Jay Switzer, 61, on Jan. 29, of brain cancer. Born into a life of television, Switzer was raised by journalist mother Phyllis, who covered the Canadian broadcasting industry, and dad Israel – a pioneer in Canadian cable. When Phyllis went on to co-found Citytv in 1972, Switzer’s first full-time job was working the station’s switchboard. That was followed by a gig as floor director for Saturday “Fight Night” broadcasts. After getting his MBA from the University of Western Ontario, Jay returned to Citytv as program manager and went on to help launch specialty channels MuchMusic, Bravo!, CP24, Space, and many other CHUM channels. He was appointed CEO in 2002. A champion of Canadian content, CHUM produced over 200 Canadian feature films during his tenure. In 2010, he co-founded cable portfolio Hollywood Suite, where he served as chair of the Board of Directors. Switzer has been recognized with awards including the Friend of Women in Film and Television (Toronto) Award (1994), the Queen’s Jubilee Medal (2002), and the Human Relations Award (2005) from the Canadian Centre for Diversity. He was appointed a Member of the Order of Canada in December. He’ll be posthumously awarded the Academy Board of Director’s Tribute at the Canadian Screen Awards this March.
Tommy Banks, 81, on Jan. 25. Banks made his professional jazz piano debut in 1950 in the touring band of saxophonist Don (D.T.) Thompson and went on to tour North America, Europe, Japan and southeast Asia. His foray into broadcasting started in 1968 as host of “The Tommy Banks Show” which ran on CBC until 1983, “Somewhere There’s Music”, “What’s My Name”, “ Love and Mr. Smith”, “Celebrity Revue”, “Symphony of a Thousand”, “Tommy Banks Jazz”, and numerous other programs. He provided musical direction for Expo ‘86, the XV Olympic Winter Games, and served as a guest conductor for numerous symphony orchestras. Before being appointed to the Senate in 2000, Banks was a founding chairman of the Alberta Foundation for the Performing Arts; chair of the Music Programme at Grant MacEwan; and a member of the board of the CKUA Radio Network Foundation. Among his many awards and honours, he was made an officer of the Order of Canada, won the 1979 Juno Award for Best Jazz Album and the 1992 Gemini Award for Best Performance in a Variety Program.
George Kelso, Jan. 25, on Vancouver Island. Kelso started his broadcasting career at UBC Radio in the late 1950s and went on to work at CFJC Kamloops, and CHQM and CKLG Vancouver as the host of shows like “Jukebox Saturday Night” and “Lunchtime Oldies,” sometimes under the handle “Jockey G,” before landing at CFRN Edmonton in 1964. Kelso worked both in front of the camera and in management until his retirement in 1992.
Laura Foster, 98, on Jan. 13. Born in Hartland, NB, Foster was initially a school teacher and assistant director of the Canadian Red Cross in New Brunswick, before she was offered a job in 1961 by CHSJ-TV Saint John to produce and host the program “Magazine” and other programs like “You and the Law.” Over her 15 years on-air, Foster conducted over 20,000 interviews. In addition to her television work, she promoted the interests of Maritime businesses, founded the Women’s Atlantic Council and the NB Kindness Club, and became the first female director of the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council. In retirement, she obtained an interior design diploma, and wrote poetry and essays, published in the Atlantic Advocate, Maclean’s, and the Telegraph Journal.
Jacques Languirand, 86, on Jan. 26, of Alzheimer’s disease. Known for his radio show Par 4 chemins, which was broadcast for more than four decades on Radio-Canada, Languirand also worked as a playwright, writer, television presenter, actor, director, and teacher. Born in Montreal, his career in broadcasting started after he was drawn to Paris and landed a job at RDF (Radiodiffusion française) as a columnist. In 1953, he joined the international service of Radio-Canada and over the years worked on both radio and television, as a host, public affairs reporter or on theatrical adaptations, before entering a 12-year career as a professor and lecturer at the National Theatre School and McGill University. Languirand returned to Radio-Canada in 1971 when Par 4 chemins debuted and quickly earned a following.