Here at Retrontario, we were saddened to learn of the passing of former Rogers Media Television CEO Leslie Sole and his wife. However in the news item posted online at CityNews.ca, it is claimed that Sole was “the architect” of Canada’s first multicultural television station – Omni. To take nothing away from Sole’s important contributions to Canada’s broadcast landscape, this claim is not quite true, and it is important to correct the record.
It was in fact Citytv who first developed multicultural/multilingual broadcasting shortly after its launch on September 28, 1972 under the guidance and vision of Citytv founder and Executive Producer Moses Znaimer.
Here is Moses talking about Citytv’s early multicultural programming in 1987 on the occasion of Citytv’s 15th anniversary:
By 1979, Citytv had amassed 36 hours of week of multicultural content, at which point it was spun off into CFMT Channel 47 Cable 4 (at the time better known as “MTV” – as in, Multicultural/Multilingual TV). Channel 47 was launched by Dan Iannuzzi, a producer of much of Citytv’s multicultural content and founder of the Italian-Canadian newspaper Corrieri Canadese.
CFMT Channel 47 was in fact the first multicultural station in Canada, and Citytv had an ownership in it until CRTC rules compelled them to divest. Iannuzzi’s CFMT Channel 47 eventually ran into financial trouble and was forced to bring in Rogers, who eventually took over and forced Ianuzzi out. Having failed to stomp out or buy Citytv, Rogers desired a Toronto outlet of their own, and 47 was rebranded as Omni 1 and 2.
Sole’s contributions to Omni are well documented – he expanded its footprint from Ontario to B.C. and Alberta. However, there is sadly little mention online about the true “architects” of multicultural TV in Toronto – Moses Znaimer, and Dan Iannuzzi.
For more about Moses Znaimer and early Citytv’s multicultural ethos, please watch our documentary People City – Toronto’s Lost Anthem