011, Shaftesbury, one of Canada’s leading creators and producers of original content for television and multiple platforms, announced the appointment of Jay Switzer to the company’s board of directors.

His services to broadcasting were recognized by many awards, including the Friend of Women in Film and Televison (Toronto) Award (1994), The Queen’s Jubilee Medal (2002), and the Human Relations Award from the Canadian Centre for Diversity (2005).

On December 11th 2017, Jay Switzer was invested as a Member of the Order of Canada.

Jay Switzer died of cancer in Toronto on January 29th 2018.  He was 61.