CFCF is celebrating 50 years of local TV on January 20th. As a result, I thought it would be a good idea if I gave myself permission to republish an edited and updated version of the history of Channel 12 from my old TV Hat website (now defunct).
On a side note, if you’re looking for images and video of CFCF’s past, the CTV Montreal website has pretty much opened up the floodgates and put up a whole bunch of memories. Plus, a special 50th retrospective will air during the second half of the news on Jan. 20 at 6 and again the next day on the noon broadcast.
Also, Fagstein offers a few thoughts on CFCF and why local shows aren’t being produced anymore. And finally, a reminder, you can also find images, like the one above, on my TV Montreal Media Fun Facebook page, including those of Johnny Jellybean, Magic Tom, other vintage CFCF-12 pics and some provided by Producer and Director Sidney M. Cohen.
This station began operation on January 20th, 1961, in a small temporary studio below a dance hall. The exact location was the old Avon Theatre at 215 Laurier Street. The early broadcasts of Pulse News were a sound engineers’ nightmare on Friday nights as music from upstairs crept down into the newsroom during the show. Fortunately, it wasn’t too long before the station moved into its permanent home at 405 Oglivy Avenue in Montreal’s north end Park Extension neighbourhood, where it remained for forty years. In 2003, they moved to 1205 Papineau Avenue.
The station had been founded by the Canadian Marconi Company, which was owned by a parent company in England. However, CFCF eventually had to find a new owner because government agencies didn’t want the station to be controlled by foreign owners. After a few years, the station was sold to Multiple Access, a computer and communications company owned by the Bronfman family. Unfortunately, the Bronfmans had no broadcast experience and, by 1978, it was confirmed that they wanted out.
John Basset then tried to buy the station on behalf of Baton but the CRTC didn’t believe that the deal would be in Montreal’s public interest. Funny enough, today the station is directly owned by CTV Globemedia (which also absorbed what used to be Baton).
In 1979, Jean Pouliot bought CFCF-TV and would continue to own it well into the nineties, but not without problems of his own. In 1986, channel 12 became a sister station with the new French-language network Télévision Quatre-Saisons (TQS) and while TQS provided a refreshing change to francophone viewers, it also experienced major financial problems. While CFCF was airing Growing Pains, TQS was experiencing them and Pouliot had to use channel 12′s profits to finance TQS’s growing debt.
Some financial relief came to CFCF in the early 1990′s through the help of CanWest/Global. CanWest invested a considerable amount of money in the station and, in exchange, CFCF agreed to become a twin-stick operation by applying to the CRTC to run a Global repeater station. But Global changed its mind, citing tax problems.
Yet, that would not be the end of Global’s influence on CFCF. In the mid-nineties, CanWest joined forces with TVA to apply for a license with the CRTC to set up a regional Global network in Quebec. Jean Pouliot saw the threat of new competition as quite problematic and decided to sell his assets. This caused a shake-up of the media industry in Quebec as not only was CFCF for sale but so were TQS and CF Cable TV, which were also owned by CFCF Inc. Videotron launched a bid to buy CFCF Inc. so that it could merge its cable company with CF Cable, but they couldn’t keep Channel 12 because Videotron also owned TVA which was involved with the Global application. The CRTC wouldn’t allow two English local stations under the same owner (TQS also had to be sold, by the way).
Therefore, Videotron sold CFCF-TV to WIC, a company that owned CTV affiliates in B. C. as well as independent stations in Ontario and Alberta. So, in 1997, CFCF-12 now had a new owner and also had private competition for the first time in 36 years when Global Quebec went on the air that same year.
But more problems were in store for CFCF and, once more, it had to do with CanWest/Global (I’m beginning to sound like a broken record). Global still wasn’t a truly national network and it figured it needed to fill a missing link in Alberta to become one. (Actually, they also still don’t have a station in Newfoundland, unless you include NTV which could be considered a Global station by default.) Well, WIC happened to own stations in Alberta and Global decided to buy out WIC’s television assets. This means that CFCF was briefly owned by CanWest/Global. But CanWest owned it under trusteeship and it had to sell the station ASAP. CTV’s parent company, Bell Globemedia, became the new owner.
CFCF slogans and jingles of the past:
- Just Look! Look what’s here on 12. (1985/86)
- More On 12.
- Great Things Going On. (1989-1993)
- The 1 2 Watch. (1993-1997)
- Montreal’s 1 2 Watch, CFCF-12. (1997-2001)
- Montreal’s 1 2 Watch, CTV. (2001)
Excerpt of a CFCF jingle sung by Luba (Not an official fall season jingle because it was introduced in mid-season): “Nowhere else, but here in our city. Nowhere else, like CFCF-12…”
CFCF local shows:
CFCF-12 has always been known for its extensive local content. So much so, that when the station was bought by Vancouver based WIC Communications. Television executives out west didn’t understand why it cost so much to run the Montreal station, compared to the CTV affiliate in B. C. (BCTV, which is no longer part of CTV, by the way). Channel 12 may have survived as CTV Montreal, but arguable at the expense of its local shows, something which made CFCF unique. Here’s a partial list of CFCF local productions:
- Carte Blanche with Jimmy Tapp.
- Surprise Party: A popular local kids show in the 60s with Magic Tom (Tom Auburn).
- Lunchtime Little Theatre with Ted Zeigler, known as Johnny Jellybean. Also popular with the kids at the time.
- Pyjama Playhouse with Christine Donaghy.
- CFCF-12 Movie Matinees.
- It’s Your Move with Paul Hanover and later George Balcan.
- The Telethon Of Stars: Yearly telethon for research into children’s diseases. Bob McGrath of Sesame Street use to appear on it regularly.
- Romper Room: Montreal like many markets in North America had their own local version of this show. A syndicated version was also available. The Toronto edition eventually replaced the Montreal version on CFCF.
- Like Young with Jim McKenna and June Mack.
- Know Your Sports with Dick Irvin.
- McGowan & Company with Don McGowan.
- Matinee with Joe Van, later hosted by Jack Curran and then George Balcan.
- The Mad Dash: English game show with Pierre Lalonde.
- Hi Noon: Summer time show with Ralph Lockwood, usually set outdoors in the streets of Montreal.
- McGowan’s Montreal: Long before Travel Travel, Don McGowan would roam the streets of Montreal looking for stuff to do. In one famous episode, McGowan gets hands dirty and makes bagels.
- McGowan’s World: Same show as McGowan’s Montreal but the word Montreal was removed in order to sell the show to other stations.
- Super Pay Cards: A local game show syndicated across the US and Canada.
- The Ralph Lockwood Show: Local talk show.
- Hockey Magazine with Dick Irvin.
- Good Morning Workout: An exercise show.
- McKenty Live: A TV phone-in show hosted by Neil McKenty.
- Travel Travel: Travel show syndicated across North America (well, parts of it anyway).
- Montreal AM Live: Same thing as McKenty Live but with Leslie Roberts instead.
- Today’s Magazine with Suzanne Desautels and Al Dubois, which aired live daily at 11am. Peter Anthony Holder also worked on this show as a reporter.
- Park Avenue Metro: Local magazine-style show named after the metro station across the street from CFCF’s studios.
- Chain Reaction: English equivalent of Action Reaction (TQS). Both shows used the same set. The CFCF version also aired on Global in Ontario and on USA Network.
- Fighting Back: Consumer protection show hosted by Terry DiMonte and often featured Bowser and Blue.
- LifeStyle with Ann Shatilla. Like McGowan’s World, this show hid its Montreal roots so that it could be sold to other stations.
Vintage CFCF-12 Magic Tom photo courtesy of Dan Kowal, CTV Montreal Engineering Supervisor.