Art Jones
Art Jones [Photo: Vancouver Public Library]


Art Jones and the Birth of CHAN-TV

From The Vancouver Sun of January 30, 1960: “Arthur Frederick Jones, photographer, was having lunch in the PNE’s Terrace Room when he was called to the telephone in the kitchen. Leaning over a stove with a big bubbling tureen of hot soup just under his nose, and with the receiver to his ear, Jones heard a voice from the Sun’s editorial staff, Barry Broadfoot. ‘Let me be the first to congratulate you,’ Broadfoot said.

“‘Why?’ said Jones.

“‘You just won the television licence.’

“‘Oh, no,’ said Jones.”

That was how Art Jones, 34, learned he and his partners in Vantel Broadcasting had been given the okay by the Board of Broadcast Governors, the predecessor to the CRTC, to launch Vancouver’s first private television station. (CBUT, the CBC outlet, had signed on December 16, 1953.) Jones was genuinely astounded that his group had won the bid. “I knew we had a chance,” he said, “but I certainly wasn’t confident.”

They would call the new station CHAN. It still has those official call letters 46 years later, but is now part of the Global network.

Art has a funny memory of that time. “After I got that kitchen phone call, my first reaction was to call my office. But the lines were plugged, so I headed downtown. Not long after I got there, a large limousine appeared in our parking lot and out steps the VP of one of Canada’s largest banks. His chauffeur was carrying a box for me: a case of champagne! That was funny, because his bank had turned me down on a proposition a couple of weeks previously. And, no, they did not get the TV station’s account!”

The station’s birth had not been an easy one. “We were one of 22 original applicants for the Vancouver licence,” Jones says. “I visited every BBG member across the country just to get to know them, including Dr. Andrew Stewart, the chair. This was in 1959. By the time the hearings began there were five applicants. We were the only one who made their final application on film. Nowadays, of course, everyone does it. But it had never been done before. Stewart agreed to have us run it, but he wanted it shown at the public hearing. It was in black and white, 24 minutes long, and the last few seconds were in color.”

Maybe that film did the trick. Maybe it was those visits. At any rate, Jones’ group got the nod.

They already had a studio. Sort of. Some years earlier (1948, to be precise) Art and another photographer, Ray Munro, had formed a freelance news-photo operation called artray. By 1960 artray (now minus Munro) was operating out of 1219 Richards, at the corner of Davie. A lot of work the company did was for KVOS-TV, which had its headquarters in Bellingham, Washington, but which since 1955 had been aimed at the Vancouver market. (KVOS was the real pioneer in local television: it signed on June 3, 1953.)

“In the early days of KVOS every still they showed, every piece of film, came from artray. One of my staff at the time (and a former CJOR announcer) was Keith Cutler, of CJOR. We’d occasionally been taking people on tours of the Richards Street location, and one of the people who’d been on the tour—Col. E.G. ‘Ted’ Eakins—phoned me the next day to tell me the BBG was going to allow a second TV station in Canada’s eight largest cities.

“Ted Eakins and his wife Frankie became my first partners in Vantel Broadcasting. Peter Paul Saunders and Andrew Saxton joined them, so the five of us held control of slightly over 50 per cent of the company (17.5 per cent for the Eakins, 17.5 per cent for Saunders and Saxton and 17.5 per cent for me)—other smaller investors then joined us.

“On October 31, 1960 at 4:30 p.m. we went on the air from the 1219 Richards location. We put our dish on the roof of a two-storey building next door. We had to lease the building. From the very corner of its roof you could just catch a peek of Burnaby Mountain and our transmitter tower.

“U.S. television was dominant then. Every house’s antenna was pointed south toward Seattle. Our signal was pretty good downtown, not so good farther out. We’d been planning for a spot on the Lake City property in Burnaby, and we moved out there in the spring or summer of 1961. Alan Emmott, by the way, was the mayor of Burnaby at the time, and he insisted the station had to be identified as a Burnaby station. To this day, they mention that at least once during the day.

“We were really excited about the new station. I remember we got really good ratings with Huckleberry Hound!

"In 1962 I sold my share of the station to All-Canada.”

In the interim Art Jones has racked up a solid record of business success and public service: he established and operated Panorama and Hollyburn Film Studios in West Vancouver in the 1960s; was awarded the first Canadian Pay TV licence for BC and Yukon, Superchannel, in the 1980s; he was president and CEO of Tourism Vancouver from 1983 to 1986; recipient of the Variety Club Heart Award 1994 and Pioneer Award 2001; a recipient of Tourism Vancouver’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 1996; served three terms as president of the Variety Club of British Columbia; is a board member/office holder/director of numerous companies and organizations, and was appointed a Commissioner of Vancouver Civic Theatres in 1998.

More than 40 years after CHAN-TV signed on Art was still involved with television. At age 80 he was hosting a weekly Shaw Cable interview show, Art Jones & Company. Art died April 7, 2006.


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Huckleberry Hound gave the new television station really good ratings.
                  Huckleberry Hound gave the new television station
        really good ratings.

 

 

 

 

 

Art Jones, today
Art Jones
[Photo: Mike Wakefield, North Shore News]