The Future of Canadian Television
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 16 Feb 1961, p. 232-244
Aldred, Joel W., Speaker
Media Type
Item Type
Ways of looking at the future of television; ways to assess it. A number of variables, common to most businesses, upon which the future is dependent. The importance of the general economic climate. The demands of organized labour. The number of TV sets in use. Rating systems. Competition. The C.B.C. Programming. The American networks. Canadian content. Alertness to change. Colour television. The situation with regard to the Musicians Union. Leadership. A detailed discussion of these and other factors affecting the future of Canadian television.
Date of Original
16 Feb 1961
Language of Item
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Full Text
An Address by JOEL W ALDRED President, Baton Aldred Rogers Broadcasting Limited
Thursday, February 16th, 1961
CHAIRMAN: The President, Alexander Stark, Q.C.

MR. STARK: At the age of forty our guest today has the strenuous, competitive task of introducing the television audience of Metropolitan Toronto to a second station, the famous "Channel 9". This new Channel was founded in controversy; and ever since, its operation has been the target of criticism, much of it favourable, and some not quite so favourable. Of course, it is far too early for the critics to pass any final judgment. At any rate, in the President of this new company, who is our guest today, Channel 9 has a stimulating and imaginative leader.

Mr. Aldred regards Port Perry as his hometown, and one of his chief vocations is that of a farmer. Indeed, he owns two farms; one, a tobacco farm at Aylmer, and one, a general farm, at Port Perry; both, I am pleased to say, are being operated on a very profitable basis.

In wartime he served in the Royal Canadian Air Force and following that he achieved outstanding fame as a radio and television announcer. In this work he travelled extensively and his voice and his face were familiar on the American networks. For example, among others, he appeared on the Perry Como Show, as well as on Chevrolet's Dinah Shore

Show. In his career he has probably been one of the highest paid television announcers in the world. Those in the audience who are HiFi fans will be interested to know that Aldred-Rogers Limited, a company of which he is President, are also owners of CHFI-FM, Toronto.

The future of Canadian television rests in the capable hands of men like Mr. Aldred, and it is on this topic that I will now ask him to speak.

MR. ALDRED: Thank you very much, Mr. Stark. Gentlemen of the Head Table, Guests and Friends:

There is one correction I think I should make, Mr. Stark, in what you said because the press is here and, as you mentioned, we have gone through some troubled times with Channel 9-relative to the way it was born and the way it was actuated-and, so that we are not really criticized as being monopolistic in tendency, I should state that Baton Aldred Rogers Broadcasting Limited does not own CHFIFM but Aldred Rogers Limited does. It is rather a fine point but a very important one.

It is delightful being here because there are so many of my friends in attendance. I see bankers with whom we have had dealings and there are representatives of some of my clients. Ford Ralph is here representing the H. J. Heinz Company. I do a great deal of their television work in the United States and some of it here in Canada. Next time you are in Leamington, if you would like to take a message back, Ford, let them know that I need a little more work. Joe McCulley is with us-you can see him on Sunday nights on "Q.E.D." as Mr. Hermant mentioned earlier. Mr. Hermant, who has been sitting on my right, is a partner of Spence Caldwell who is trying to form the second television network in Canada. Strangely enough, we found we didn't have very much in common. However, Mr. Hermant did mention that, when "Q.E.D." and McCulley were mentioned, everybody recognized both. This is part of the power of advertising, and on this we agreed. Those of you who watch "Q.E.D." probably remember the night that Archie Moore, Light Heavyweight Boxing Champion of the World, was on and this question was asked by a very delightful young lady contestant-"Do athletes make better lovers?" Mr. McCulley hasn't answered that one yet. You know . . . all he had to say was "I'm not an athlete".

Eddie Goodman is here from the firm of Goodman and Goodman. I know that he is a member of the Club and he happens to be our legal counsel for Channel 9. So, on all sides I'm surrounded.

Well, we'll talk about television for a short while.

There are very many ways to look at the future of television and there are very many ways to attempt to assess it. The future depends upon a number of variables which are common to most businesses. The general economic climate, I am sure we are all aware, is the most important. It is a very important variable for the new television stations with their extremely large new investment. Then there are demands of organized labour-both within the operation and outside the company-that is, unions representing full or part-time employees not within the performing fields themselves. There are three--one represents electronics, one represents film and staging, one represents news. We are dealing with the three of them very Shortly in Ottawa. There are two unions representing performers. With them we have completed one agreement and the other one is outstanding. There is one other union as well, so we may be involved at the moment with six unions relative to our organization up at Agincourt. This is causing Mr. Baldour, our Station Manager on my left at the Head Table, a fair amount of concern these days. He is our main negotiator so he'll get the gray hairs. I'll be able to sit in on the last stages of negotiations and say, "Well, Charlie, is that all you could work out?"

The number of TV sets in use, of course, is a very important factor to us and naturally, the number that are tuned to Channel 9. This refers loosely to rating systems which you have heard about. They are a rough guide to programme and station popularity. A rating is a type of circulation figure arrived at by several different research methods and they invariably are projected figures from a small sample. As well, there is a loosely knit Crown Corporation with a great appetite for funds from the public till called The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Now as you know, I formerly was with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and we parted on rather bad terms. However, I do admit, and I do admit very, very freely and quite correctly, that the C.B.C. does do many good things and I am sure that many of you here do watch and listen to the C.B.C. quite regularly. As a matter of fact, I too watch it quite regularly-more so now since Channel 9 has come on the air-not because our programmes are bad but because I can see my money being spent on two channels rather than just one. It is a funny sensation. This, of course, leads to other factors such as the selling and merchandising tactics of your opposition.

It's basically the C.B.C. we are talking about and yet, because we are in Toronto, we are also affected by the three American networks through their Buffalo outlets. As a matter of fact, it is generally considered in the trade that this, in all probability, is the most competitive television market in North America. One of the basic reasons for that being so is that there is one station in Toronto-Channel 9-which is not competing against the usual three networks but against four. However, these are all facts that were taken into consideration by ourselves and certainly by all of the other applicants when we all applied for the Channel 9 license not quite a year ago. Now, in our future, there are several other factors. Namely, an attempt to establish a second network which I referred to very briefly before, and colour television. Speaking generally for all of the stations, there is also another factor. This is the April 1st deadline at which time we have to have 45% Canadian content in our programming. The 55% Canadian content figure, as you all know, does not apply until April of 1962.

The general economic climate is certainly of concern to all of us. To thinking businessmen and their businesses and to thinking governments, it is always that way. There can never be any complacency. Alertness to change is important to business survival just as it is to government survival. Now, in our business, Westerns may be the darling of the hour and violence may have seen its hey-day. But who knows and when will we really know? The critics of television are, in the main, extremely well motivated. I think at times they are unfair but then, when we examine ourselves, we are all that way in some portion of our daily lives. It is easy to criticize business and it is easy to criticize government both generally and specifically and usually criticism contains little solid recommendation for improvement. When recommendations are made, the cure tends in most cases to lie with somebody else's money, either public or private.

Now this country in itself, I think, is in excellent shape. A greater number of people, as we know, are employed than ever before but we also have greater unemployment than ever before. However, I'm sure that if we spent more time talking about our achievements and the ways to expand on them and far less time bemoaning the sad lot that we find ourselves in periodically, our national vitality would expand. If we as businessmen give constantly greater value in our efforts and in our leadership, and if we recognize that the word "work" really means work and we really do work, then we'll all do a much greater job in arising our national positive image. There is a lot to be said for the power of positive thinking. Mr. Tennyson, the President of the Rock City Tobacco Co. which is now a subsidiary of the Rothmans group of companies of which I am a director and is the man responsible for that teasing campaign about No. 7 that we ran a few weeks ago, tells a wonderful story which some of you may have heard. It is an old story but there is a lot of truth in it. It's about an old man who sets up a hamburger stand by the side of the road. He gives good value and the more he advertises and adds value to his products, the more his business expands. He is an uneducated man who wants his son to be educated. Finally his son goes to college to learn all about the ways of the world. In a few years, the boy returns from college and dad is doing very well. But the kid has done a lot of studying and dad cannot read well enough to know what is going on in the world and the boy says "Dad, I don't know why you are doing all this expanding and giving people all this extra value for their money-haven't you heard that the economy is in terrible shape? You'd better slow down a little bit and pull back on some of these things." So the old man took his learned son's advice and pulled back his signs and cut down the size of his hamburgers and, of course, you know-it was not too long before he had to agree with his son that business generally was most certainly in terrible shape.

So, these are things, the very simple little things, that point up the fact that sometimes we don't talk the way we should talk. There are times that we do not take advantage of the knowledge that we have to help in other ways. If we can't be a little positive, at least we shouldn't talk ourselves into a decline. There are swings in the flow of commerce. We all know that. Let's recognize them. Swings do two things-they point out the strong points in the economy and they certainly point out the weak points. Now, if business was a static thing and our economy was rigidly controlled as many people would like to see it, this group would not likely be sitting here eating lunch. We would be out in a communal eating area somewhere for a half hour and then back to work in order to level out the economy so that everybody could have an equal living-without regard to ability, initiative or contribution. Getting back to general business levels, I would like to talk about something that has come up in the last several days. The fact that the Vancouver independent television stations, which went on the air last fall, have experienced some difficulties and released a number of its staff, does not reflect on the situation here with Channel 9 at the moment. As you know, in any new business there are bound to be changes necessary, because actuality and planning never do completely jibe. As far as Channel 9 is concerned, some people have resigned, some people have been let go, other people have been hired and this is common to all industries. Certainly, there will likely be further staff adjustments. Just because there is a readjustment in Vancouver due to certain financial setbacks, it does not mean that everything is falling apart here in "good old television land" Toronto or elsewhere. I have had a number of calls from the press about this in the last couple of days and I think that makes the situation rather clear.

The demands of organized labour in the fields of independent televison, that is non-C.B.C., are just beginning to make themselves felt. There are two technical unions involved--namely NABET and IATSE--plus the American Newspaper Guild. The first two unions are involved, basically, in technical fields. In the matter of the Newspaper Guild, the name of the guild indicates the field in which they are basically interested. There are, of course, several other unions. As I mentioned earlier, these are performing or talent unions. There is the Association of Canadian Radio and Television Artists with whom we have concluded a working agreement which is, we feel, reasonable on both sides. Then there is the American Federation of Musicians. Now the three operating unions have completed their organizing drive at Channel 9 and have applied for certification in their various areas of concern. We are unaware of their demands at the moment. We do know however, that the three of them have claimed overlapping jurisdiction and, as such, this may muddy the waters slightly.

The operation of television in Canada, independent of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation network, is something completely new as I know you are all aware. Now on top of that, we are required to employ a substantial amount of Canadian content programming in our broadcasting schedule. As in any other business, the costs, the fixed costs of selling, and the fixed costs of producing quite naturally have an effect upon the overall economic situation of any particular business and we are exactly the same as any other business. It is difficult at the start of TV broadcasting by any new station to sell what we term "live Canadian programming". Advertisers are still somewhat wary of buying live Canadian programmes until the programmes have proved themselves. As a matter of fact, wearing my other hat, I could be termed a sponsor because I am involved with an extremely large national advertising budget through another board of directors with which I am associated. In this regard I suggested that they should mark time with all the stations across the country and let the live programming settle out. Most advertisers are doing this, although we find in the past week or so that we here in Toronto are starting to prove ourselves. That advertisers are becoming much more interested in programmes with a strong Canadian identification and, to some degree, a strong local identification.

The C.B.C., as you know, subsidizes a major portion of their commercial productions and certain of their rate card-cutting tactics both in the areas of time and commercial sales are heightening our difficulties. Those of you who read Marketing Magazine would have seen criticism of the C.B.C. rate-cutting tactics either last week or the week before by Mr. Bushnell of the Ottawa private station. We are going through the same thing here but to a somewhat greater degree. However, we do feel that once we have everything under control, our building completed and all of our equipment installed, that the flexibility which we will have and our ingenuity will overcome the expensive problems that are before us. We do know this-that some of the live Canadian shows we are producing will start to move across the country in volume to other stations by about the first of April, if not a little bit before. And, I think we have to realize that due to the geographic location of Toronto and the talent pool which is available here that Channel 9 will supply more Canadian programming to other stations than they likely will supply to us. Now this falls somewhat in the current C.B.C. pattern where, as you know, programmes originating from Toronto form a major portion of the broadcast fare to the national network.

I would like to speak for a moment now about rating services. There are wide variations of opinion as to the validity and accuracy of rating services. Ratings, as I mentioned earlier, are rough guides to programme popularity. They are projected to both local and national levels to give advertisers and stations some indication of the number of homes-that is television homes-programmes are reaching. These surveys are either done randomly by telephone calls or by some form of diary system where people in their homes keep track for a period of a week, or maybe even a month, of the stations that they are viewing at particular times.

One of the problems that exists in programming is trying to satisfy all tastes. The C.B.C. caters both in radio and televison to more so-called minority groups than the independent new stations will be able to for a substantial time to come. Private broadcasters whose income is derived solely from advertising, of necessity must cater to a much broader public taste. This does not mean that the private broadcaster does not have a prime and serious responsibility to his viewing audience. However, certain types of programmes of minority audience appeal generally are programmed as far as the independent stations are concerned outside of prime evening hours for pure economic reasons. I might point out that, in this particular field, we are involved with the Metropolitan Educational Television Association of Toronto. They have already completed one pilot on a children's show and from which 12 more shows will now be done. These will start to run sometime in March. We have also given them a half-hour of early Sunday afternoon time for a musical appreciation series which started several weeks ago. We also, in all probability, will be working closely with the same educational group in making time available for the teaching of the English language to some of our immigrants who do not speak English very well. This is something that I personally believe in very strongly. As well, from the point of view of public service and minority audiences, we have an extremely active farm department which covers a very great amount of territory. There is a half-hour programme which we think is excellent, from a public service point of view called "Great Hymns of All Time" which has a tremendous viewing audience. It is the kind of programme which has filled, in our estimation, a marked void in the television fare that has been available here in Toronto. Certainly, the programme "The Things We See" with Alan Jarvis, the former curator of the National Gallery, a programme of the arts and letters, is something that could normally be considered, I think, as falling within the minority type audience grouping. These things we are doing and it is certainly obvious to us, and I am Sure obvious to people in the trade, that the four Sunday programmes that we have on-two with the Farm Department, "Great Hymns" and "The Things We See", represent investments on our part of approximately $10,000 and we get very little return out of those particular programmes. We presently amortize these costs against other programmes, mainly filmed ones, but from indications some of these programmes will be going across the country very shortly.

Now, the subject of colour telecasting has been very much in the forefront lately. Colour is the great new dimension in telecasting and, as far as I am concerned, it has arrived at an exciting stage of development. In 1960, approximately 150,000 colour sets were sold in the United States, bringing the total in use since production started six years ago to approximately 650,000. It is estimated that within our own viewing area, there are approximately 1800 to 2000 colour sets. An example of the growing acceptance of colour is the fact that 400 RCA dealers in the United States have sold 51,500 colour sets alone in the four-month period starting in November which hasn't even ended yet. In other words, most dealers who are involved with the merchandising of colour sets have exceeded previous sales figures easily. This would indicate that, from one manufacturer alone, set sales could go as high as 400,000 sets in 1961. Aside from RCA, Admiral, Packard-Bell, Magnavox, Emerson, Dumont and Olympic, three other large manufacturers have now started producing colour sets. It is also a known fact that colour sets generally require no more servicing than black and white sets, and the expense of operation is approximately the same. As a matter of fact, the colour service contracts now are down to approximately $10.00 above the contract price for monochrome sets. The stepped-up colour activity by the National Broadcasting Company indicates their faith in colour. Of course, RCA, which is the parent company, quite naturally is going to promote its own product on its own network. But, not only is colour TV an actuality, it is also a commercial success. It has grown from nothing to in excess of 100 million dollars a year in six years time. Very interestingly, in the January 17th issue of Home Furnishings Daily, which is a daily paper of the home furnishings trade, a dealer poll showed that the vast majority of dealers were agreeable to the pricing policies which were established on colour sets and were convinced that manufacturers who were not producing colour television sets would likely be left behind in the competitive race. We in Toronto are prepared for colour and expect to be using our colour gear for monochrome broadcasting sometimes during the month of May.

The future of television in 1961 has variables and I'll touch here upon one aspect that could be very important over the next few months. It could very effectively govern the degree of live television-not the amount but the content and quality of it. One of the major problems which the stations are facing now and we, fortunately or unfortunately, are leading the fight is the Musicians Union. The American Federation of Musicians is a powerful body and we all know that there have been times when its public relations have been bad. We also know that, in many respects, they have done good things with their trust funds and free concerts. Their primary business, of course, is to protect the musicians. To make sure that the musicians are treated the way most musicians would like to be treated. The unfortunate thing, of course, is that the American Federation of Musicians activity in this area, to my knowledge, is basically a New York function. In other words, we have an international union situation which is very effectively putting a road block in front of certain Canadian programming and that road block currently is-and it has not been resolved--the distribution of filmed and video taped musical shows to other stations without the payment of prohibitive fees. In so doing, there are two sets of standards being attempted here in Canada, a set of standards for the new private stations. A very graphic rough indication of the importance of this would be that a C.B.C. show requiring five musicians for three hours would cost several hundred dollars. For us to package the same show and have it shown in the basic markets across the country, the musicians' cost would be $1307.00. So you can see that there is a very, very wide discrepancy. Discrepancy so wide that, in all probability, shows with musical talent would be unavailable for syndication. If syndication does not take place, it also affects the Canadian Association of Radio and Television Artists. These people, who are in a separate union often perform with musicians. In a meeting with that particular union this morning they appeared more than upset about the fact that, in the event the Musicians Union holds firm on this stand, many union members in the performing fields such as singers, dancers and so on, will not get the amount of work that they had anticipated. This, too, could be a very, very big stumbling block to syndication of programming not only in Canada but as well, in the United States or in the United Kingdom.

I am having meetings in another week's time with representatives of both Hollywood and English production companies who are very interested in co-producing programmes for international television use out of our facilities here in Toronto. The hold-up to that, in all probability, will be the fact that we have to pay substantial multiple fees to the Musicians Union which do not apply in the United States. In other words, a musician can appear on a film show in the United States and one national exposure of that show is allowed. If a musician appears on the same programme here in Canada one national exposure is not allowed. So not only do we have double standards suggested here in Canada relative to musicians but those standards are widely different from the particular agreements which have been negotiated in the United States. So you see, there are many variables for this young new industry, and the 1961 TV picture is a little cloudy for the new station.

In closing, I'd like to read something here which is very old and which some of you, I am sure, have seen many times. It is called "Penalty of Leadership".

In every field of human endeavour, he that is first must perpetually live in the white light of publicity. Whether the leadership be vested in a man or in a manufactured product, emulation and envy are ever at work. In art, in literature, in music, in industry, the reward is widespread recognition; the punishment fierce denial and detraction. When a man's work becomes a standard for the whole world, it also becomes a target for the shafts of the envious few. If his work be merely mediocre, he will be left severely alone--if he achieves a masterpiece it will set a million tongues a-wagging. Jealousy does not protrude its forked tongue at the artist who produces a common place painting. Whatsoever you write, or paint, or play, or sing, or build, no one will strive to surpass or to slander you unless your work be stamped with the seal of genius. Long, long after a great work or a good work has been done those who are disappointed or envious continue to cry out that it cannot be done. Spiteful little voices in the domain of art were raised against our own Whistler as a mountebank, long after the big world had acclaimed him its greatest artistic genius. Multitudes flocked to Bayreuth to worship at the musical shrine of Wagner while the little group of those whom he had dethroned and displaced argued angrily that he was no musician at all. The little world continued to protest that Fulton could never build a steamboat, while the big world flocked to the riverbank to see his boat steam by.

The leader is assailed because he is a leader and the effort to equal him is merely added proof of that leadership. Failing to equal or to excel, the follower seeks to depreciate and to destroy-but only confirm once more the superiority of that which he strives to supplant. There is nothing new in this. It is as old as the world and as old as the human passions-envy, fear, greed, ambition and the desire to surpass and it all avails nothing.

If the leader truly leads he remains--the leader. Master-poet, Master-painter, Master-workman, each in his turn is assailed and each holds his laurels through the ages. That which is good or great makes itself known no matter how loud the clamour of denial. That which deserves to live-lives.

This text appeared as an advertisement in the Saturday Evening Post, January 2, 1915, and was placed by the Cadillac Motor Car Co. There is a lot in that.

THANKS OF THE MEETING were expressed by Mr. Joseph McCulley.

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The Future of Canadian Television

Ways of looking at the future of television; ways to assess it. A number of variables, common to most businesses, upon which the future is dependent. The importance of the general economic climate. The demands of organized labour. The number of TV sets in use. Rating systems. Competition. The C.B.C. Programming. The American networks. Canadian content. Alertness to change. Colour television. The situation with regard to the Musicians Union. Leadership. A detailed discussion of these and other factors affecting the future of Canadian television.