Year Born: 1929
Watson, Patrick (1929- )
In 1966 Patrick Watson’s name made the front pages when he and his This Hour Has Seven Days co-host Laurier Lapierre were fired by the CBC, and their television series cancelled. 1n 1989, twenty-three years later, Patrick Watson was appointed as Chairman of the Board of the CBC.
Patrick was born in Toronto in 1929, and by the age of fourteen he was acting in the daily CBC radio children’s series, The Kootenay Kid. After gaining his M.A. at the University of Toronto, he went to freelance for CBC Television in 1955, and by 1957 was on staff, producing Close-Up (1957-60) and then Inqui’ry (1960-64). In 1964 Patrick and co-producer Douglas Leiterman developed This Hour Has Seven Days, an innovative public affairs series with a magazine format that set investigative reporting and documentary features alongside satirical songs and sketches. Over its 50-episode, two-year lifespan, This Hour grew an audience of three million highly appreciative viewers, before a rising tide of complaints from politicians and public figures, many of whom had felt the sharp shafts of the program’s brilliant scripts, induced the CBC to pull the show off the air, and to fire co-hosts Watson and Lapierre.
After a brief period (June 1969 – March 1970) at the CTV Ottawa affiliate CJOH as Vice-President, Programming, and for a while as chief news presenter, Patrick then started a series of new careers as an independent. He worked as writer/producer/director on The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau, and as host/interviewer on The Watson Report, The Canadian Establishment, Flight; The Passionate Affair, Lawyers, Live from Lincoln Centre, The Fifty-First State (for WPBS channel 13 New York), Witness to Yesterday, The Titans, and a ten-part series, The Struggle for Democracy, which was produced in both English and French with Patrick as host, and for which he won both a Gemini and a Gemaux.
He was named Chairman of the CBC in 1989, and served in that role through five years, during which time he had to handle severe budget cuts, as well as demands for the privatization of the Corporation. He resigned from the Chairmanship in 1994.
In 1988, Patrick had been appointed Creative Director and principal writer of the CRB Foundation’s Heritage Minutes project. On leaving the Corporation he resumed his work on this series of more than 60 cinematic dramatizations of moments from Canada’s past, and more recently has been helping create a similar series of 90-second dramatizations for radio, under the auspices of The Historica Foundation of Canada.
While most of Patrick’s career has been as a broadcaster, either behind the cameras or as an on-camera host, he has continued to be active in drama from time to time, having performed roles in Bethune (1975), Terry Fox: The Movie (1982), Countdown to Looking-Glass (1983) and The Fourth Angel (2001). He has also written a number of books, and his autobiography was published in 2004.
He was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1981, for promoting excellence in television and radio, and in 2002 was promoted to Companion of the Order. Over his career, he has received many awards, including two Canadian Film Awards, two Emmies, the Academy of Canadian Film and Television’s Margaret Collier Award for Writing, and a number of ACTRA Awards, including the Gordon Sinclair Award for Broadcast Journalism. He has received four honorary doctorates in Letters and in Laws, and is a holder of the Canada 125 Medal and the Queen’s 50th Anniversary Jubilee Medal.
Written by Pip Wedge – July, 2004