In 1958, Prime Minister John Diefenbaker's government passed a new Broadcasting Act, establishing the Board of Broadcast Governors (forerunner to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, or CRTC) as the governing body of Canadian broadcasting, effectively ending the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's (CBC) dual role as regulator and broadcaster. The new board's first act was to take applications for "second" television stations in Halifax, Montreal (in both English and French), Ottawa, Toronto, Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver in response to an outcry for an alternative to the CBC's television service. Calgary and Edmonton were served by privately owned CBC affiliates; the other six markets by CBC owned-and-operated stations (O&Os).
The nine winners, in order of their first sign-on, were:
- CFCN-TV Calgary (September 9, 1960)
- CHAN-TV Vancouver (October 31, 1960)
- CJAY-TV Winnipeg (November 12, 1960)
- CFTO-TV Toronto (January 1, 1961)
- CJCH-TV Halifax (January 1, 1961)
- CFCF-TV Montreal (English; January 20, 1961)
- CFTM-TV Montreal (French; February 19, 1961)
- CJOH-TV Ottawa (March 12, 1961)
- CBXT Edmonton (October 1, 1961)
The first eight stations were privately owned; the Edmonton station was a CBC O&O, meaning that the existing station in that city, CFRN-TV, would lose its CBC affiliation once CBXT signed on.
Even before his station was licensed, John Bassett, the chief executive of the ultimately successful Toronto applicant Baton Broadcasting, had expressed interest in participating in the creation of a second television network, "of which we see the Toronto station as anchor". Indeed, Baton had already begun quietly contacting the successful applicants in other cities to gauge their interest in forming a cooperative group to share Canadian programming among the stations. This led to the July 1960 formation of the Independent Television Organization (ITO), consisting of all eight of the newly licensed private stations, plus CFRN. Each station would have a single vote in the ITO's operations, regardless of the size of the station's audience (CFTM, being a French-language station and therefore having little reason to collaborate with the other stations, would soon withdraw from the group; it would later emerge as the flagship of the first private French-language network, TVA). The ITO soon resolved to apply for a network licence to link these second stations.
However, the ITO faced opposition from Spence Caldwell, a former CBC executive and one of the unsuccessful applicants for the Toronto licence, who had first approached the BBG in April 1960 to pitch a second-station network proposal of his own. Under his plan, at least 51% of the shares of the network would be owned by various prominent Bay Street investors who had previously backed his Toronto station bid; only 49% would be reserved for the network's affiliates to purchase, if they wished. The BBG – and particularly its chair Andrew Stewart (who at the time also served as the president of the University of Alberta) – was not in favour of a station-owned network, fearing that the Toronto station would eventually come to dominate it. Although it did not immediately approve Caldwell's proposal, it soon set several conditions on such a network that effectively made Caldwell's group the only feasible applicant.
That fall, the Caldwell group (now named the Canadian Television Network, or CTN) and the ITO faced off in a series of meetings with the BBG. The ITO decided not to follow through with a formal network application, but the stations – particularly Baton, which said it had no interest in participating in CTN, and believed it could still be successful without one – continued to indicate various concerns with the viability of Caldwell's proposal. Ultimately, the BBG granted a licence to CTN, conditional on securing the affiliation of six of the eight ITO stations.
Baton's opposition to the CTN reversed in early 1961, soon after CFTO won the broadcast rights to the for the 1961 and 1962 seasons. Baton's original plan was to operate a temporary network to distribute the games incorporating CFTO, other independent stations, and CBC affiliates in smaller markets (assuming the public network released its affiliates to carry the game). Although the plan was never officially rejected (or approved), various uncertainties eventually led John Bassett to decide to sign an affiliation agreement with CTN instead to ensure the games would air. Most of the other second stations followed suit, with the exception of CHAN in Vancouver, which agreed to carry several network programs but never officially signed on as an affiliate for the duration of the Caldwell era, yet nonetheless would later claim to have been a "charter member" of the network.
The network finally launched as the CTV Television Network on October 1, 1961.[nb 1] The CBC had objected to the network's initial name, apparently claiming it had exclusive rights to the term "Canadian", and therefore the letters "CTV" have no official expanded meaning.
The CTV network's first night on-air began with Harry Rasky's promotional documentary on the new network. That was followed by a fall season preview program.
CTV's initial 1961–1962 season began with the following programs, five of which were Canadian productions:
Other series such as Telepoll and A Kin to Win were introduced later in the inaugural season.
At first, flagship CFTO was the only station that carried programming live. During CBC's off-hours, CTV used CBC's microwave system to send programming to the rest of the country on tape delay. Eventually, a second microwave channel opened up, enabling live programming from coast to coast.
The Caldwell-led management team immediately ran into financial trouble, and relations between the network and its stations were not smooth at first since CTV had essentially been the product of a forced marriage. For example, most of the rights to American programming rested with the ITO, not CTV. In many cases, CTV found itself competing with its own stations for the rights to programming.
Becoming a broadcasting powerhouse
Caldwell's departure in 1965 did little to alleviate the situation, and CTV soon found itself on the verge of bankruptcy. In 1966, the network's affiliates (which by this time included CJON-TV in St. John's, CKCO-TV in Kitchener, CHAB/CHRE in Moose Jaw/Regina, and the network's first and only U.S. affiliate, WNYP-TV in Buffalo, New York) sought permission to buy the network and run it as a cooperative. The BBG was initially skeptical of the proposal. Since CFTO was by far the largest and richest station (it was more than double the size of the next-largest station, Montreal's CFCF-TV), the BBG feared that CFTO would dominate CTV if the stations were allowed to buy the network. To alleviate these concerns, the affiliates promised that each station owner would have one vote regardless of its audience share. The board readily approved the proposal, and by the start of the 1966-67 season, the stations owned their network. The network also began broadcasting in colour on September 1, 1966.
By the mid-1970s, CTV had expanded its footprint across Canada, mostly by twinstick arrangements in smaller cities, and with CBC affiliates switching to CTV once the CBC opened its own stations or added rebroadcasters of nearby O&O stations. In a unique twist, the original Saskatchewan affiliate, CHAB/CHRE, was bought by the CBC in 1968 (and eventually changed its calls to CBKT, with the Regina station as the main station), allowing Regina's original station, CKCK-TV, to join CTV. Its attempt to expand to the United States ended when Buffalo's three network affiliates threatened legal action, forcing WNYP off the air.
CTV made a name for itself in news coverage when it convinced star CBC news anchor Lloyd Robertson to switch networks in 1976. (Robertson served as the network's main anchorman until 2011). The network also has the country's longest-running national morning news show, Canada AM. Its weekly newsmagazine series, W-FIVE, has been a fixture on the network since 1966, predating the similar American program 60 Minutes by two years.
CTV logo, used from 1975-1985.
In the 1970s, CTV often bought rights to pop and rock songs to serve as theme music for its programming, rather than commissioning original themes. Most notably, W5 used an instrumental portion of Supertramp's "Fool's Overture", Canada AM used an instrumental version of The Moody Blues' "Ride My See-Saw", the game show Definition used Quincy Jones' "Soul Bossa Nova" (later seasons of Definition used another theme), and the CTV Movie used the Keith Mansfield instrumental "Statement" from the KPM Musichouse library.
For most of its first four decades, CTV did not have what could be considered a main schedule outside of news programming. The differences were enough that Ottawa's CJOH used a rebroadcaster in Cornwall to feed cable systems in Montreal from the early 1980s through the mid-1990s despite the network also having an affiliate in Montreal; that rebroadcaster reaches the western portion of the Montreal area.
Baton takes over
In the mid-1980s, Baton Broadcasting, owners of flagship CFTO in Toronto, began a drive to take over CTV by buying as many affiliates as possible. Having already bought CFQC-TV in Saskatoon in 1971, Baton purchased the following stations between 1986 and 1990:
One caveat, however, was the "one owner, one vote" provision of the cooperative's bylaws. Any acquisition of one station by an existing station owner triggered an automatic redistribution of the acquired station's shares among the other owners. As a result, even though it owned 11 of CTV's 24 affiliates, Baton still had only had one vote out of eight.
In 1993, CTV converted from a cooperative to a corporation. Each owner had a 14.3 percent stake in the network. However, Newfoundland Broadcasting, owner of CJON, decided to effectively relinquish its vote, reducing the number of active voting members to seven.
The ribbons logo used from 1998-2011.
In 1996, Baton acquired CFCN from Rogers Communications. Significantly, Baton also acquired Rogers' CTV vote. It also started a joint venture with Electrohome, owner of CFRN and CKCO. As part of the deal, Baton was allowed to vote Electrohome's. The following year, Baton acquired both Electrohome's share of the joint venture and CHUM Limited's CTV-affiliated system in the Maritimes, ATV. This gave Baton a 57.2 percent controlling interest in the network, triggering a put option allowing the remaining affiliates to sell their CTV shares to Baton without selling their stations, which they did. Baton was now full owner of the CTV network and immediately began plastering the CTV brand across its stations, even on non-network programming, and dropped its secondary Baton Broadcast System (BBS) brand. The company changed its name to CTV Inc. in 1998, and eventually acquired two of the final three large-market stations, CKY and CFCF (it replaced the third, CHAN, as discussed below).
CTV has attracted some controversy in the past because of cutbacks to its small-market stations. In the late 1990s, cuts were made to the news staff and productions at CTV's two small-market Saskatchewan stations, CICC-TV in Yorkton and CIPA-TV in Prince Albert. These stations currently simulcast supper-hour and late-night news from CKCK and CFQC respectively, placing local inserts into the newscasts. Similarly, the four Maritime stations, known collectively as CTV Atlantic (then known as ATV), and the four Northern Ontario stations, known collectively as CTV Northern Ontario (then known as MCTV), each had their local news production cut back in the early 2000s to one single centrally produced newscast for each region, with only brief inserts for news of strictly local interest. This was a controversial move in all of the affected communities, especially in Northern Ontario where MCTV's newscasts were the only locally oriented news programs in those markets.
Bell Canada era
In 2000, typical of the ownership consolidation trend at the time, BCE Inc. acquired CTV, NetStar Communications and The Globe and Mail newspaper, combining them into a media division known as Bell Globemedia. BGM also subsequently acquired a minority share in the French-language network TQS, which broadcasts in Quebec.
CTV has legally been a "television service" in the eyes of the CRTC since 2000, when it allowed its network licence to expire. CBC, Radio-Canada, TVA and Aboriginal Peoples Television Network are the only official television networks in Canada (CTV was issued a separate network licence in 2001 in order to continue to provide programming to CHFD Thunder Bay, CJBN Kenora and CITL Lloydminster.)
CTV lost significant coverage in British Columbia and Newfoundland and Labrador at the beginning of the 21st century, starting with a major television realignment in Vancouver. In 2000, Canwest Global bought the television stations of Western International Communications, which owned longstanding CTV affiliates CHAN in Vancouver and CHEK-TV in Victoria. A year later, after its CTV contract ran out, Canwest made CHAN the Global owned-and-operated station for British Columbia, taking advantage of CHAN's massive network of repeaters that cover 97% of the province. CTV shifted its programming to CIVT-TV, an independent station it already owned. Unlike CHAN, CIVT has only one transmitter covering the metropolitan areas of Vancouver and Victoria, and has to rely on cable and satellite to reach the rest of the province. CIVT is either carried on a higher channel number or unavailable altogether in the Mountain Time Zone portion of British Columbia, where CTV relies on CFCN or CFRN as its main carriers.
Meanwhile, in 2002, CJON-TV (known as "NTV") in St. John's dropped its 38-year CTV affiliation after the network attempted to alter its affiliation agreement in a way that Newfoundland Broadcasting found unfair. Since joining CTV, CJON had aired the base network schedule essentially for free since CTV paid it for the airtime. The station then bought additional CTV programming and sold all advertising. However, CTV tried to make CJON pay for the base schedule as well, with no possibility of airtime payments. It also increased the fees for additional CTV programming beyond what CJON claimed it could pay. Newfoundland Broadcasting also did not want to continue to carry CTV's national advertising during these programs. At the start of the 2002-03 season, CJON became an independent station and dropped most CTV programming except for national newscasts; in exchange, it provides news coverage of Newfoundland and Labrador events to CTV. In recent years, all of CTV's non-news programming has disappeared from the station, and since then virtually all primetime programs aired on that station are from rival Global. CTV does not currently have a de facto affiliate in that province, with most Newfoundlanders having to rely on cable and satellite (usually from CTV Atlantic) for its programming.
In September 2005, CTV announced an agreement with MTV Networks that saw the launch of MTV Canada.
In July 2006, CTV parent Bell Globemedia announced plans to acquire CHUM Limited, itself a former partner in CTV (via ATV), and at that point one of Canada's largest broadcasters. While CTVglobemedia kept CHUM's radio stations along with the A-Channel television stations and most of CHUM's specialty channels, the Citytv stations were sold off to Rogers as required by the conditions the CRTC placed upon CTV when approving the CHUM purchase. Bell Globemedia was renamed CTVglobemedia on January 1, 2007. In March 2009, CTV became the first Canadian television network to offer its programming online in high definition.
CTV affiliate CHFD in Thunder Bay, Ontario left the network on February 12, 2010 after being unable to reach an agreement on new affiliation terms; CHFD instead became a full-time Global affiliate. CFTO was offered as part of the basic package to Thunder Bay cable subscribers for the duration of the 2010 Winter Olympics; the station had otherwise been available only on the digital cable timeshifting package, leaving CTV without a presence on basic cable in the market.
On September 10, 2010, BCE Inc. announced it would purchase the remaining shares of CTVglobemedia for $1.3 billion (CAD). On April 1, 2011, CTVglobemedia was officially renamed Bell Media. On December 1, 2011, CJBN-TV in Kenora, Ontario dropped all CTV programming and became a full Global station, adopting a schedule similar to nearby Global station CKND-DT in Winnipeg. The move left CITL-DT in Lloydminster as the sole remaining CTV affiliate not owned by the network until 2014. It was announced in June 2014, that CKPR-DT in Thunder Bay, Ontario would change affiliations from CBC to CTV on September 1, 2014, resulting in Thunder Bay having a CTV affiliate again.
On May 20, 2015, Corus Entertainment announced an agreement with Bell Media to switch its three CBC affiliates in Ontario to CTV: CHEX-DT Peterborough, CHEX-TV-2 Oshawa, and CKWS-DT Kingston. The affiliation switch went into effect on August 31, 2015.