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CTV Montreal celebrates 50 years on air

By Mike Cohen

When it officially signed on Jan. 20, 1961, Montreal’s first independent television station went by the call letters CFCF (Canada’s First, Canada’s Finest), a spin-off of the radio station of the same name. On tomorrow’s special 50th anniversary edition of the now network branded CTV Montreal news, three of the most notable figures in the station’s history will reunite.

Bill Haugland was a reporter and legendary news anchor. The golden voice of Dick Irvin brought this city some of the best sportscasts we have ever witnessed. Don McGowan not only delivered the most entertaining and humorous weather forecasts, but he also hosted countless number of shows from McGowan’s Montreal to Travel Travel. Two weeks ago the three gentleman came together at the CTV Montreal studios to tape a segment which will air tomorrow. “I felt like we could walk a few steps back to the news desk and start right in on Pulse News as though we had never been away,” said Irvin, whose first day at CFCF was five short months after its debut. “It seemed so natural to be sitting alongside those guys.”

Haugland said he really enjoyed being reunited with Irvin and McGowan and thinks viewers will enjoy tomorrow’s segment. “Dick had an encyclopedic knowledge of sports,” he said. “During one newscast we were 10 seconds to air and he realized he had left his script upstairs on his desk. There was no time for him to get it, he just went ahead and winged it for 12 minutes. What a talent!” As for McGowan, Haugland said he could always make colleagues and viewers laugh with his theatrics.

Many of the shows over the years have become part of Montrealers' institutional memory, particularly from our youth. Who doesn't remember the Magic Tom Auburn Show,  or Johnny Jellybean (Ted Ziegler) and the golden voice of Jimmy Tapp. Shows like the Mad Dash, Grand Prix Wrestling, Fighting Back, Travel Travel and Like Young were part of the backdrop of our lives before the advent of the 500 channel universe.

But it is the newscast that remains the perennial ratings king because of consistency and fine professionals such as news and public affairs director Jed Kahane and executive producer Barry Wilson. CTV National News hired Kahane away from CBC in 1997 at which time he moved to Calgary as Alberta Bureau Chief. He came home as the Montreal bureau chief and held that post from 2000 to 2008. Two and a half years ago he became the head of the CTV Montreal newsroom. “As a national reporter I often worked in a bit of a bubble, somewhat apart from the local newsroom and travelling a lot,” he told me. “Since joining CTV Montreal I can say without hesitation that the most satisfying part of the job has been to see and be a part of the incredible connection this station has with its audience. The mutual loyalty and the sense of community are very strong, and that’s what this 50th anniversary is all about; celebrating that connection, and thanking Montrealers for welcoming us into their homes every day".

Haugland reminds us that  “the station really came into its own” after a tragic fire in suburban LaSalle killed 28 people in 1965. As a result, CFCF initiated a telethon to raise money for affected families and their community. That first telethon was the start of the station’s enduring commitment to charitable causes, and direct involvement in the community. CFCF/CTV Montreal has helped raise tens of millions of dollars through its various broadcasts and outreach programs, including the Telethon of Stars, annual blood donor clinics and The Spirit of Giving holiday campaign. While the days of producing their own local programming are now gone, CTV Montreal produces three newscasts a day and comes to us twice nightly on weekends. Their newsroom translates into consistency as the faces stay the same. Takahashi has been a co-anchor for 24 years. Todd van der hayden looks like he will be in the chair for years to come.

On the web, at, CTV Montreal has launched a number of 50th anniversary initiatives. Viewers can watch many classic moments in a new feature called “Flashback.” Give it a look. You will appreciate the memories.


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