Year Born: 1899Year Died: 1976
Young, George (1899-1976)
George Young had the most unpopular job in Canadian broadcasting. His employer was the CBC. Parliament had given the CBC the job of ruling over all radio broadcasting. Parliament had also appointed the people who made the rules. George Young’s job was to ensure that all broadcasters obeyed the rules.
Strangely, many of those regulations were without merit and tended to restrict rather than help pioneer broadcasters to achieve their potential in serving Canadians. A frequently-cited example of regulations that ruffled broadcasters was the one that forbade them from mentioning the price of merchandise or a service that they had just described on the air. When Davidson Dunton, in 1945, was appointed Chairman of the CBC, the price regulation was the first one he wiped out. While others were eliminated or modified, these regulations, for twelve or more years, were largely responsible for the discord between private broadcasters and the CBC.
George Young was the man in the middle. He was the right man for the job. Born in England at the turn of the century, George was no stranger to conflict, having joined the Royal Flying Corps in 1917 and flown the legendary Sopwith Camel. After the First War, his talent as an entertainer took him to the United States where he performed as a singer and actor working out of Chicago and touring the eastern states. In 1938, he joined the CBC as a producer and was responsible for several network programs originating in the Toronto studios.
George created history in the fall of 1938 when Ernie Bushnell, the CBC’s program topper had him do a circuit of cities in western Canada, producing and conducting a weekly coast-to-coast sing-song (a la Mitch Miller in the USA a few decades later)- The CBC rented a hall or a church in cities like Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Regina, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver, to which local citizens were welcome to come and join in singing songs everybody knew. George, as M C, and an accompanist, were the sole professionals.
In later years, George would reminisce about his exploits with Ian Ritchie, his younger assistant in the Station Relations Department, recalling his trick in greeting and warming-up his live audience. When he came out on the stage, he faced a packed house. He would not say anything – just look out at the audience with a smile on his face, and slowly, the audience would see his smile and smile back at him – and before they knew it, everyone in the house was laughing.
Following the tour, George was appointed head of the CBC Maritime region, located in CBC’s Halifax studios. After WW II he was summoned back to Toronto to take over the Station Relations Department with which had been combined the Broadcast Regulations Division. This brought him in touch with every private radio station in Canada, those that made up the CBC’s TransCanada Network and the newly formed Dominion Network, as well as those with no affiliation.
Copies of the program schedules and logs were mailed weekly to his department, as were all local and national food and drug commercials for a pre-broadcast “approved stamp” by the Department of National Health and Welfare. Station logs were inspected for compliance with regulations – e.g. station breaks at least once-an-hour – that a pre-recorded commercial announcement had been identified (“the following is transcribed”) – that the type of program was classified (by a coded number) and that no more than the allotted time of commercials in an hour was used – that the source of every program was identified (network, live, records or from a transcription, and so on). Any noted infraction resulted in a letter from Station Relations, and the heat was turned up for repeated infractions. Listener complaints were also channeled through the Young office and stations were called upon at least once a year to report on their use of live local talent.
Being an “enforcer”, one cannot be expected to be “everybody’s friend”, yet George Young was well-liked throughout the industry. He knew and remembered virtually everybody on a first-name basis. He had many friends in both the CBC and among private broadcasters. That smile that won over his audience in the national sing-song pervaded over the years.
He carried it over into the television era, and it undoubtedly broadened when the BBG in 1958 relieved the CBC of responsibility for broadcast regulations, and George expanded his role to include the new medium, which he carried to retirement in 1965 and to his death in 1976.
George Young was a member of the Arts and Letters Club of Toronto, a member of the Scottish Rite and a member of the Ottawa Valley Masonic Order. While he never could qualify for membership in the Canadian Association of Broadcasters, it might appear that he was. He was an invited guest at all annual meetings of private broadcasters who welcomed him and enjoyed his fellowship
George Young died at 77 and is buried in Woodland Cemetery, Hamilton, Ontario.
Written by J. Lyman Potts CM – October, 2003