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August 11, 2019 7:41 am  #1

Instant Replay: CP24, The Early Years

CP24 has become a major news player in the GTA and it’s hard to believe it’s only been around since 1998. It was originally started by City TV, which was then owned by CHUM.
But did you know that it was an unexpected entity when it was first proposed? A reliable source of mine who was in the City newsroom in those days recalls that the CRTC had opened the tap for cable channels and the brains at the station went into a meeting and came up with endless possible TV outlets they were going to propose to the Commission.
They made up a ton of decent (Space: The Imagination Station) and ridiculous scenarios (Book Television: The Channel) and submitted them to the CRTC. CablePulse 24 was among them. It was named after CityPulse, which was the City TV news branding back then. (Today, you’ll never hear new owner CTV refer to it, and the name “CP24” is never really explained.)
When the decision finally came down as to who was getting what, management was stunned – they’d gotten a lot of what they’d applied for, never expecting to receive half of them. CP24 was one of the chosen.
It left the newsroom stunned. They were already working insane hours trying to get a noon, 6 and 11 PM show out every day and now they’d have to ramp up close to a 24-hour day? This being the penurious CHUM, of course, they weren’t going to hire a lot of extra people and everyone was expected to simply work harder.
The place went into overdrive and they managed to get the station up and running within an astounding 100 days. And CP24 quickly became a cable staple, the go-to spot when something was happening in Toronto between major newscasts. It was even originally streamed over the Internet on, before it became too expensive and management realized they were essentially giving the signal away for free.
And they were among the first, if not the first, to have that so-called “enriched screen,” with info boxes everywhere. I admit I hated the thing when I first saw it, but after I got used to it, it ceased to be a problem.
Execs from all over the world came to witness this grand experiment and now that multi-screen idea has spread, like City TV’s old slogan used to say, “everywhere.”
So how much has it changed since then? Here’s a look at what you were watching on the channel back when it was still owned by City.
MegaCity News
When Toronto amalgamated and renamed itself the “Megacity,” CP24 took advantage of the “City” component in the name.

Not Just The Headlines
The early days of CP24 weren’t just news and headlines. There were actual shows on the station with well known City TV personalities. Ann Rohmer seems to have been there a lifetime. But does anyone remember Justin Smallbridge?

City currently has a 5 PM newscast that leads into the 6 o’clock major. But they first tried it with a more relaxed phone-in format at 5 on their cable station.

Why did they repeat “CityPulse at Six" from 7-8? The official explanation was for those who’d just gotten home and missed the 6 PM news. But the real answer was to give the staff an hour off for dinner. Otherwise, they’d never get a chance to have a break and there’d be overtime.

 Probably the most popular “show” on the station wasn’t really a new show at all. And you had to be up really late to see it. It was called “Rewind,” and essentially consisted of playing old CityPulse newscasts from the station’s library.

Irshad Manji was a lesbian activist who hosted a show called “The Q Files.” She was very outspoken but in this famous moment from 1999, she was no sooner introduced then she fainted live on air. Fortunately she was O.K. and kudos to Cynthia Mulligan – who is one of the few City TV survivors from those days to still be on air at the station – for recovering so fast.

There are two ironies with this last entry. The first is the word “forever” in the slogan. When CHUM was sold by the Waters family after the death of founder Allan Waters (despite staff being told that it would never happen) CTV bought the company.
But the CRTC, in its less than infinite wisdom, decided that was too much power for one company in a single market, so they ordered City itself sold. But they let CTV keep the all news channel, despite the fact it had become almost completely associated with its former owner. It was a disastrous decision, robbing the station of much of its personality – and personalities.
The other irony? The use of “Globally” in the final slogan at the bottom of the page. Given that they were competing with Global, you might think they would have tried to avoid the use of that word.

In the end, perhaps the biggest legacy for City’s time running CP24 is how effective their branding was. It’s been more than a decade since the takeover, yet – despite showing CTV News at 6 every day and personalities from the network appearing on it – I still run into people who believe CP24 is run by City.
Now THAT’S branding that time can’t kill.
Next week: The TV shows you never knew about and the famous names who'd rather you didn't remember their infamous flops.


August 11, 2019 8:37 am  #2

Re: Instant Replay: CP24, The Early Years

A most enjoyable read. .
Thank you RA

"I'll kick your ass down Yonge Street"... CFTR's Robert Holiday circa 1979...

August 11, 2019 11:03 am  #3

Re: Instant Replay: CP24, The Early Years

The Canadian Press had the contract to write the headlines for a few years.

"The radio craze ... will soon fade." - Thomas Edison, 1922

August 11, 2019 12:10 pm  #4

Re: Instant Replay: CP24, The Early Years

Thanks RA, great post and amazing to see Pam Seattle still on air on City TV News Weekends...

Good stuff and nice foreground research too!


The world would be so good if it weren't for some people...

August 11, 2019 12:30 pm  #5

Re: Instant Replay: CP24, The Early Years

As far as I know, Pam Seatle was actually let go in one of those big purges about 10 years ago. But then somebody in Rogers realized "Oops! We fired too many people" and they invited a few back. She was the only on air person asked to return and to her credit, she's still there. 

In fact, most of the originals are long gone, with the exception of Pam and Cynthia Mulligan. Even Francis D'Souza has departed for the CBC. 

     Thread Starter

August 11, 2019 6:08 pm  #6

Re: Instant Replay: CP24, The Early Years

Another great historical post RA! You see CP24 in practically every establishment so it's nice to know the history of it.

"The radio craze ... will soon fade." - Thomas Edison, 1922

August 12, 2019 1:08 pm  #7

Re: Instant Replay: CP24, The Early Years

What an excellent article.  Well done.

I've always said I'd gladly pay $5 a month for just the main pip of CP24.  I don't need, nor care about all the other stuff, but I'd love the idea of a 24 hour full size news channel.  Kind of like they do from 5-6 on CTV.

anyway, well done.  Great read.


Madness takes its toll.  Please have exact change.

August 12, 2019 2:15 pm  #8

Re: Instant Replay: CP24, The Early Years

These topics always make me wistful for CHUM - not just as an upstanding member of the community, but for being so good at what they did. I get the impression CHUM execs pretty much left Moses on his own to create new services such as CP24.

It just seemed like such a healthy culture and Gord Martineau's recent talk on TorontoMike'd validated that.

Last edited by Tim Brown 2016 (August 12, 2019 2:19 pm)


August 12, 2019 7:01 pm  #9

Re: Instant Replay: CP24, The Early Years

RA...the one man "Memory Machine"!

Thank you.


August 12, 2019 7:06 pm  #10

Re: Instant Replay: CP24, The Early Years

My boy Lorne Honickman looking spiffy as always.


August 13, 2019 12:57 am  #11

Re: Instant Replay: CP24, The Early Years

I happened to be in the Global newsroom when the CRTC decision came down.  Global also had an application for a 'regional' all-news channel.  Instead they got something called 'Prime' which allowed them to re-run the crap out of everything from Love Boat to Murder She Wrote, for which they still owned the Canadian rights.  

Global's news pitch was pretty dull, but they convinced the CRTC to at least let them present a video at the hearing in Hull.  City didn't think they were allowed to submit a video (it is TV after all, wouldn't that make sense?) and only found out THE DAY BEFORE the presentations.  So, from Ottawa, Moses and Steve Hurlbut scrambled some very talented staff to make a 5 minute sizzle-reel (this is back before non-linear editing and After Effects, so they had to build all the graphics and effects in ONE DAY!).  
Now, they're done.  But they have to get the tape to Ottawa and the clock is ticking.  They didn't want to feed it by satellite (either because they were too cheap, or paranoid the competition would see something they shouldn't).  Hard to believe, but FedEx didn't overnight packages to Ottawa back then, so the bosses asked me an another young guy from the assignment desk to grab a spare CityPulse truck and drive all night.  At the last minute, we found a guy with a Cessna willing to fly to Ottawa for 200 bucks and a bag of Toronto Ts .   It was insanity, but so typically Citytv.  

One more thing; I took a very early meeting with an older man who was setting up the on air staff for CP24.  They asked me if I was interested in a videographer/anchor position and of course I said 'yes'.  Then he asked if I'd ever directed.  "Not really.  Why?  Do you want me to direct my own anchor shift?  Like, read the throw and say 'roll tape'?"  I see the wheels turning.  "That's a great idea!", he says.  
I didn't take the gig.  But thinking back now, it coulda been interesting to watch - sorta the way that Dr Pimple Popper lady is "interesting" to watch.

PS: The 'enriched screen' was stolen from Bloomberg TV.  They were occasionally aired on CHCH overnights.  Of course, they didn't have a traffic screen.  But the multi-day forecast, time, temp, scores, ticker and all that stuff was theirs first.  


August 14, 2019 4:05 pm  #12

Re: Instant Replay: CP24, The Early Years

I have an ageing loved one who, due to crippledness, has been bed-bound. Since then she watches a TV that is almost always tuned to CP24, and her brain has been turning to pudding at an alarming rate. I know that correlation != causation, but I really do wonder...


August 21, 2019 9:59 pm  #13

Re: Instant Replay: CP24, The Early Years

Thanks RA for this!
Ok, here are a few stories about CP24 because I worked there.
When the jobs were posted in the newsroom there were only 35, that's right, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year=35 jobs.  The bulk of the work really come from editing, just dub the best (or worst) from the 6 and rerun it to death.  Just feed the pig, as Hurlbut would say. If you know about 3/4 in tape, one dub was about as good as it was.    The playback for 24 was Sony 9850 or 5800's take your pick, which ever survived the pounding they took.  Just 4 machines, and a massive amount of tapes. Slugs and labels were mixed up, lots of stress in the beginning and LOTS of repeats. 
Oh, about the "enriched screen", ripped off from CHCH as they carried Bloomberg, because I saw Steve and Alisa watching it in the office one day. You are right Mav!
There's much more, let me take a breather right now, and next time I'll tell you about the overnight fillers, that I had to record, screen and log.


August 21, 2019 10:37 pm  #14

Re: Instant Replay: CP24, The Early Years

Just to fill in the blanks, Hurlbut was Steven Hurlbut, the news director. And I believe Alisa was Alisa Kerr, the creative director (and the late Clint Nickerson's wife.)

     Thread Starter

August 25, 2019 9:40 pm  #15

Re: Instant Replay: CP24, The Early Years

Yes,RA you are correct, Steve Hurlbut and Alisa Kerr.  Just a quick point that Alisa was a smoker, and I bet Alisa one day that she couldn't stop smoking for a whole year.  I bet her $100.00!  True to her word, I had to pay up a year later.   Sadly, husband Clint could not stop smoking, and died last year of lung cancer. RIP Clint.
On another point, CP24 overnights.
Filler is the word.     We recorded, edited out (blacked) the commercials, doped and prepared each one hour filler.    CCTV from China, DW from Germany, and ABSCBN from the Phillippines. And I forgot the other two, I think France some other country. The Phillippines was a hoot!   Some stately anchor guy with really greasy hair right out of the early 60's with a red suit that came from CKX TV in Brandon. Just ugly. And his side kick was this gal that was right out of the 70's with puffy hair and was adorned by him as the greatest co-host on earth.  Absolute Ken and Barbie!  It filled the time, that's all they wanted.
More later, stay tuned!