Biography

Pioneer - Member of CAB Hall of Fame

Peters, Ray (John Raymond)

(1926- )

When CJOR listeners in Vancouver first heard an eight-year-old child actor-
singer-musician perform on their local radio stations in 1934, there was no way they could have known that this young lad would grow up to become one of the people most influential in shaping the future of Canadian broadcasting, not only in
 
Vancouver and British Columbia, but right across the nation.

Ray Peters was born in Vancouver on December 14th 1926 and started performing professionally on radio and in live theatre while still in elementary school. His considerable talents as singer, actor, musician and writer helped him build a significant career on radio with CJOR and the Dominion Network of the CBC over the next several years. But it was a part-time job in a radio station’s library that was the springboard for Ray to be hired in 1949 as promotion manager for London Records in Montreal.

In 1951 he spent some time in New York studying television production, which led to his becoming Radio/Television Director for Harold F. Stanfield Advertising in Montreal in 1952, where he produced radio and television commercials.  His New York contacts, many at CBS,  encouraged him to spend time in the Big Apple, which was where Ray gained the insights into the inner workings of television that were to stand him in good stead in later years.

Ray’s background in this still-young medium was what prompted entrepreneur Ken Soble to hire Ray to join him in 1953 to help get the new private television station CHCH-TV on the air in Hamilton. Ray stayed with Soble until 1960, latterly as Commercial Manager, during which time he served as Vice-President of the Central Canada Broadcasters’ Association, 1958-59.  In 1960, Art Jones invited him to join the team he was putting together to launch CHAN-TV, the newly licensed private station in Vancouver. There was also an offer on the table from CBS, but, as Ray told author Susan Gittins some years later, “I’m thought of as an easterner, but I’m really a west coast guy.”

Initially Sales Manager for the station, Ray became its Managing Director in 1961 and President and CEO of the British Columbia Television Broadcasting System (CHAN /CHEK TV, Vancouver/Victoria) in 1963. While BCTV had carried the CTV Network service since its October 1961 inception, it was not until the stations assumed control of the Network in March 1966 that BCTV became a shareholder, and Ray Peters joined the Board, of which he later became chairman of the executive committee.

In the years that followed, Ray’s involvement in the Canadian broadcasting industry continued to grow. He was President of the British Columbia Association of Broadcasters, 1966-67, and Chairman of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters in 1968-69. It was in 1969 that Ray, with his lawyer Gowan Guest, appeared before the CRTC with the then revolutionary proposal that cable companies should be required to effect simultaneous substitution when Canadian broadcasters scheduled American programs in the same time period as imported U.S. signals. A regulation to this effect was announced by the CRTC in 1970.

  In 1977 Ray became President and CEO of WIC Western International Communications, holding company for 6 television stations including BCTV, 10 radio stations and several other communication entities, and held this position until the end of 1989. 

Ray gained early experience with bringing distant signals to remote areas when he established 27 rebroadcast transmitters installed on mountains in Northern BC, the Interior and on Vancouver Island to broadcast the BCTV signal to underserved communities throughout the Province.  It was no surprise, then, when he became a co-founder of Canadian Satellite Communications Inc (CANCOM), which was licensed by the CRTC in 1982 to provide a satellite service of radio and television signals to remote and underserved areas of Canada. 

He became Chairman of CANCOM in 1984, at a time when the company was in serious financial trouble.  Within five years, under his leadership, CANCOM had been turned around and was in profit, while delivering a wide range of broadcast services to some 1.5 million Canadians.  He remained as Chairman until 1989.

Despite the highly demanding nature of Ray Peters’ broadcasting responsibilities, he still found time to serve the community whenever he could.  Outstanding among many areas of such service, was his chairmanship of the newly-reconstituted Board of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, which had shut down in January 1988.   His dynamic leadership and imaginative initiatives in programming and marketing resulted in an immediate growth in the VSO’s subscriber base, and the orchestra soon returned to a profitable position. He remained as a Director until 1991.

Ray Peters’ activities, both in the broadcasting industry and in the community, have earned him many honours and awards. In 1967 he was awarded the Centennial Medal on the 100th Anniversary of Confederation. In 1978 he was recognized as Broadcaster of the Year by the B.C. Association of Broadcasters.  In 1984 he was appointed as a Member of the Order of Canada, and in 1989 he was inducted into the Canadian Association of Broadcasters’ Broadcast Hall of Fame.

In 1987 he was honoured with the Variety Clubs International Presidential Citation for his outstanding service and dedication to the aims of Variety. For his services to Canada and to the community, in 1992 he received the Canadian Confederation 125th Anniversary Commemorative Medal, and in 2002 he was awarded Her Majesty the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal marking the 50th anniversary of her accession to the Throne.

In December 1989, Ray Peters retired to operate his own company, Peters Management Ltd., which he had established in 1977. 

Written by Pip Wedge - August, 2007

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