CITYTV

Canadian Television Station

Citytv, Toronto's fast-paced and image-driven independent television station, first went to air 28 September 1972 as a UHF channel. It was assured of financial security when the Canadian media-giant CHUM Ltd., who had purchased a 45% interest in Citytv from Montreal-based Multiple Access in 1979, acquired the remainder of shares in the struggling station in 1981. ChumCity's total enterprise includes the cable and satellite music-video channels MuchMusic and MusiquePlus (also franchised in Latin America as MuchaMusica); the national arts and culture channel Bravo!; and international syndication sales of Citytv's magazine programmes (such as The New Music, Fashion Television, Media Television, or The Originals ). Citytv is now a consistently top-ranked channel within what is perhaps North America's most competitive market (Toronto has 53 television stations).

Built upon the programming keystones of news, music and movies, Citytv found early notoriety by broadcasting Baby Blue Movies, a series of late-night, soft-core porn films. While the "Baby Blues" are now off the air, Citytv still broadcasts an average of five movies a day, many of which are World or Canadian premiers. Similarly innovative in music programming, Citytv first telecast The New Music, a forerunner to both MTV and MuchMusic, in 1979. However, Citytv's most notable distinction lies in a conceptual approach which consistently attempts to expand the mobility and function of the medium. As Canada's first all-videotape station, Citytv initiated the practices of Electronic News Gathering and single-person reportage. Such techniques are exercised in the local news programme CityPulse, which foregoes anchor desks and news studios for an unconventional and tabloid-like momentum. The emphasis upon process, locality and informal interactivity is particularly evidenced in the ChumCity building, a refurbished 19th century gothic structure in which there are no studios, no sets or control rooms. Instead, the entire complex is wired to "shoot itself" through a series of strategically placed electronic "hydrants". In this manner, cameras are enabled to roam anywhere--the roof , stairwells, or the street--and are often integrated into the shot. Viewers then watch camera operators at work setting up, watch themselves viewing programmes in process through the building's large ground-floor windows, or see an interview through the eyes of an interviewee, via a second Hi-8 camera provided to the story subject. The concept of public access is expanded through Speaker's Corner, a video booth where, for a charity-addressed dollar, passers-by may confess their sins, declare their love, or sound off on pet peeves; the best of which are used as shorts between shows or collated into the weekly Speaker's Corner programme.

 


Courtesy of Citytv

Unlike many other Canadian networks or independent stations, Citytv does not bid for dramatic programmes produced in the United States, with the exception of importing the contemporary Star Trek series (The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager), and the occasional made-for-TV movie or miniseries. Citytv does buy syndicated day-time talk shows from the United States, which it airs during its weekday schedule. There are no game shows, children's programmes, soaps, sitcoms or sports on Citytv. Saturday and Sunday morning schedules are given over to community ethnic programming.

While often favoring style and self-promotion over substance and self-reflexivity, Citytv's accomplished characteristic lies in its process-oriented format. This is evident not only within the programmes per se, but the breaks in between programmes: station IDs, interstitials and promotional spots are tailored to intervene, as well as interweave, within the overall affect and tenor of the show. In this respect, Citytv successfully capitalizes upon the capacities of televisual "flow".

-Beth Seaton

FURTHER READING

McDonald, Marci. "The Gospel According to Moses (Znaimer)." Maclean's (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 8 May 1995.

Murray, Ken. "Canadian TV Moguls Rev Engines in Race for U.K.'s Channel 5." Variety (Los Angeles), 1 June 1992.

Robins, J. Max. "This Moses May Lead TV to Its Promised Land." Variety (Los Angeles), 26 July 1993.

 

See also Canada; Canadian Production Companies; Canadian Programming in English; MuchMusic; Znaimer, Moses