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1952: CBC Television debuts

The Story

Gather the family and warm up the television! On September 8, 1952, CBC Television makes its historic debut, as shown in this retrospective clip. Broadcasting from a studio in Toronto, a nervous and excited team of journalists and entertainers offers the first evening's entertainment. Canadians laugh at a three-puppet sketch featuring the eccentric character Uncle Chichimus. A young Glenn Gould dazzles the audience with a performance. And, CBC TV presents its first scoop with a news story about the Boyd Gang's break from the Don Jail.

Medium: Television
Program: CBC Television Special
Broadcast Date: Oct. 23, 1977
Narrator: Cy Strange
Duration: 4:16

Did You know?

• In early 1952 the CBC began hiring producers, directors and technicians. Mornings were spent in the classroom learning about TV techniques and theory; afternoons were devoted to hands-on learning in the studio.

• On September 6, 1952, CBC TV debuted in Montreal on CBFT. At 4 p.m., viewers tuned in and watched the movie Aladdin and his Lamp, followed by a cartoon, and then a French film, a news review and a bilingual variety show.

• Two days later, CBC TV debuted in Toronto. Seconds before the cameras went live, a technician removed and cleaned the CBC logo slide. Producer Murray Chercover shouted at the technician, "Don't do that!" and the rattled crew member placed the slide back in upside down as the network took to the airwaves. "I can't remember what we did, or if we shot the poor guy responsible," Norman Jewison, then a 25-year-old floor director, later recalled. (Here's Looking At Us, 2002).

• The Globe and Mail reviewed CBC's first night as "cluttered but promising." Columnist Alex Barris, who would later host CBC's Front Page Challenge, wrote "Formal or informal - and there was a little bit of both - the CBC officially unveiled television last night and if any one overall reaction can be stated it is that there is lots of promise in Canadian video, but promise that may take a little time to fulfill." (Globe and Mail, September 9, 1952)

• Young Canadians, like future TV producer Lorne Michaels, greeted the dawn of the television age with great glee. "I can't explain how exciting the arrival of television was. It was all we talked about at school," Michaels described. "We literally raced home to watch TV." (Here's Looking At Us, 2002).

• By March 1954 there were over 700,000 TV sets in the country.

• In 1952, when the average weekly wage for a typical worker was about $55, TV sets sold for between $240 and $430. That's about $2,100 to $3,800 in 2015 dollars.


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