The original CITY-TV station, and the only one that would carry those official call letters, was licensed on November 25th to a company represented by Phyllis Switzer (Channel Seventy-Nine Limited). The applicant proposed a programming service that was uniquely different from, and complementary to, services provided by existing stations. The station would broadcast daily from 4 p.m. to midnight and then repeat that programming the following day between 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. CITY-TV would broadcast on UHF channel 79 with an effective radiated power of 31,000 watts video and 3,100 watts audio (directional) with antenna height of 403 feet.
The company, known as Channel Seventynine Limited, was made up of 36 investors in all, with the main players being Phyllis Switzer, Moses Znaimer, Jerry J. Grafstein, and Edgar A. Cowan. CITY-TV was the dream of Phyllis Switzer and she held the title of Vice President. Moses Znaimer was President. Switzer had been in news and was a cable TV pioneer; Znaimer was known as a TV interviewer; Grafstein was a broadcast lawyer; and Cowan was a film producer and PA expert.
Channel 79 signed on the air on September 28th, operating with 31,000 watts video and 3,100 watts audio. Studios were in the former Electric Circus Nightclub at 99 Queen Street East and the transmitter and 403 foot tower were located at Yonge and Eglinton.
CITY-TV was given approval to move its transmitter from the Yonge-Eglinton area of Toronto to the CN Tower, where its signal would have a far wider reach.
Despite the transmitter move, by 1975 CITY-TV had run into debt, with its UHF channel at the top of the dial and having to operate in a highly competitive television market. The Bronfman family’s Multiple Access Ltd. (owner of Montreal’s CFCF Radio and TV) came forward and purchased a 45% interest in the station. However, Znaimer, Switzer, Grafstein and Cowan still retained a 25% shareholding, while a group of minority shareholders held the remainder.
At CITY’s licence renewal hearing, Moses Znaimer told the CRTC that Buffalo TV stations were being very aggressive in their battle for Toronto accounts. He said the Buffalo broadcasters were selling commercial time, during peak selling periods at a slashed price of $30, as opposed to the standard cost of $60 to $65 per rating point. He said the Buffalo outlets were charging as little as $8 per rating point during the past summer. Znaimer said shortly after Canada announced changes to the federal tax laws, the Buffalo stations started slashing their prices. He said CITY took in up to $4 million per year in revenue but had not reached any break-even financial status, as of yet. Total deficits for five years had been worked out to $2,900,000.
Following an interim injection of additional funds from Multiple Access Limited, the station’s owners Channel Seventy-Nine Limited reached an agreement to sell majority control to CHUM Limited.
In July CHUM Limited gained effective control of CITY-TV. Four of the original shareholders, now referred to as the Founders Group – Moses Znaimer, Jerry Grafstein, Phyllis Switzer and Edgar Cowan – retained minority ownership, and Moses Znaimer remained President.
Moses Znaimer and the other founders sold their interest in CITY to CHUM Limited. CHUM now owned 100% of CITY-TV.
On May 18, CITY-TV was authorized to move from channel 79 to channel 57. The channel change request originated with the Department of Communications, to clear channel 79 for the land mobile communications service.
In July, CITY switched from channel 79 to channel 57.
On March 13, CITY was given approval to add a transmitter at Woodstock, operating on channel 31 with effective radiated power of 706,000 watts. CITY-TV-1 Woodstock signed on the air on September 1st as scheduled.
CITY Studios and offices moved to from 99 Queen Street East to 299 Queen Street West, bounded by Richmond and John Streets.
On August 28, CITY was given approval to add a transmitter at Ottawa, operating on channel 65. This transmitter (CITY-TV-3) went into operation in December.
On July 26 the CRTC announced that CHUM Limited had applied to seek control of CKVU Sub Inc., licensee of CKVU-TV. The company stated it would program the station much like its CITY-TV operation in Toronto.
On October 15 the CRTC approved the application by CHUM Limited for authority to acquire effective control of CKVU Sub Inc. As CHUM already operated CIVI-TV Victoria, conditions for dual ownership in the market were specified, including separate management of news and no more than 10% of programming overlap between their two stations.
In July, CHUM Limited relaunched CKVU as City-TV Vancouver, to take advantage of cross-promotional and creative opportunities with sister station CITY-TV Toronto.
CHUM Limited received approval to acquire the assets of Brandon-based Craig Media. Included were A-Channel stations in Calgary, Edmonton and Winnipeg, CKX in Brandon, and CKXT (Toronto One) in Toronto.
Because of its ownership of Toronto’s CITY-TV, CHUM Limited was required to sell CKXT Toronto, which was purchased by TVA Group Inc. (75%) and Sun Media Corp. (25%).
In August CHUM Limited re-launched its former A-Channel stations in Winnipeg, Calgary and Edmonton as City-TV stations. They joined the existing CITY-TV Toronto and City-branded CKVU-TV Vancouver to form a strong station group under the CHUM umbrella.
On July 12 it was announced that Bell Globemedia would pay C$1.7 billion for CHUM Ltd., in a deal that would see the company become part of the BCE-owned media conglomerate, subject to CRTC approval.
A CRTC hearing on the CTVglobemedia application to acquire the assets of CHUM Limited was held on April 30th 2007. On June 8 the CRTC approved the acquisition of CHUM Ltd. by CTVglobemedia, on condition that CTV sell off its five City-TV-branded stations, CITY-TV Toronto, CHMI-TV Portage La Prairie/Winnipeg, CKEM-TV Edmonton, CKAL-TV Calgary and CKVU-TV Vancouver.
Rogers Communications announced on June 25th that a deal had been reached for them to buy these stations from CTV, subject to CRTC approval.
On September 28th, the CRTC announced that it had approved Rogers’ application for the purchase of the following broadcasting assets from CTV:
- CITY-TV Toronto and its transmitters CITY-TV-2 Woodstock, CITY-TV-3 Ottawa, and CITY-DT Toronto, Ontario;
- CKAL-TV Calgary and its transmitter CKAL-TV-1 Lethbridge, Alberta;
- CKEM-TV Edmonton and its transmitter CKEM-TV-1 Red Deer, Alberta;
- CHMI-TV Portage La Prairie/Winnipeg, Manitoba; and
- CKVU-TV Vancouver and its transmitter CKVU-TV-1 Courtenay, British Columbia.
In the ensuing years, a majority of the CITY-TV Toronto programming grid became common to all of the City-TV stations, being a mixture of Toronto-produced news and information programming and US prime time series acquired on behalf of the group. Each local station produced a small amount of its own programming, but financial constraints in 2009-2010 prompted the cancellation of many of these local programs.
On December 20th, Rogers announced that its network of City-TV stations would be expanding into Saskatchewan, through a deal with SCN, the Saskatchewan Communications Network. Effective January 2nd 2012, SCN would carry the City-TV national service between 3:00pm and 5:59am daily, during which time it would be identified as “City-TV on SCN”. Locally originated programming would continue to be seen on SCN from 6:00 am to 2.59 pm.
The background to this deal was as follows. In 1991, the CRTC had granted a licence to the Saskatchewan government to operate the Saskatchewan Communications Network (SCN), a non-profit satellite-to-cable channel to deliver cultural and educational programming in Saskatchewan. It would later be available via direct-to-home satellite services.
On March 24th 2010 the Saskatchewan government announced that it intended to close down SCN because of low ratings, but on December 23rd the CRTC approved the sale of the Network to Bluepoint Investments, and in the decision, SCN was allowed to carry commercials in the program service between 3:00pm and 5:59am.
This paved the way for City-TV to make its deal to expand into Saskatchewan.
On May 3, 2012 CITY-TV announced that it had concluded an affiliate agreement with the Jim Pattison Broadcast Group that would provide for the exposure of CITY-TV programming on all three Pattison television stations in Western Canada.
Beginning September 1, the Pattison stations would be airing 90% of CITY-TV programming throughout prime time and the majority of the daytime hours. The basis for the schedule would be the CITY-TV Vancouver schedule. The Pattison stations would continue to produce and broadcast their local newscasts (at 12 noon and the dinner hour).
The affiliate agreement was with television stations CFJC TV7 (Kamloops, BC), CKPG TV (Prince George, BC), and CHAT TV (Medicine Hat, AB).
Also on May 3rd Rogers announced its intention to acquire multicultural Montreal station CJNT-DT from Toronto-based Channel Zero , subject to CRTC approval. Meanwhile, Rogers had signed an affiliation agreement with the station, effective June 4, 2012, which would expand CITY-TV coverage to include stations in all provinces other than those in Atlantic Canada as well as giving CITY-TV its first television station east of Toronto.
On June 21st, Rogers received approval from the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission to acquire Saskatchewan Communications Network (SCN) from Blue Point.
Maintaining all of SCN’s educational broadcast obligations, Citytv Saskatchewan undertook to continue to air commercial-free educational content during the 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. time block. Throughout the remainder of the day, Citytv Saskatchewan would air original and acquired Citytv programming
The CRTC gave its approval to Rogers’ acquisition of CJNT-DT on December 20th, and also approved Rogers’ request for permission to convert the station from multicultural to a conventional English-language station.
Rogers committed to producing 15.5 hours of local programming a week for CJNT (including a local edition of Breakfast Television), and, as part of the deal, would contribute funding and programming to a new independent multicultural station in Montreal.
Effective with the start of 2013, City-TV dropped the TV letters and rebranded itself and its network of stations as simply CITY. With the advent of digital television in August 2011, the TV suffix in allocated call letters had been changed to DT, which made this rebranding a logical move, as well as offering a strong image for the station group.
CJNT-DT, now rebranded as CITY Montreal, began carrying the full City schedule on February 4th, 2013.
City Toronto became the first over-the-air broadcaster in Canada to be available on Apple TV. The City Video app to watch programming in HD was launched on September 22.
Rogers Media signed deals with Hearst, Graham, Raycom, and Weigel media groups to air Cityline in syndication in the U.S., starting in the fall. The long-running, weekday talk show, hosted by Tracy Moore and covering fashion, home decor, parenting, food and beauty, would be available to more than 10 million American households in Chicago, Kansas City, Jacksonville, and Birmingham, and others.
In September, Breakfast Television celebrated 30 years in Toronto, but in other markets across the country cuts were made to other versions of the program. Eight jobs were lost with the cancellation of the program in Montreal. The program was refreshed in Vancouver (4 jobs lost) and Calgary (11 jobs lost).
In March, Breakfast Television added a daily, one-hour special on Citytv stations across the country. Dina Pugliese, Roger Petersen and news anchor Melanie Ng hosting a 9:00 a.m. ET show focused on COVID-19.
Roger Petersen’s co-hosting run with Breakfast Television in Toronto came to an end in the summer. Petersen had been with Citytv for most of the last 21 years and co-host of BT for the past two years, alongside Dina Pugliese. Petersen had held a variety of roles with the network, starting as a reporter, anchor and host of Autoshop in 1999. He also anchored at Citytv Vancouver for two years before returning to Toronto.
In November, Rogers Sports & Media made staff cuts that included the cancellation of Breakfast Television in Calgary and Vancouver.