Charles Templeton
An Anecdotal Memoir

Foreword

Chapters
Beginnings
Sports
Evangelism:
Toronto
Graham
Princeton
TV:
CBS & CTV
The CTV
Toronto Star
Politics:
Begin
Liberal Party
After
Maclean's
Inventing
Radio
Books
Etc. Etc.
Postscript


Charles Templeton Home

Jesus


Brad Templeton Home
Brad's Photo Pages

Brad's Panoramic Photos

RHF Home

   
 

INSIDE TELEVISION / CTV (Charles Templeton Memoir)

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INSIDE TELEVISION
At CTV

Permit me to leap forward seven years. In the fall of 1966, Murray Chercover, then vice-president and general manager of the Canadian Television Network (CTV) asked if I would be interested in joining the network as Director of News and Public Affairs. Following my early years on the CBC, I had been managing editor of the Toronto Star, had resigned to run for the leadership of the Liberal Party in Ontario, and had subsequently worked for two years as president of a company called Technamation Canada - of all this, more later. I told Chercover I would be interested but wanted to mull it over.

With good reason. There had been a recent front-page brouhaha at CTV. Peter Reilly, the Director of News and Public Affairs, had resigned at a press conference, charging that he had been subjected to intolerable interference by the chairman of the board, John Bassett. Bassett was also publisher of the Toronto Telegram and the owner of CFTOTV, the key station in the new network.

I had come to know him during my tenure at the Star; in my bid for the Liberal leadership he had supported me editorially. I called him on the telephone:

"John," I asked, "are you aware that CTV has asked me to run News and public Affairs?"

"Of course I am," he said in his ebullient way. "It was decided at the last meeting of the board.”

"Then I have three question: the first is, are you in favour of my appointment?"

"I've been pushing them for weeks to get you.”

"Question number two: if I take the job will you leave me alone to do it?"

"Not only that," he said with a laugh, "I'II kick anybody's ass who tries to interfere.” He was chuckling audibly on the line.

"Question three: is CTV going to make it? Is it a viable net work?"

It took some fifteen minutes to answer that. CTV was a new and as yet unproven venture (it had gone on the air April 15, 1966), a coalition of nine privately owned stations that has now grown to seventeen. In its fledgling months, apart form a national newscast and some sports coverage, it had done little serious programming. People in the business had dubbed it "the game show network," and there were doubts about us whether its owners were committed to serious programming. And there were questions whether it could compete with the public network and with the variety of American programming flooding across the border. Bassett convinced me that the board was prepared to commit the money and airtime necessary to do a responsible job.

I moved immediately on two fronts: to strengthen the national news, which lacked organization and was often slipshod in presentation, and to build a demoralized W 5 into the flagship of the network's public affairs coverage. Both tasks ran immediately into snags.

A problem with the national news was that it was largely a one-man operation. Harvey Kirck was both news-reader and editor, and often wrote much of his own copy. He is a first-rate news-reader and a superb extemporize, but these skills were being minimized by his involvement in preparing the newscast and operating the department. His workload was made heavier because his right-hand man, Jeff Fry, had recently been seconded to W 5.

I notified Harvey that I had decided to relieve him of his responsibility as editor. He was incensed and demanded to see me. In my office he began to upbraid me at the top of his voice, and with that voice it was audible for blocks. Gordon Keeble, who was then president of the network and whose office was the most distant from mine, finally came to the door, reached in and pulled it closed. "Nobody," he stage whispered, smiling wryly, can get any work done.” After an estrangement of a few weeks, Harvey and I became friends and have remained so over the years.

Changes were made in personnel. Some were let go; some left. New staff was hired, including a fair-haired kid from the CTV station in Calgary, Peter Kent. Unsolicited, he had sent me a half-hour documentary on Vietnam with a note that he had prepared it entirely on his own. The shooting was amateurish and the narration a bit "gee whiz," but it was obvious that Kent was a guy with initiative and guts. I hired him immediately. A few years later he was hired away by the CBC, where he read the news on The National and was then transferred to The Journal.

Chercover had asked me not only to supervise W 5 (Who? What? When? Where? Why?) but to produce it, and I found myself directing an organization and a program about which I knew almost nothing. I had performed on-camera hundreds of times but had never worked behind the scenes, and I was immediately confronted with some of those moral dilemmas that are part of hardnosed television journalism.

My first week on the job, I attended the preparation of the upcoming program mostly to familiarize myself with the various procedures. In the main studio, a segment of the show was being videotaped for presentation later that night. The guest was the pilot of the lead plane in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. He had since become a born-again Christian and was being junketed about North America giving his testimony of God's intervention in his life. The interviewer was Doug Johnson, a tough reporter with a blunt, straightforward style. Not long into the interview he pressured the guest to admit, now that he was a Christian that what he had done at Parl Harbor was reprehensible. The man spoke only rudimentary English and seemed confused. It was clear however that he didn't think he had anything to apologize for. It was equally clear that Doug wasn't going to settle for anything less than a confession of guilt. The Japanese was unable to express himself clearly and Doug was badgering him. It wasn't a fair contest. Suddenly, with cameras rolling, the guest walked off the set.

Jeff Fry, the producer, came to me, elated. "Great," he said. "Great television.”

"I'm not so sure about that," I said. "Doug bullied the man, and the poor guy was at a disadvantage.”

Jeff looked at me in disbelief. "Are you serious? I've been hoping that one day somebody would walk out with the cameras rolling.”

We discussed it for ten minutes. Jeff saw it as a legitimate and eminently desirable example of the immediacy of television. I saw it as an unfair fight in which a confused man was publicly harassed. But I was by no means sure of my position. Moreover, I didn't want to overrule the leader of the demoralized W 5 unit before his staff, so I yielded. Later, watching the item, I wished I hadn't.

The following week, there was a second dilemma. A deranged student in Austin, Texas, had bought a rifle, climbed a tower overlooking the main quadrangle at the state university and killed and wounded a number of students. The W 5 staff had prepared a piece designed to demonstrate how loose security was in public place and how easily the Texas tragedy could be repeated in Toronto. Their cameras had followed a reporter as, without difficulty, he purchased a high-powered rifle, wrapped it in butcher paper with its shape still evident, went to Old City Hall, walked in full view past a policeman, ascended the bell tower and aimed the gun over a parapet at the street below. The camera looked down the barrel and the viewer could see people on the streets fixed in the sights. It was a graphic demonstration of how easily it could be done.

The question that troubled me was: were we performing a service by dramatizing the lack of security or were we drawing a blueprint for a mentally unbalanced viewer, perhaps even stimulating him to act? Again, I yielded. In subsequent months I would act more firmly in similar situations.

There were two notable instances where questionable items went to air not because of indecision but by inadvertence. Each was a "first" in Canadian television: the first time the word "fuck" was spoken on television, and the first time full frontal nudity was shown on the home screen.

I had developed a new program, Crossfire, for late-evening viewing. It had a simple format: four guests, literate, articulate men and women, would be seated on easy chairs in an informal setting. The host, Mavor Moore, now head of The Canada Council, would introduce a subject; it was hoped a sophisticated, mature discussion would ensue. As is often done, it was decided to make a "pilot" to learn what problems might be encountered and to polish the presentation. The subject discussed on the pilot was, "The Nature of Obscenity". One of the guests made a comparison between what is commonly thought of as obscene and what, in fact, is. He said, as I recall it: "If, in describing the act of human copulation I were to use the Anglo-Saxon word, fuck, that would not be obscene. But if I were to mount a defense of the use of napalm by the Americans in Vietnam, that would be. "His use of the word posed no problem: the program was simply a pilot and would not be broadcast.

However, when the series had its premiere, a technician mistakenly racked up the videotape of the pilot rather than the program scheduled. At home, watching, I realized immediately what had happened. It was impossible to do anything so I simply hunkered down and waited. As the moment approached and the guest spoke the famous four-letter word, it seemed to my hyper sensitive ears that the volume had suddenly been turned up and the sound was reverberating across Canada. It was a legitimate use of the word, of course, but unacceptable on home television in 1966. (It still is, with rare exception, today. ) There were few letters of protest.

The "first" in frontal nudity happened on the national news. There was a member of the news department who, for his own reasons, resented my involvement and my authority. One day, in Harvey Kirck's absence, he telephoned and, by way of a briefing, informed me that one of the items being filmed that day was a special report on a class at Three Schools, an art school in down town Toronto. In a bid for publicity and revenue, the school had started a class for businessmen with no artistic talent. As recreation, they would draw nude models. I knew the school; I'd attended life-drawing classes there. It sounded like a good off-beat feature and I okayed it, but instructed him that there was to be no frontal nudity. That night I watched the newscast. The camera slowly circled the model, going through a full 360Ί, and, in so doing, depicted her, pubic hair and all.

It was not in any way obscene: the model was comely, the pose was graceful and the shooting was not exploitative. But there was the problem of my directions being disregarded. I called the man and asked him why he had gone counter to my instructions without so much as a call to inform me.

"Because," he said, "there was nothing wrong with the shot.”

"I agree, but you didn't trouble to tell me that.”

"I was busy," he said. "More than that, I resent you telling me my job.”

"I can understand that. But my job is to run the network's news and public affairs, and if there's a problem, the can is tied to my tail. If I give a specific order, I expect it to be followed or a legitimate reason given for doing otherwise.”

He said, "Look, I've been in this business longer than you have and I won’t Put up with you telling me my job.”

I said, "In that case, you won’t have to. You’re fired.”

Oddly, the nudity drew a sizeable protest from viewers.


The shakedown period was over at CTV, and it was time to engage the CBC in direct confrontation. The opportunity came on June 5. Israel had launched preemptive strikes against Egypt, Jordan and Syria and the Six Day War was on. There was widespread concern that the fighting might escalate. The United State and USSR were making belligerent noises and the United Nations Security Council had called an emergency evening session. The Middle East was a tinderbox.

Late in the afternoon, Murray Chercover called me into the office of Arthur Weinthal, Director of Programming. The two of them were watching the U. N proceedings on a feed from an American network. Chercover put a question to me: "Do you think we should preempt our programming tonight and carry the council session until they make a decision?"

"Is the CBC going to carry it? "I asked.

"Apparently not.”

Pre-empting would mean a sizeable loss of revenue from cancelled commercials. It would also mean the disruption of nor mal programming and a subsequent need to juggle schedules. Even more important - for CTV was in a battle for audience - it would mean a drop in the number of viewers and complaints from people upset because their favorite programs had been can celled. But the session was important, and if the CBC was going to be delinquent, CTV should provide the service. I said so.

"Good'" Chercover said, grinning. "Arthur and I had decided that that's exactly what we should do. We'll arrange for a feed from NBC.”

The decision was important to me. It meant that CTV was prepared to budget enough money to enable us to go head-to-head with the CBC, and I was itching for the confrontation. The battle would be fought on three fronts: Sunday nights, to take advantage of the new interest in public affairs engendered by the enormously popular This Hour Has Seven Days; the coverage of the two upcoming political conventions, in which Robert Stanfield and Pierre Trudeau would take over the leadership of their par ties; and the general election that would bring Trudeau to power.

There were stories about the coming confrontation of the two networks in all the print media. Barbara Frum wrote a cover story in the Star Weekly, "The Battle of the Sunday Night TV Shows.” calling the rivalry between W 5 and the CBC's The Way It Is "the most interesting fight Canada's two television networks have entered into.”

What is particularly important is that to a very large extent, the field that television people call public affairs is the core of all Canadian broadcasting. It is the one field in which Canadians have learned to excel; the one thing that our networks have been both willing and able to do that the American networks until this year at least haven't.

It would be an uphill battle. CTV had no tradition in public affairs and relatively few resources in dollars or people. CBC's The Way It Is, under Ross McLean, the man who nine years earlier had introduced me to Canadian television, had a weekly budget of about forty thousand dollars. Ours was eighteen thousand dollars. Ross had a staff of fifty-five to sixty-five, W 5 had fourteen, plus five part-time. In late August, Ross and I had an amiable conversation at Pierre Berton's annual pool party and agreed that, while each would give it his best shot, there would be no dirty tricks.

W 5 seized the advantage by beginning its season two weeks before The Way It Is. For openers, I decided to contrast two antithetical "philosophies.” both of which had enormous audiences: Billy Graham's Christian fundamentalism and Hugh Hefner's "playboy philosophy.” It would be difficult to find two men more unlike. I interviewed Billy, sitting in the pews of the Avenue Road church, putting questions to him on two or three dozen pertinent public issues. I met with Hefner in Montreal - I took an immediate dislike to the man - and put the same questions to him. We then interact the two interviews, with each man responding in turn to the same question. The differences were predictable but interesting. We were off to a good start.

The following week we did the story that created more press attention than anything we carried that year. I had long been an admirer of and more recently and acquaintance of James Pike, a bishop in the American Protestant Episcopal church. Bishop Pike was a brilliant man. Raised a Roman Catholic, he was a successful lawyer before he felt called to the ministry. He served as chaplain at George Washington University and at Vassar before being named head of the department of religion at Columbia University. He was for six years dean of the cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City, after St. Peter's in Rome the largest sanctuary in the world. There, he was a leading and early opponent of the infamous senator Joe McCarthy and a pioneer fighter for civil rights.

Later, when he was Bishop of California, he came to doubt some of the central Christian doctrines and renounced the church.

Then his only son committed suicide. The boy had begun taking drugs and had been deeply disturbed after a homosexual love affair. Pike was shattered. He blamed himself: if he hadn't been so busy, so preoccupied with his work, he might have been closer to his son. With his usual zeal and intellectual vigour. Pike began a quest to reach his dead son through experiments in the occult, and was encouraged by what he believed were messages from "the other side.”

Allen Spraggett, whom I hired as religion editor on the Star some years earlier, suggested that Pike might be willing to appear on W 5, perhaps even to participate in an on-camera sιance. I asked Spraggett to find out if Pike would be prepared to have the sιance telecast. Spraggett reported that he would.

As the medium for the sιance, Spraggett suggested Arthur Ford, then the most respected of those oddball spirit communicators who purport to contact the dead. On the night before the telecast, Ford agreed to conduct a private sιance at my home. Present with Sylvia and me were Spraggett and his wife, Gary and Jackie Lautens,* Pierre and Janet Berton, and two friends of theirs visiting from Vancouver. Ford went into his trance and affected to get into a conversation with his "contact.” a teenage Indian boy who began to bring "messages" to members of our group. There was some advice for Lautens, who didn't seem much impressed. My mother sent word that I should not grieve any longer (she had been dead for a number of years), and a one time Liberal politician from London, Ontario turned up to state that I would soon return to politics.(I didn’t.) There were messages for the Bertons, too, although Pierre might best have been described as a hostile if interested witness.

The following night, in the brilliant light of the television studio, with Arthur Ford in his trance, a series of men and women from "the other side" passed messages through ford to a curiously uncritical Pike. There were some remarkable moments. A professor from Columbia identified himself by referring to an incident that had occurred when only he and Pike were present and which Pike asserted no one else could possibly know about. At the end, as Pike purportedly communicated with his son, he was in tears. It was a dramatic hour. Afterwards, Pike told reporters he was satisfied that contact had been made.

It was a front-page story across Canada and in the American papers, including The New York Times. Cosmopolitan bought the transcript. An American newspaper syndicate sent excerpts around the world.

It was not until after his death that Ford was revealed as a superlative con-artist. Among his papers were discovered some of the meticulous research he did before his sιances, including his preparation for the session in Toronto with Bishop Pike.

Ross McLean thought the sιance was dirty pool. He complained to the press: "When an item like that is made into a major story. . . . It is a programming decision I would have spurned. "If so, he would have been wrong. Pike was among the most brilliant clergymen of his time, and spiritualism was and is a widespread religion. Our broadcast was the one time for millions of people to watch firsthand and judge the phenomenon.

The following Sunday, CBC's The Way It Is had its premiere. It hadn't been planned, but that Sunday evening W 5 was pre empted for a showing of Mutiny on the Bounty, programmed to launch the ad campaign for the Ford Motor Company's new models. The film broke all ratings records.

It was an eventful year and an intensely competitive one. In my view it was healthy competition and the beneficiary was the Canadian television audience. Nor was the year without its temptation to seize an unfair advantage. One Sunday afternoon, Jeff Fry came to me, a tight, sly smile on his lips. "The film lab," he said, "has just delivered to us the film for tonight's The Way It Is.” Each week, both shows prepared a number of items on film for that week's program. Both used the same film processor. On this occasion, the deliveryman made a mistake and delivered the CBC film to us. Without the film, The Way It Is would be unable to mount a presentable show.

Jeff looked at me. "What do we do?"

"We call Ross and tell him We're sending his film over by taxi.”

Fry grinned wickedly. "We couldn't delay a couple of hours?"

"No," I said, wanting to. "And when you call, tell him that that's . . . the way it is.”


In December, 1967, I originated a series of annual programs, A Conversation With the Prime Minister. It was an hour-long interview with the PM, videotaped to be played on New Year's Day. I did the interviews during my tenure at CTV, Bruce Phillips has done them since. Over seventeen years, the program has invariably made front-page news.

In late fall, 1967, Lester Pearson announced that he would step down the following spring, and the Liberal party was involved in a search to find his successor. There was much speculation as to which candidate Pearson would support and, in my interview, I planned to press him with questions. However, we were no sooner in the limousine that would take us to the CFTO studios in Scarborough, than Mr. Pearson informed me that the subject was off limits. Nevertheless, during the drive to the studio, he let me put to him the names of the leading contenders while he, obviously enjoying himself, made capsule comments:

·         Paul Martin, then Minister of External Affairs and at the time absent on cabinet business in Europe: "You can count on it: Paul will hurry back to make the announcement that he's a candidate. If necessary, he'll walk on the water.”

·         Allan MacEachen, Minister of Health and Welfare: "Allan's too canny to run.* He knows he won’t have a chance - and he won't.”

·         Paul Hellyer, Minister of Transport: "Paul's a good fellow but he's just too stuffy. It hurts him to bend.”

·         Robert Winters, Minister of Mines and Resources: "Too much the Baron of Bay Street [as he was called].”

·         Pierre Trudeau, Minister of Justice, and at the time an undeclared dark horse: "Charles, let me ask you a question: can you see Pierre in his sandals standing in a Saskatchewan farmer's potato patch asking the man for his vote?" I responded, "With respect, Mr. Pearson, with television you no longer need to stand in a farmer's potato patch. And Mr. Trudeau's very good on television.” He shook his head. "He did a good job as my parliamentary secretary, but that doesn't take much. He's done well in Justice, but he has a long way to go before he's ready.”

·         Jean Marchand, Minister of Manpower and Immigration: it was obvious that Pearson favoured him. He spoke of him with affection. I raised the question of his health, which was rumored to be poor. Romeo LeBlanc, then Pearson's press secretary and later Minister of Fisheries, turned half around in the front seat and interjected, "Jean’s problems are mostly in his head. He wears himself out worrying about every decision before he makes it and after it's made. "Pearson none the less insisted that Marchand was the best man available. "And he's from Quebec, remember. There's a tradition in the party that we alternate between a French-and an English-speaking man.”

We did the interview in a sealed studio with commissionaires guarding the doors. It was understood that the text of the inter view was off the record until a transcript was released for New Year's Day. Unknown to us, a Telegram reporter sneaked into the studio and eavesdropped behind one of the enormous curtains. He wrote the story and the Tely published it.

I received a call from the prime minister's office; Pearson was enraged at the leak. I too was angry - we'd been scooped on our own story - but my apology was only grudgingly accepted. The PMO was certain that John Bassett had known of the interloper: was Bassett not the owner of CFTO? Was he not the publisher of the Telegram, and a prominent Tory? They were wrong, of course. I knew that Bassett wouldn't approve a breach of security in his own building (it would be counter-productive, if nothing else), but I knew also that he was too much the newsman to have an exclusive story fall into his hands and not print it.

Two extraordinary French Canadians burst suddenly on the Canadian political scene: Pierre Trudeau and Rene Levesque. The two men were as different as their backgrounds and over the next dozen or more years, they would contest mano a mano over issues as fundamental as the existence of the country. I had met Levesque socially through my work in television, and I liked him. I had not yet met Trudeau. It occurred to me that the radical differences in these two men - coming as they did from different sides of the tracks and now moving onto the national stage - would make an illuminating documentary and, under the working title One Canada: Two Nations, set out to make it.

Levesque was born in New Carlisle, a predominantly English - speaking village in the Gaspe. His father was a country lawyer, by no means poor but certainly hinterlands bourgeois. The youthful Rene intended to follow his father to the bar but dropped out of law school and, after a stint as correspondent for the U. S. Office of Wartime Information, joined Radio Canada where he was a popular commentator.

I met Levesque in 1963 when I went to Montreal to participate in a special broadcast. After the show, a number of us went to a friend's home for drinks and talk. As the evening progressed, Levesque picked up a cane-backed chair, parked it at the centre of the living room, straddled it and expatiated about the problems and the unrest in Quebec. The people in the room, most of us in broadcasting, listened transfixed to this skinny, unkempt man as he talked about the coming confrontation. At one point he said with vehemence, "And if it finally comes down to it - to where a choice must be made - I will choose Quebec over Canada.”

There was a Toronto producer there, a tall, good-looking man, impeccably dressed and impressive in manner. "Rene," he interjected, a pained expression on his face, "don't say things like that. We're troubled about the problem, too - it certainly worries me. And it worries my friends. All you do when you talk like that is make thing worse.”

Levesque got out of his chair and walked over to the Toronto producer. They made an incongruous pair. Rene was almost a foot shorter; he was dressed in jeans and an open-neck shirt with the cuffs rolled to the forearms. He poked a bony finger in the producer's chest and hissed: "what do you mean, you and your friends are troubled by the problem? Have you given it as much as five minutes serious thought? Do you ever think about it or talk about it other than as some of your bloody cocktail-party chit-chat? Care? You couldn't care less.”

Shortly afterwards, the party broke up, but a few of us stayed on. Levesque talked almost non-stop until three in the morning.

Levesque had entered provincial politics in 1960, working as a Liberal, and had come to power with Jean Lesage. He was part of the main thrust in the Quiet Revolution that followed the death of Duplessis and did much to popularize the cry, maitre chez nous. He made the slogan tangible by spearheading the amalgamation of a number of private power companies into Hydro Quebec. But he remained restive, even after the Liberals were re-elected in 1962. He says now, "I was a separatist as early as 1963.”

Pierre Trudeau's origins were almost antithetical. His father, Charles Emile, owned an automotive-service business, and in the early years of the Depression, sold it to Imperial Oil for $1. 4 million. He parlayed that sum to more than $2 million by the time he died in 1935, and his three children are multi-millionaires. Pierre Elliott was only fifteen when his father died. He spent eight years at College Jean de Brebeuf, a strict Jesuit school, and remains a committed if unorthodox Catholic. He studied law at the University de Montreal, articled with a Montreal firm, and for his own reasons stayed out of the war. There were four years of bumming around, mostly in Quebec, and then back to school: Harvard for a master's degree in political economy, lectures at the Sorbonne, and work under Harold Laski at the London School of Economics. Then more travel.

Back home he participated briefly in the now-famous Asbestos strike, and went on to ten years of editing and writing for Cite Libre. In 1965, Trudeau, Pelletier and Marchand - the so-called "Three Wise Men" - went to Ottawa where, at first, he made little impact as Lester Pearson's parliamentary secretary and then as Minister of Justice. John Diefenbaker was outraged and the press intrigued when he turned up in the Commons wearing sandals and an ascot with an openneck shirt. There was public attention when he bested Quebec's Premier, Daniel Johnson, in a televised constitutional conference, even more prominence when he spoke brilliantly in the Commons during the debate on Bill C-187, An Act Respecting Divorce, and again when he brought down his Omnibus Bill to Reform the Criminal Code, during which he spoke the oft-repeated, if borrowed, line: "The State has no business in the bedrooms of the nation.”

While preparing our parallel documentaries on the two men, we got promises of interviews from both but had trouble nailing down a time with Trudeau. A crew was almost living with Levesque, filming him on a trip home to the Gaspe and recording his hectic daily pace. But Trudeau was elusive. We finally were given a guarantee that when he returned from a year's end vacation in Tahiti (where, incidentally, he met Margaret Sinclair), he would meet our crew for a filming session.

During his absence the documentary took on added significance. The Trudeau boom had begun. Trudeau-for-Leader committees were springing up across Canada with the overnight swiftness of mushrooms. The absent - and to this point, reluctant - candidate was attracting impressive support. On his re turn he kept his promise to be interviewed, and Don MacPher son, my executive producer, and I flew to Montreal to screen the footage. We were elated by our coup; we would have the first extended interview with the man the nation was talking about.

We watched the film with accumulating dismay. The director we had assigned, an experienced and talented man, seemed to have suffered a temporary lapse of judgment. He had placed Trudeau behind a tiny desk against a flat background, poorly lit, and had filmed him with one camera for the better part of an hour. In that hour, he had asked in consequential questions and, without changing the camera angle, had let his subject ramble on absently and indifferently. Nor had he provided cutaways - shots form a different vantage point - so that the film could be edited. Our coup had become a disaster.

MacPherson and I held a crisis meeting in a hastily rented room at the Queen Elizabeth hotel, seeking to avoid a disaster. We were, as I recall it, not a week form our airdate. MacPherson worked around the clock, snatching only moments for sleep, cadging film from sources in Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto. I returned to Toronto to work on the script. Finally, only minutes before broadcast time, we were ready. The documentary was assembled live, on air, in one of the hairiest broadcasts I’ve been a part of. The critics and the public hailed it (it was the first parallel examination of the two men who would dominate the political stage for the next two decades) and, although I ground my teeth at the program's imperfections, I drew some satisfaction from its timeliness and its reception.

We were now on the eve of two of the most dramatic political conventions in Canadian history. The Progressive Conservatives would select as their new leader a most unlikely politician, Robert Stanfield, in a convention that would see the public humiliation of John Diefenbaker,the man who had given them their one hour of glory and had then outstayed his welcome. The Liberals would say an affectionate farewell to their leader, Mike Pearson, and put themselves in thrall to the most inscrutable and volatile man ever to lead them. At CTV the decision was made to provide full coverage of both conventions. It was a move that surprised many but created little expectation: such events had been the exclusive preserve of the CBC since its beginning.

I had put Don MacPherson in charge of the physical and technical arrangements. He is now president of First Choice Canadian, the national pay-television service, but he was then working as producer at TV Ontario. I met him through Nathan Cohen, who had telephoned me not long after I went to CTV to say he had something important to discuss with me. We met for lunch. I saw to my surprise that he had brought a friend, Mac Pherson's. Before our food was served, he filled me in on Mac Pherson's background and concluded by saying, "He's the most knowledgeable man in Canada on the technology of television. You need him. Hire him".

I was something less than sanguine about the decision to hire him when, the day before the Conservative convention convened, I visited Maple Leaf Gardens to check on how our meticulously laid plans were progressing. The CTV broadcast booth was being hammered together. It looked like an oversize construction shed, jerrybuilt with rough studding and plywood, and was perched precariously two-thirds of the way up the Garden's slope. I was made even more uneasy when I strolled over to the CBC booth. It was virtually complete, glass-enclosed, looked expensive and substantial, and was crammed with brandnew electronic equipment.

I returned to our location. MacPherson saw the questions in my eyes and grinned. "Don't worry", he said. "We’ll be fine.” Then he added, the frown on his brow matching mine, "That is, if the chroma-key works. At the moment it's got some bugs".

Our hope for superior visual coverage rested in large part on this new development in television. Chroma-key is a system that makes it possible selectively to superimpose one picture on another with each picture dominant in predetermined areas. Using the system, it was possible for me to sit at the anchor-desk with an unobstructed view of the convention floor while behind me, a picture could be seen of what was happening on the floor. Without chroma-key, the CBC commentators were at a disadvantage. In order that they and the convention might be seen on the screen, they were forced to sit with their backs to the action; they could only know what was happening on the floor by watching monitors. CTV's coverage of Conservative convention was the first such use of the chroma-key technique by any network. The system, much improved, is now commonplace at major events in Canada and the United States.

We had another advantage in the contest: the CBC had grown fat in its virtual monopoly; our people were hungry. On the eve of the convention, I gathered the commentators, floor reporters and cameramen for a briefing, and ended with a pep talk, It wasn't quite, " Get in there and win this one for the Gipper"; It was more in the order of, "Let's do a replay of the David and Goliath scenario.” Hardly standard procedure in the sophisticated business of modern broadcasting, but it worked.

We'd selected our staff of floor reporters and commentators with care. I'd hired Pierre Berton, Scott Young - who was writing a featured column at the Globe and Mail Doug Fisher, a former member of parliament turned journalist, and Peter Riegenstrief, the pollster. Harvey Krick, Max Keeping and Jim Fleming (now the federal Minister of Multiculturalism), all staffers, held up their end. I manned the anchor desk from the opening gavel to the end of the convention.

We had one consuming goal: get the story and get it first. If a delegation was split or wavering in its allegiance, if a candidate was about to withdraw and throw his support to another, if the party wheels were closeted in one of the dressing rooms below or plotting amid the cigar smoke down the street at the Westbury hotel, we must get it to air first. Most of the time we did.

Pierre Berton was relishing his return to the role of reporter and was dashing about the Gardens like a cub. He took advantage of the fact that he was as much a celebrity as most of the candidates to entreat or browbeat information from Conservative officials. Twice in the early balloting he made his way to where the votes were being counted and, at the crucial moment, leaned his six-foot, three-inch frame over one of the scrutinizers and said, "Here, let me see that," copied the figures and sprinted to the nearest CTV camera to report the totals long before they were announced by the chairman.

On the final ballot, after an engrossing struggle between Robert Stanfield of Nova Scotia and Duff Roblin of Manitoba, Tory officials tightened security. The area where the votes were counted was isolated by a hastily rigged rope barrier. But they had not reckoned with Berton. On the floor, he encountered Robert Macaulay, a Toronto lawyer and the so-called "minister of Everything" in the Ontario government. "Bob," Pierre said, " do me a favour. Get me the figures on the final ballot.”

I was extemporizing at the anchor desk when I saw Berton on the monitor struggling to don a pair of earphones and reaching for a hand microphone. Simultaneously, Don MacPherson's voice jangled in my earpiece. "Go to Berton! Go to Berton!" We broke the news of Stanfield's victory ten minutes before it was announced by the chairman. The CBC was forced to quote our figures - without, of course, admitting where they got them: "While they're not official, they are from a reliable source.”

Our coverage was praised by the newspapers and there was much chiding of the public network. I knew, however, that having taken the CBC by surprise the first time, it would not be so easy the second.

The contest to succeed Lester Pearson had fascinated the nation; not simply because the Liberals were in power and the new leader would become prime minister, but because of the presence of Pierre Elliott Trudeau. The excitement he engendered exceeded even that which surrounded john F Kennedy when he made his bid for the American presidency.

Trudeau was a media dream. He was photogenic, sophisticated, contemporary, unpredictable and utterly unlike the common perception of a politician. And he embodied the new sense of Expo'67. From the moment he disembarked from the special train that brought him to Ottawa on the eve of the convention (flanked by edger Benson, the Minister of Housing, and Mitchell Sharp, the Minister of Finance,) and like a political pied piper strode up the ramp to the station trailing a cheering, chanting crowd, it was obvious to all but the blind or obdurate that the convention was as good as over.

Nevertheless, an engrossing and occasionally bitter struggle lay ahead. Among those grasping for the succession were: Paul Martin, Robert Winters, Mitchell Sharp (who, on the eve of the convention, dumped his supporters with unseemly haste and scrambled to board the bandwagon), John Turner, Paul Hellyer, Allan MacEachen, Joe Greene and Eric Kierans. Absent was the early frontrunner, Pearson's personal choice, Jean Marchand. When, for reasons of health and/or temperament Marchand stepped aside, it was the final factor in bringing Trudeau in. It was imperative that there be a French Canadian in the race - not least, because of the Liberal tradition that the leadership of the party alternate between a Quebecois and an Anglophone.

At CTV we had been planning for the convention for weeks. I arrived in Ottawa the day before the opening gavel, lugging two briefcases stuffed with research material, to find a Trudeau cocktail party in progress at my hotel. The entrance, the lobby, the mezzanine and the lower levels were jammed with a moiling, beribboned, hyperactive mob. It was almost impossible to move about. The frenetic adulation that surrounded the candidate was almost beyond belief. Women of every age were, quite literally, left faint when he passed by. There were squeals of excitement reminiscent of the madness I'd witnessed in the Paramount theatre in New York City thirty years earlier when a stickthin young Frank Sinatra first burst on the scene. It has been called Trudeau mania - it was exactly that.

On the way from the airport, I'd gone to the site of the convention, to check that all was in readiness. Again, I felt a tremor of fear and insecurity. Our cameras, borrowed from CJOH TV, were just being put in place; relatively small Phillips units, boxlike, battered and unimpressive. The CBC had purchased new RCA cameras and had eight of them positioned on the floor. They stood, hooded in slick plastic covers like sleek thoroughbreds waiting to go to the post. More alarming was the fact that the opposition had not one but two studios: a glass-enclosed announcer's booth at the ideal vantage point above the convention floor, and a second all glass facility at floor level beneath the stands, to was a duplicate of the rickety booth we had used in Toronto, and in spite of the new CTV banner hanging from it, it looked lowrent and tacky.

But the CBC had learned little from the Conservative convention. Their anchorman and his associates still sat with their backs to the action. We had stolen Tom Gould, their best commentator at the Tory convention, and had brought in Berton again. We had two other advantages: their new cameras, although impressive in appearance, could not match ours under poor lighting conditions and could not produce a comparably bright picture when turned on the crowd or on the candidates' boxes at the perimeter of the floor. Moreover, I had noted during the Conservative convention that, at the climax, a horde of newsmen and photographers had swarmed about the finalists' boxes, and neither our nor the CBC's floor cameras had been able to see over them. Both we and the CBC had prepared what were called "creepie-peepies" – shoulder-borne light cameras - but I was certain they too would be useless in the crush. Consequently, I had ordered a ten-foot scaffold secretly built and stored out of the way backstage. At the crucial moment, although forbidden to do so by the arena management, We wheeled it into the convention floor, a cameraman balanced precariously on top, and got an unobstructed view of Trudeau in his moment of victory.

Don MacPerson's voice rasped in my ear: "Charles! Charles! Martin Luther king has just been shot!"

We had just come on the air for the opening session of the Liberal party leadership convention. I was at the anchor desk in the CTV booth; MacPherson was outside the stadium in the remote unit - an oversized van crammed with electronic equipment, which housed the control room, nerve centre of the broad cast operation. The news of King's assassination was soon followed by fragmentary reports of burning and looting in a number of American cities. All our plans to set the scene at the convention, to run film clips of the candidates and to present rundowns by our regional reporters went down the chute.

The information was sketchy at best and changing every few minutes. I extemporized as best I could. A dozen times, we cut away to take feeds from the American networks and from our own newsroom in Toronto. The news of the rioting grew more ominous as the hours passed. We had no option: the opening session of the convention was put on the back burner and we "winged it" until 11 p. m. when we could hand off to the national news.

The following day, the convention returned to normal - if "normal" can describe that convention at any point. Overarching everything that happened was one obsessive question: can the Trudeau juggernaut be stopped?

An early indication of the trend came with the arrival of the Newfoundland delegation headed by premier Joey Smallwood. Newfoundland had been thought to be securely in Bob Winters' camp; Winters was himself a Maritimer and a longtime friend of both Newfoundland and Smallwood. But a few days before the convention, Trudeau made a flying trip to St. John's and the word went out that Joey, ever the political opportunist, had defected. But there were reports of dissention in the delegation over the switch, and this led to what could have been the most hilarious gaffe in Canadian broadcasting history.

I was in the midst of presenting a round up of reports from the floor. Each reporter was at standby with the representative of some region by his side. One of them, Henry Champ (who has Since gone to NBC television news), was with a burly, beery Newfoundland delegate. Mistakenly thinking he had been given a cue and not realizing he wasn't on the air, Champ began his interview:

"There are rumors of major split in the Newfoundland delegation," he said. "As I understand it: Joey Smallwood wants the entire delegation to declare for Trudeau but some of you aren't prepared to go along. Are you one of those? Tell me what's happening.”

The delegate paused a moment to gather his thoughts, his mind unfocussed after a long night of partying and politicking. "well," he said. "here's the way it is. I'm Bob Winters man myself and they're try into get me to switch. I'm not sure exactly what's happening, but I'll tell you this: Joey can point my cock but he can't tell me when to piss.”

I, too, was supporter of Bob Winters and hand written speeches for him during his successful run for election in Toronto York west. In my position, I couldn't show preference, but I had helped Clem Neiman, winters' campaign manager, plan the demonstration scheduled to follow the candidate's speech. His slogan was, "It's Winters' Time, "so I had proposed that, as the demonstration began, white confetti be poured into the air conditioning system, which led to great ducts high above the convention floor. At the same moment, Winters' supporters would toss foam snowballs back and forth. Somehow, the engineer was talked into permitting the confetti, hundreds of snowballs were passed out and hundreds of "It's Winters' Time" signs were brought in. As Bob finished a lackluster speech, suddenly it was wintertime. The air was full of confetti snow and hundreds of snowballs flew through the air. It was a hokey scene, and in the broadcast booth, a bit embarrassed, I made innocuous comments.

The early balloting went as expected. MacEachen, who had talked himself into believing he had a chance, went out on the first vote and crossed the floor to join Sharp and Benson in the Trudeau box. Others would soon follow. Person signaled his approval of Trudeau and the bandwagon began to roll. But the opposition was hardening. Judy Lamarsh made her famous whisper to Paul Hellyer (unhappily for us, picked up by a CBC microphone), "Paul, you've got to go to Winters. Don't let that bastard win it, Paul - he isn't even a Liberal.”

But Hellyer wouldn't yield. Nor would John Turner, who stubbornly stayed in for the last ballot, and Trudeau carried off the prize. The final totals were: Trudeau 1,203, Winters 954, Turner 195. The building erupted in an explosion of sound and celebration. It didn't end until voices were hoarse and partisans exhausted and marching bands could no longer pucker.

So began the most tumultuous era in Canadian political history.


It was going on midnight when I packed my notes and personal belongings to leave the broadcast booth where I had spent the past fourteen hours (and won the sobriquet, "Ol' Iron Kidney"). I was feeling a variety of emotions: exhaustion - I'd been broadcasting for two and a half days, elation - the polls and the comment in the media showed that our coverage had again topped the CBC's, and uneasiness - Trudeau stirred in me a vague sense of disquiet. (I remained a cardcarrying Liberal for another six years, but in five general elections could not bring myself to vote to return him to office. ) And I was heart sore for Bob Winters. He had put on a brave front, as had all the defeated candidates as they gathered on the platform for the traditional show of solidarity, but I could see that he was suffering. I had some understanding of what he was feeling; I had come second in a close fight for the leadership of the Ontario Liberal party just three years earlier, of which more lately.

As I walked toward the exit with MacPherson and some of the crew, the floor was inches deep in spent campaign material. The lights had been lowered and the arena was almost empty; only the cleaning crew was in sight. We paused for moment in the foyer. From the corner of an eye I caught a movement in the shadows beneath one of the great concrete stairways. It was Bob Winters, alone. I called out to him and went toward him. We put our arms about each other and stood quietly for a minute or two. His body was shaking. An hour earlier, he had been the centre of hundreds of adoring supporters, marching with a flashing smile, hands held aloft at the head of his demonstration, the focus of millions of Canadians. Now, here he was, fighting to contain his emotions, alone in the shadows beneath a concrete stairway in deserted hockey rink.

Second doesn't count in politics.

Within weeks Trudeau called an election, naming the date as June 25. The moment the writ was issued I moved to mount a half hour special out of our affiliate station, CJOH, in Ottawa. Tom Gould would host the show and, after an examination of the issues, would conclude by interviewing Pauline Jewett. I was aware of the risk. It was imperative that the broadcast be non partisan. Jewett was an academic and an incisive political commentator, but she had been active in the Liberal party. * To avoid partisanship, I drafted a list of questions and sent them by telex to Ottawa, instructing Gould not to depart from them.

The show went well and Jewett was even more than usually succinct. As the program continued, I realized with a touch of trepidation that the questions I had drafted would be exhausted before the time ran out. With a minute left, Gould unwisely asked Jewett to hazard a guess as to what the result of the election would be. She predicted a Liberal sweep, with a mere seventy-four seats for the Tories. (In fact, they won seventy-two.) I flinched.

Not long afterwards, the telephone rang. "John Bassett.” the voice said - Bassett's usual opener for a phone call. "I've been sitting here watching television with some of my friends, [Eddie Goodman, Finlay MacDonald and George Hees, as I recall it, all prominent Conservatives] and I've just seen my station used for a partisan political broadcast.” He then launched into a tirade, charging me with using my position at CTV to help the Liberal party. He continued, in full voice and without a pause, stating that, in future, he would vet any programs produced by me before putting them on the air and would not allow me to host another show on his station. I said nothing, waiting until he finished. From the day I joined CTV, I had known that the time would come when quarter and I had planned what I would do if we ever bumped heads - I would counter-attack with equal vigour

When he paused to draw breath, I said, "John, you're dead wrong. You haven't heard one partisan word from me from the day I joined the network. If anything, I've leaned over backwards. You're accusing me of slanting our programming; you know that's absolute crap. When our coverage of the conventions was being praised from every side, you were happy to get the benefit; now you say you'll vet any program I do before it goes on the air. I say: if you change one of them or refuse to carry any of them, I'll resign. '

We fumed at each other for the next few minutes, until he banged down the phone. I called Chercover at home. "Murray.” I said, "we've got a problem.” I told him the story. He said, "Look, don't do a thing. Go to bed. We'll see what happens tomorrow.”

The following morning my telephone rang.

"John Bassett," he said.

"Charles Templeton," I said.

"My wife gave me hell last night for shouting at you.”

"Mine was in the bedroom above my study, and when I went upstairs she asked me what the ruckus was all about.”

"I'll tell you what; I'm prepared to forgot it if you are.”

"I certainly am.”

"Good," John said. "Now I want to talk to you about hosting a new show for me on CFTO.”

We both laughed.


Not long after the shouting incident, I found myself facing the possibility of another clash with Bassett. Chercover said to me one day, "you're looking for a new research assistant. I may have just the right person for you. But there's catch.”

I was indeed looking for research assistant. I was planning a summer replacement series and hadn't been able to find the person to do the preliminary digging and the research needed for each show. Chercover's nominee was Isabel Gordon, whom I knew only as a former women's editor of the Telegram.

"The catch is, "Chercover said, "she's John Bassett's lady friend, the woman he's going to marry.” "Oh," I said, considering the land mines that might lie ahead. "I'll hire her," I said, "on one condition: that if she doesn't work out, I can fire her.”

She came to see me the following day. I explained the job, told her what would be required of her and named the salary. All was agreed to and I hired her.

For the next two weeks I hardly saw her. She would come in mornings, more or less on time, spend less than an hour in the tiny office I'd assigned to her, mostly on the phone and then leave. I might not see her again all day. I was beginning to think I would have to dismiss her. One morning she knocked on my door and asked if she could speak to me. She then showed me the results of the research she'd been doing. It was innovative and went far beyond what I'd asked for. I said, "Isabel, this is absolutely first rate. Unfortunately, I can't use more than half of your suggestions. It's a summer replacement show. I simply don't have the budget. Nevertheless great work.”

The following morning my telephone rang. "John Bassett," the voice said. "I hear you don't have enough money in your budget to do that summer replacement show.” I said, "I'm afraid not, "He chuckled. "You do now!"

A week or so after the election was called, I had a phone call from Finlay MacDonald. I knew him as the owner of the CTV affiliate in Halifax and as a prominent Conservative. He came to see me and brought with him Eddie Goodman, a distinguished Toronto lawyer. Eddie (known to his friends and the press as "Fast Eddie") had been chairman of the recent Conservative leadership convention and was one of the major figures in the party. Both men were convinced that Robert Stanfield was a better man than Trudeau and felt certain that, if Canadians could see the two of them in personal confrontation, they would recognize Stanfield's worth. They hoped to accomplish this through a nationally televised debate, but wanted to restrict it to Stanfield and Trudeau. They knew that if the CBC mounted the debate, it would, as the public network, insist on including Tommy Douglas, the leader of the NDP, and Real Caouette of the Creditistes. Their proposal was this: Stan field is prepared to commit himself to a televised debate on CTV, if you can get Trudeau.

I grasped the opportunity. As a private network, CTV would not be bound to include Douglas and Caouette, It was my view that a face-to-face debate between Trudeau and Stanfield would not only be great television, it would provide an invaluable public service, enabling the Canadian people to take stock of the two men, both of whom were new to the national political scene. I called Keith Davey, who had been Pearson's campaign manager and was performing the same function for Trudeau. He liked the idea, said he would take some soundings among his associates and get back to me. To my surprise, there was immediate agreement. But by the time Goodman and MacDonald met with their Liberal counterparts to discuss the format and the rules, it was evident that the initial enthusiasm was cooling. Within days, it became obvious that, for all the positive noises being made, the Liberals had no intention of proceeding.

Their first objection, that there would be widespread resentment at the exclusion of Douglas and Caouette, was raised despite the fact that the two-man confrontation had earlier been perceived as a plus. They then questioned whether CTV's coverage would encompass most Canadians, particularly in Quebec where the network had only one station, CFCF Montreal. It was a valid objection. Chercover got on the telephone and within a day arranged for the broadcast to be carried on a number of independent stations, including Quebec City, Sherbrooke and a French station in Montreal. As well, a simulcast would be transmitted nationally on radio. The nation would be covered.

But the Trudeau strategists were now firmly opposed, and for understandable reasons. Trudeau was dominating the media coverage. Why share it with Stanfield? Trudeau was well ahead in the public-opinion polls. Why risk a major gaffe before the entire country? Even though they were confident their candidate would win against Stanfield, a four-man debate would be safer. Trudeau now made a public statement that he wouldn't participate unless the minor parties were invited, and added that he favoured including the public network. There was no option but to agree.

From that point things went downhill. I met a number of times with the operational brass at the CBC and found myself involved in endless convoluted discussions about format, rules of debate, personnel, locale, equipment and so on. On the eve of the debate, in which I would act as moderator, I flew to Ottawa knowing that "The Great Debate," eviscerated by politics and bureaucratic caution, would probably end as "The Great Bore.”


A rehearsal was scheduled for the early afternoon on the day of broadcast. Its purpose was to familiarize the principals with the physical arrangements and the tangle of rules that now restricted the participants. Each man arrived separately; first Douglas and then Caouette, both apparently relaxed. Stanfield, shepherded by a coterie of tense advisors, came next, appearing subdued and serious. Trudeau was late; he'd attended a funeral and was dressed in formal attire. However his mood was anything but funereal; he was bouncy and ebullient. He gave me a smile and a wave, winked at Sylvia (caught up in Trudeaumania, she'd insisted on attending the rehearsal), went to his assigned position and swung a leg over the top of this desk. Then, affecting a sudden schoolboy primness, he sat on his high stool, the model of deco rum, procedures and he listened impassively. When the red light, which would signal the expiration of his time period, flashed, he burlesqued an appalled grimace, leaned over his desk and covered the light with a hand.

For all the bravado of the rehearsal, it was evident as the telecast began that Trudeau was frightened. At the moderator' desk I was no more than a dozen feet from him and could see the working of his jaw, the frequent swallowing and the tension in his body. Little wonder - the potential for disaster was there. He had vaulted from the House of Commons to the zenith after only three years in parliament. There were dozens of current issues on which he hadn't had time to brief himself. Caouette (who was not permitted to join the debate until the halfway point, as the Creditistes were not a national party) was no threat but Tommy Douglas was; he was an experienced and incisive debater and had been in the Commons for years. Moreover, it was known that Stanfield had prepared himself with long and careful briefings. The possibility existed that, in full view of the nation, the Trudeau skyrocket might descend a charred stick.

As in most televised political debates, there was no clear winner. The followers of each man could extract some satisfaction from his performance. Douglas and Caouette, who had less at stake than the others and had been around for years, did acceptably. Stanfield did better than many expected, but that is faint praise. Trudeau was restrained and flat and monotonous of voice, but he made no mistake of consequence and was generally credited with handling himself well. But the debate itself never caught fire.

The election campaign was a royal tour; the election a coronation. The Liberals won 155 seats - 27 in the western provinces to the Conservatives' 72. Stanfield fumbled a football and the election. Tommy Douglas lost his seat. The universe was unfolding. . .


The morning of election day I drove into CTV's underground parking area. As i Got out of the car, the accumulated fatigue of the past nineteen months suddenly settled on me and I hadn't the strength to walk across the floor to the elevator. I rested on the fender of the car for the minutes until I gathered the strength to make my way to my office. The previous three days had been spent incommunicado in a hotel room, fixing in my mind the myriad details necessary for making pertinent comment and swift analyses during an election broadcast. It was the first general election in which computers would be used and we were fearful of a breakdown. That possibility added to the pressure. Our weeks of meticulous preparation had focused on this day; but now that it was here, I found myself doubting that I would be able to do my job.

It was late June. The hot studio was hotter because of the lights and the large number of people working on the floor. To counter the heat, I wore walker's shorts instead of trousers - when I was seated behind the anchor desk, who would know? The desk where I would spend the next four hours was raised above the floor and it was necessary to mount a riser to climb into my chair. On the desk before me were a red telephone connected to Don MacPherson in the control booth and a television monitor sunk flush with the desktop. Tom Gould sat to my left, sifting through the first computer printouts, the trickle that would soon become a flood. Seated at a table behind and below meat floor level and hidden from the cameras was Susan Dexter a W 5 staffers seconded for the evening. I had her tie a string to my ankle. As new printouts were delivered to her, she would cull from them those I needed, and when they were in order, tug on the string. I would then put my hand below the desk and take them. Computers and string. . . . !

During rehearsal, I felt a pervasive trembling in my body and a wooliness in my brain. I seemed oddly removed from what was happening. We were scheduled to go to air at 7:30 to get a jump on the CBC, which would begin its broadcast at 8:00. At one minute to air time - to warm up my brain, as an athlete might his body before a contest - I commanded my mind to run through the names of the ridings in Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland. I couldn't recall even the four ridings in PEI. Panic. I was suddenly drenched in sweat and overcome by dizziness. .

The floor manger was giving me the countdown. "Five-four-three-two . . .” a pause and then the stab of the forefinger. I began to talk, almost automatically, the sentences forming themselves in the murk of my brain, setting the scene for the election and giving a rundown on the features we would be providing. Then, mercifully, the floor manager gave me the cue for a commercial break.

The light on the telephone flashed. It was MacPherson. "Are you all right?" he asked. "You don't look good.”

"I don't know what's the matter. My head's full of wet Kleenex. I'm dizzy and faint. I'm not sure I'm going to make it.”

"What do you want to do?"

"Keep an eye on my right hand," I said. "If I'm in trouble, I'II tap with my forefinger on the desk. If you see that, cut to Gould,"

"Will do," he said. "Ready to come out of commercial.”

The next four hours were nightmare. I had lapses of memory and moments when I thought I was going to faint. But as the evening progressed the tension eased. I leaned on Gould more than had been planned and his solid professionalism took up the slack. But we didn't do as we had hoped and not as well as the CBC.


The following morning I went to my office at CTV headquarters and stopped by Murray Chercover's office. He looked up at me. "What ate you doing here?" he said. "Go on home.”

I told him I had a few things that must be done and then said "Murray, I love my work and I love CTV, but I'm not ready to die for it.”

He looked at me and grinned. "Go to bed for a week.”

Chercover is one of the most important men in Canadian broadcasting but is unknown to the public. His knowledge of the complex details of broadcasting is astonishing. He knew the operation and the budgetary details of my department - and every other department - better than I did. But in all the time I worked with him, he never interfered. He counseled, he advised, he proposed, but having trusted you with the job he left you free to do it.

His managerial capacity can best be seen in CTV's coverage of the historical Apollo 11 lunar landing. The United States' manned flight to the moon and back spanned nine days, included a landing on the moon, an exploration of its surface and a safe return, NASA announced that, during the nine days, it would transmit seven teen hours of television pictures, from blast-off to splash-down and recovery. The CBC announced that it would carry seven hours. Chercover asked for my recommendation as to what CTV should do. I thought about it overnight and went to his office the following morning.

"We should carry all seventeen hours," I said. "Every available minute.”

He looked at me. "I agree with you, "he said.” That would be ideal. But do you have any idea what it would cost?"

"Murray, this is Columbus and Magellan. It's as though there were cameras along when they set sail.”

"Okay, so you're fascinated and I'm fascinated, but will the viewer watch seventeen hours of it?"

"They'll watch.”

"You sound sure of it.”

"I am.”

He looked down at his desk, frowning. Then he lifted his head and said, "Okay, we do it.”

If he had been wrong, it could have cost the network more than a hundred thousand dollars. It could have cost him his job. In fact, every commercial slot was sold. The CBC, which began with partial coverage, quickly expanded its service to match ours. It was the greatest event in television history and was watched around the world by the largest audience of all time.


Postscript

The period during which I was at CTV happened to be among the most exciting in Canadian journalistic history, made more exciting to us because we were finding our way, taking chances, experimenting. I was teamed with committed and imaginative people, most of whom worked far too hard.

There were encounters with extraordinary people, of course: the justly famous and the merely notorious, the pompous, the sleazy, the ambitious, the godly, the kooks and the rogues - a cross-section of the men and women who "make news.” Television is a magnet; it drowse to it people of every imaginable diversity to present themselves before its lenses, and draws others to watch transfixed. The television camera is a kinky voyeur: it lusts with equal passion for mangled bodies and widows' tears and slaughtered seals. It mingles with angry mobs, dogs the steps of preening politicians and crowds close to catastrophe. It makes nonentities celebrities and licensed brawlers rich. If Andy Warhol is right and the day comes when everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes, it will be because of television.

For me, television was work, opportunity and a stepping-stone. In 1959,an interview I did on the CBC led to the offer of a job at the Toronto Star. In 1969, when I returned to television, programs produced at CTV led to becoming editor of Maclean's magazine. In each case, my work in the electronic medium led to print journalism, which runs counter to the flow - television usually recruits from the press. There was no deliberate going against the grain; it merely happened that way.

I was never fully committed to television. To individual pro grams and to special challenges, yes, but never to the medium itself. It is possible to do some things superlatively well on television, but they are the exceptions. Commercial television, by its very nature, breeds mediocrity. It is an insatiable dragon, whose keepers must feed it every hour of every day of the year. A result is that those who work in television find themselves, for all their high resolves, living with compromise. There is little time for contemplation, there are few opportunities to step back and scrutinize what you are doing. A valid and shining idea is inevitably diminished as it becomes subject to the limitation of budgets, the caution of bureaucrats, the exigencies of time, the complexity of the mechanism, the shortage of first-rate technicians, the low level of public expectation and the hundred other woes that bedevil the production process. As has been said, "Television is a one-ton pencil.” It is a powerful means of communication; it is also unwieldy and expensive.

None of this justifies or excuses the banality of 90 per cent of television programming, but it does explain it. And it reveals why most television programs are tired imitations of earlier successes. They may amuse but they seldom stimulate robust laughter. ( Most television laughs come from studio audiences responding on cue, supplemented by ancient guffaws recycled on tape. ) The best programs available on a given night are usually something unscripted, such as sport, or something borrowed from another medium, the cinema.

Television does some things well: political conventions, public affairs, sorts, examinations of nature. It does some things poorly: news (with a few exceptions), political campaigns, live theatre, classical music. It has gone to seed (as has public affairs radio) on "causes," among them homosexuality, environmental pollution, abortion, racial prejudice, rape and, lately, incest. Each is important and needs the focus of attention, but one tires of the onslaught, and the end result is informed indifference. Television builds calluses on our compassion.

In the beginning, television news was presented in a straightforward manner. The news-readers were staff announcers who presented little more than radio with pictures. The shooting and preparation of film excerpts was a slow, laborious process, and the film portions of the "telecasts," as they were then called, were usually a day or more behind the events.

But as techniques improved, portable videotape cameras appeared and satellites began to transmit pictures worldwide, viewers discovered television news to be an undemanding and entertaining way to keep abreast of what was happening in a world that had become, in Marshall McLuhan's phrase, "a global village. "There was an immediacy, an apparent authenticity to television reporting. You could sit in your living room and be an eyewitness as politicians made pronouncements or bombs shattered villages or belly-clubs crushed skulls or firefighters poured their torrents into infernos. And audiences increased.

Businessmen saw this gathering crowd and sought the opportunity to proclaim the virtues of their wares before it. As the number of viewers increased, the income from commercials sky rocketed and "the news" no longer showed as a debit on the balance sheet. Inevitably, the quest for the advertiser's dollar led to a competition for viewers. Networks and local stations strove to provide more news, more immediate news, more interesting news. The news-reader gab way to the anchorman (more accurately, anchorperson, for there are an increasing number of women in the business) and, especially in the United States, he or she become as much a media star as the singers, dancers and comedians in the entertainment part of the industry. Walter Cronkite, a former CBS anchorman, was selected in a national pool as "the most trusted man in America.” Aurely the CBC's Barbara Frum is the best known television "personality" in Canada.

The growth and popularity of television news has produced problems. The time allotted must be filled. If there isn't enough news it must be manufactured. If there is a shortage of hard news, gussy up an inconsequential item. Seek the human-interest story. Create a media event, transforming a non-story into an apparently important happening. Develop stories about "problems" in the society. And even more important, seek news that makes for interesting pictures. A line-up editor will be disposed to allocate more time to a riot at a rock concert than to a Nobel presentation. A protest provides better footage than a press conference. Responsible broadcasters will strive for a balance between legitimate news and trivia; others will major in ambulance-chasing, fires and police work.

Television is subject to the need for pictures. Its reason for being is to transmit visual images. This is its strength and its weakness. No reporter's words could communicate so graphically the defeat of the Amercian withdrawal from Saigon as did the pictures of the Vietnamese clinging to and falling from the helicopter skids. And nothing was more boring than those dated "file tape" shots of the British navy in the Falklands. Therein lies the problem: television must put up pictures, even when there are no pictures worth putting up; the "talking head" is no more than picture postcard radio.

Television will undoubtedly get both better and worse, in large part because of the proliferation of channels brought about by cable and satellites. There is little reason to believe that the increase in the number of programs will lead to higher quality programs. There will be one improvement; as has happened with radio and print, the proliferation of channels will generate a full spectrum of highly specialized offerings. Already, there are channels that offer nothing but news or sports or religion or motion pictures, as will the viewer's ability to determine programming through videocassettes and other systems of storage and retrieval

I was present at the beginnings of television. I expect to be part of its continuous evolution. It wasn't for all the nostalgia, better in the old days, although it was more exciting because it was new and live and had to be innovative. But for all the proliferation and scope, the task remains the same - to communicate with that one individual in his or her living room. It is an exceedingly difficult thing to do well.

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