ALLAN WATERS: EXPANDING CANADA'S TV FRONTIER.

Position:Interview
 
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Video Age: How did you get your start in the entertainment business?

Allan Waters: I was in the patent medicine business (this was after the war) for a few years. Then, one of the gentlemen I was working for simply asked, "Would you like to have something for yourself?" And I replied: "Sure, how about the patent medicine business." He said, "Oh, no. You can't have that." I asked, "What could I have?" And he answered, "The radio station [in Toronto, Canada, with the call letters] CHUM." It was a sunrise-to-sunset station at that time and they had acquired it during the period that I was in the Air Force. It's that simple; that's how it happened. I didn't have any money, so he was generous enough to give it to me, more or less, and I had to run it. The station was losing money at that time. It owed the bank quite a bit of money.

VA: How did you turn it around?

A.W.: Being a sunrise-to-sunset radio station, you can never get an audience or keep an audience. We had to get it on the air 24-hours a day. So that was my first real big challenge. That and keeping the bills paid. It took quite a few years to get it on 24-hours a day. Once we did though, we got the station turned around.

VA: What were some of the hurdles in changing to a 24-hour format?

A.W.: First of all, there was the issue of money. Second, we had to get the station's transmitter positioned south of Toronto. We were able to obtain space for the transmitter on a small island south of Toronto, and the signal went north from there and blanketed the city. That took a long time and a lot of money, and proceeded slowly.

VA: At CHUM Radio, you snuck into the radio station at night and literally threw out anything that wasn't "Top 40." Why?

A.W.: Because it was my belief that it was what the station needed. There were quite a few "Top 40" radio stations in the United States at that time, and yet there were none in Canada; so I wanted the disk jockeys to just play 40 records. But you couldn't keep your eye on them long enough. About every time you turned your head, they'd play something they liked, and it usually wasn't "Top 40." So the only way to get around it, as far as I was concerned, was to get rid of all the records. For the kids at that time, CHUM AM and the CHUM chart were considered hip. That was "Top 40" rock 'n roll when rock 'n roll wasn't so popular with the "establishment." We got an awful lot of flack from all kinds of people saying that we shouldn't be doing it and that we...

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