Power Corporation of Canada was founded as an electrical utility company in 1925 by Arthur J. Nesbitt and Peter A. Thompson. Over the years it branched out and became a diversified and multinational management and holding company that concentrated mostly on financial services, but also had interests in asset management, energy and other sectors.
It wasn’t until 1989 that the company set up a subsidiary to operate its broadcast holdings – Power Broadcasting Inc. – but it had been involved in broadcasting since the late 1960’s.
The Nesbitt family sold most of its interest in Power Corporation to financier Paul Desmarais and partners in 1968 (and was totally out of the company by 1970). A year earlier, Desmarais had become involved in broadcasting when he purchased Montreal’s La Presse newspaper, which owned CKAC-AM.
La Compagnie de la Presse Ltée was granted a new charter for the operation of CKAC, to be known as CKAC Ltée. The following appointments were announced after the company’s first shareholder’s meeting: Paul Desmarais (president), Jean Parisien (executive vice president), Gaston Meloche (secretary), Edmond Deslauriers (treasurer) and Jacques-M. Goulet (director). Goulet was also GM of CKAC.
Philippe de Gaspé Beaubien founded Telemedia (Quebec) Ltd. He had been director of operations for Expo 67. Power Corporation was the largest shareholder in Telemedia, which administered CHLT-AM-FM-TV and CKTS Sherbrooke. The French-language CHLT stations operated under the name Radio-Television Sherbrooke (1967) Inc. with Jean-Louis Gauthier as president. CKTS (English) was operated by subsidiary company, Telegram Printing & Publishing Co. Ltd. with Lt. Col. John J. Dunn, president.
Power Corp. sold a controlling interest in CKAC and a number of other stations to Philippe de Gaspe Beaubien’s Telemedia (Quebec) Ltée (owned by Telemedia Communications Ltée, in turn owned by Beaudem Ltée). CKAC was first sold to La Corporation des Veleurs Trans-Canada Ltée before going to Telemedia. Power would retain through ownership debentures, a large financial interest in the new company for a period of time. Philippe de Gaspe Beaubien would control more than 80% of the votes of the company.
Power also sold to Telemedia: CKCH-AM-FM Hull, CHLN-AM Trois-Rivieres and CHLT-AM-TV Sherbrooke. Philippe de Gaspé Beaubien told a Senate Committee on mass media that Power Corp. would have no connection except as a lender with Telemedia following the sale of the stations. The transaction would make Power a $7,250,000 creditor of Telemedia through a debenture.
A numbered company owned by Paul Desmarais, Claude Pratte and J.G. Porteous received CRTC approval to purchase Frontenac Broadcasting Co. Ltd. (CKWS-AM-TV and CFMK-FM Kingston) and Kawartha Broadcasting Co. Ltd. (CHEX-AM-TV and CFMP-FM Peterborough) from the Rupert Davies Estate (51%), and the (Roy) Thomson Estate (49%). The numbered company became Katenac Holdings and Don Lawrie was its first president.
Paul Desmarais, Jr. joined Power Corporation.
André Desmarais (Paul Senior’s son) joined Power Corp.
Power’s Kawartha Broadcasting Co. Ltd. acquired Four Seasons Radio Ltd. (Barrie Broadcasting – CKBB Barrie) and (Collingwood Broadcasting – CKCB Collingwood) from Ralph T. Snelgrove.
Prades Inc. (Claude Pratte 50% and Paul Desmarais 50%) purchased 51% of La Compagnie de Radiodiffusion Rimouski Limitée (CFLP) from the estate of André Lecomte. Prades Inc. had already owned the other 49%.
On April 18, the CRTC denied the application by Power Corporation of Canada to acquire effective control of Télé-Métropole Inc. from the Estate of J.A. DeSève, the J.A. DeSève Foundation and Ciné-Monde Inc.
On January 29, the CRTC approved the applications for authority to transfer effective control of Baie des Chaleurs Television Inc., The Rimouski Broadcasting Company Limited and Shawinigan Falls Broadcasting Company Limited through the transfer of 1,000 common voting shares of Prades Inc. (100%) from Paul G. Desmarais (500) and Claude Pratte (500) to Power Corporation of Canada, which was indirectly controlled by Mr. Desmarais. Also approved were applications for authority to transfer effective control of Frontenac Broadcasting Company Limited and Kawartha Broadcasting Company Limited through the transfer of 200 common voting shares (100%) of Katenac Holdings Limited from Paul G. Desmarais (90), Claude Pratte (90) and three minority shareholders (20) to Power. As a result of this transaction, Power Corporation would acquire 100% control of Prades Inc. which held effective control of Baie des Chaleurs Television Inc. (CHAU-TV Carleton and its rebroadcasters), The Rimouski Broadcasting Company Ltd. (CFLP Rimouski and the new FM station authorized by the CRTC), The Shawinigan Falls Broadcasting Company Ltd. (CKSM Shawinigan), Frontenac Broadcasting Company Ltd. (CKWS, CFMK-FM and CKWS-TV Kingston) and Kawartha Broadcasting Company Ltd. (CHEX, CHEX-TV, CFMP-FM Peterborough and two rebroadcasting stations, and CKCB Collingwood and CKBB Barrie).
On April 14, the CRTC approved Kawartha Broadcasting’s purchase of The Galt Broadcasting Co. Ltd. (CIAM Cambridge) from Fred T. Metcalf, K.M. Metcalf, Wally Slatter, N. Slatter, Neil Stillman, W.D. Dawkins and Larry D. Smith; and of CJOY Ltd. (CJOY-AM and CKLA-FM Guelph) from Fred Metcalf and Wally Slatter.
Jack Ruttle was named president of Kawartha Broadcasting Co. Ltd. He had been executive vice-president at CTV.
In September, CKWS-AM became “The Fox”, CFFX.
CIKI-FM Rimouski signed on the air February 14. The station was licenced by the CRTC on November 26, 1986.
Don Lawrie retired as president of Katenac Holdings after almost 44 years in broadcasting.
Power Corp. of Canada reorganized its radio and television assets. They would now be held in the new wholly-owned subsidiary, Power Broadcasting Inc. PBI was based in Montreal. André Desmarais was named chairman and chief executive officer of the new unit. Peter Kruyt was president. Before now, Power’s seven AM, four FM and three TV stations were held by a number of subsidiary companies.
Peter R. Duffield & Associates, Storrs McCall, Keri Von Moltke and James Welcher received CRTC approval to sell CHRS-AM St-Jean-sur-Richelieu to Power Broadcasting Inc. The call letters then changed to CFZZ.
Power received CRTC approval to purchase CJDM-FM Drummondville from Communications Grantham (Pierre Thibault and nine other shareholders).
Donald R. Lawrie was appointed honorary director of Power Broadcasting Inc. The Rt. Hon. Jeanne Sauve and Anthony R. Graham were named directors.
On September 27, the sale of Oshawa’s CKAR and CKQT-FM by Grant Broadcasting Ltd. to Power Broadcasting Inc. was approved by the CRTC, despite the overlap of CKQT-FM’s signal by Power’s CFMP-FM in Peterborough.
On July 10, Power received CRTC approval to acquire CFEL-FM Montmagny from Radio Montminy Inc.
On February 14, CFMP-FM Peterborough became CKWF “The Wolf”. Sister CHEX-AM changed call letters to CKRU (980 Kruz) around the same time.
On March 30, CKAR Oshawa switched back to its original call letters – CKDO.
In the summer, CHEX-TV Oshawa signed on the air. The service was established because the channel 12 signal from Peterborough suffered a shadow effect created by a topographical feature of the area, known as the Great Pine Ridge. Channel 22 would provide improved, over-the-air (non-cable) service to viewers in Oshawa, Whitby and surrounding area.
On July 10, CKLA-FM in Guelph changed call letters to CIMJ-FM (Magic 106.1).
On September 4, CFZZ St-Jean-sur-Richelieu was given CRTC approval to move to the FM band, operating on a frequency of 104.1 MHz. In the following year, the station made that move and became known as Z-104 FM Le Rocker Sympathique (CFZZ-FM).
Radiomutuel Inc. purchased CKSM Shawinigan from Power Broadcasting.
In February, CKQT-FM Oshawa became CKGE-FM “The Edge”.
On November 12, CKBB-AM Barrie was replaced by CIQB-FM “B-101”.
CKCB-AM Collingwood moved to the FM band.
In partnership with the CBC, Power launched cable specialty channels TRIO and Newsworld International in the U.S.
In August, CKGE-FM Oshawa dropped “The Edge” slogan and became “Magic 94.9”.
Claude Pratte died in Quebec City on July 15. He had been prominent in several Quebec-based broadcasting companies. Between 1977 and 1987, he was a part owner of Katenac Holdings (Power).
Paul Desmarais retired as Chairman and CEO of Power Corp. His sons, Paul and André became Co-CEOs of the company.
Power Broadcasting named John Tucker as vice president and regional director for Ontario television, responsible for CHEX-TV Peterborough and CKWS-TV Kingston.
A major January ice storm caused major problems for Power Broadcasting’s engineering teams. The Wolfe Island tower that carried CKWS-TV and CFMK-FM was toppled, and the studios of CHEX-TV, CKWF-FM and CKRU-AM had to be evacuated after the 700′ TV-FM tower began to sway dangerously due to heavy ice. It was decided that it was too dangerous to keep studios and offices next to the tower. In the following year, AM and FM moved to 151 King Street and television moved to 743 Monaghan Road.
CIZN-FM “The Zone@92.9” Cambridge began broadcasting on May 28, replacing CIAM-AM.
Master Control facilities for CHEX Peterborough, CHEX Oshawa and CKWS Kingston were centralized in the new Peterborough facility utilizing digital file server technology. Traffic services, Programming and Finance functions had been centralized in Peterborough in the preceding years.
In September, Power Broadcasting reached an agreement to sell its radio and television broadcasting assets to Corus Entertainment Inc. for total proceeds of approximately $115 million.
On March 24, the CRTC approved the applications by 5191987 B.C. Ltd., 5191989 B.C. Ltd., 5191991 B.C. Ltd. and 5191992 B.C. Ltd. requesting authority to acquire from Power Broadcasting Inc./Diffusion Power inc. and Télévision de la Baie des Chaleurs inc. the assets of all radio (including the assets of a French-language radio network) and television programming undertakings located in Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick.
CHEX-TV Peterborough and its transmitter
CKWS-TV Kingston and its transmitters
CHAU-TV Carleton and its 11 transmitters in Quebec and New Brunswick
CFVM Amqui and its transmitter
CIKI-FM Rimouski and its transmitter
French-language radio network consisting of stations: CFLP Rimouski CFVM Amqui CHNC New Carlisle CHGM Gaspé CHRM Matane CKCN Sept-Îles.
The full CRTC decision can be viewed at: https://crtc.gc.ca/eng/archive/2000/db2000-87.htm
In April, PBI completed the sale of its radio and television assets to Corus.
In May, the CBC and PBI announced the sale of their two U.S. cable TV services, TRIO and Newsworld International, to U.S.A. Cable, a division of U.S.A. Networks, Inc. for gross proceeds of approximately C$155 million.
In August, Power Broadcasting Inc. changed its name to Power Technology Investment Corporation.
Note: Paul Desmarais, Sr. passed away October 8, 2013. At the end of 2019, Paul Desmarais, Jr. and André Desmarais decided to retire as Co-Chief Executive Officers of Power Corporation after 23 years in the roles and to continue to serve as Chairman and Deputy Chairman, respectively, of Power Corporation’s Board of Directors.
Power Broadcasting Inc. Radio Stations
(Click on the call letters to view individual station histories)
Power Broadcasting Inc. Television Stations
(Click on the call letters to view individual station histories)