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... The world's most incredible TV!

It's 1972. Got yourself a UHF channel all the way up there on Channel 79, when you thought they stopped at 68. No power to speak of, like maybe ...100,000 watts. No real money to invest, except some C$1.5 million in second-hand TV equipment. Now, who ya gonna call? Whaddaya do?

You call Moses Znaimer, that's who ya call, and then you invent...

That's what ya do. But...first, it has to be approved by the regulators. Second, it has to be seen by the public. Third, it has to be explained to the advertisers. Fourth...

Hold your horses. Not so fast! The concept comes first. Lemme explain here...

I'm in Toronto, ya see, the world's most competitive TV market. In addition to the powerful American border stations, one has to compete with Canadian national, local public and private TV stations.

Now, you're stuck with this darn station. The first "U" in a VHF world.

Scary stuff.

All call letters in Canada have to start with a "C," so call this station C-I-T-Y-T-V. City-TV - ain't that nice. At least now when the viewers see it, they'll remember it.

Let's backtrack a bit. The concept...let's go back to the concept.

So, no money, no air talent, no studios. Just a few old cameras, a switcher and a transmitter, with a chicken-wire antenna. Under these circumstances, could you have taken the "program," to the TV cameras? No way Jose!

Then, let the cameras go to the program.

What are we talking about here? News? Okay, fella, bring that camera to the desk where the copy is being written and just read it. Are you introducing a music clip show? Just bring the presenter in front of the control panel. All those little blinking lights make for a good effect. Do you need a place to conduct a talk show? Fine, bring a few chairs into the merchandising store downstairs.

Uh, excuse moi, but did I come in late? Who are we talking about here? Who's this "you"?

Sorry folks. Got a bit carried away here!

It's that Moses Znaimer, man.

Now, back to the concept.

No wait! Got something else that has to be explained.

The music video clips.

By 1975, City-TV was broadcasting up to 30 such "pop clips" a week.

Get outta here! Everyone and his grandmother knows that music video was invented by MTV.

No, really, they were one of the few inexpensive things that this Znaimer fella could find. He even toyed with the idea of broadcast videos 24 hours a day, but the regulators at the CRTC couldn't understand this concept.

Are we back to the concept?


Forget it!

How come City-TV is on cable channel 7?

Glad you asked that one!

In Toronto, channel 7 is between CBC on 6 and CTV on 8. Years ago, channel 7 was occupied by a station in the nearby city of Buffalo, on the rich U.S. side. This Znaimer fella convinced the CRTC to take something back from the invading Yankees. Now, all of Ontario's TV cable systems carry City-TV on channel 7.

Hold it!

So, it wasn't all that important to have a better broadcast channel after all.

Oh yeah, sure! Indeed, the only thing this Znaimer fella wanted was a channel, any darn channel - the local cable TV systems woulda done the rest.

Now, ya gotta level with me. You got coverage, got call-letter recognition, got visibility. Now what?!

O.K., let's go back to the concept.


Yeah! Again.

O.K., but make it snappy, willya!

When Moses descended to Canada from his native mountains in the Soviet Union, he brought a message: Television should be culture, news (urban information, in Moses parlance), and entertainment.

According to the information supplied by the City-TV propaganda department, (swear to God. That's what Moses calls promotion and advertising!) their news must have two elements: mobility and localism.

But, ya also got the little touches, liked fixed TV cameras at key spots in Toronto, used to check traffic and offer "pretty" shots of the city during sunset, or other times, skylines, blah, blah, blah...

These shots lead into "fades."

Then, (this cracks me up!) there is a speaker's corner where anyone, I mean you and me included, for a buck, can be taped rambling about anything, anytime. The most significant comments are then broadcast. You know, those guys not only get the clips for zilch, but can rake up to $800 per week with that gizmo. Relax, the money goes to charity!

And, dig this, bro! Early this year, City-TV's evening newscasts ranked numero uno in the Toronto metro area. Because he doesn't wanna keep up with the Joneses, (that's a figure of speech, Mac!) for news, Moses spends something like $5,000 per hour.

Plus, forget about experience. Moses likes to put on the air inexperienced "talent," people that can give a fresh, unrehearsed look. The man calls it "down-to-earth television." No slick or smoothness here!

No siree Bob! Just reality, thank you.

Bet ya wonder where the heck the studios are!

Moses has reinvented the TV studios, by sprinkling his 1914 landmark building with 32 "power hydrants," or large plugs to connect the lights, camera and recorders.

Virtually every room in this building, including executive offices, has ceiling lights and can be used as a studio. The station itself is a theatre. The ground floor has see-through, floor-to-ceiling windows. Its open office, hallways, lobby, roof top, parking lots and outside sidewalk make up the sets. "Viewers don't just watch," said Moses, "they participate."

With its "look Ma, no studio!" concept, City-TV produces 33 hours a week of original programming, including some internationally syndicated shows like FT Fashion Television.

Last year, according to Moses, City-TV and its sister cable networks, MuchMusic and Musique Plus, generated a cool $100 million in revenues.

That's a lot of dough even for you guys. Moses Znaimer is now gearing up to export his brand of television. With a Brit partner, he has filed for a channel 5 license in the UK, and he's similarly looking at New Zealand and France. In his spare time, Moses created the play Tamara, (after opening in New York, it became Los Angeles' longest running show) where the audience lives the story.

The fact is that the world is now bracing itself for another Moses.

PHOTO : The ChumCity Building, a 1914 construction houses City-TV.

PHOTO : The new TV prophet. Moses Znaimer is not just City-TV owner, he's its executive producer.

PHOTO : Place a TV camera in front of a desk and start talking...

PHOTO : Go ahead, invite people from the street while you are on air.
COPYRIGHT 1991 TV Trade Media, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:City-TV in Toronto, Canada
Publication:Video Age International
Date:Oct 1, 1991
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