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TV executive Jay Switzer came from a media family

Jay Switzer

Tom Sandler/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Canadian media executive Jay Switzer, who died of brain cancer on Monday at the age of 61, helped build and lead some of Canada's biggest broadcasting entities, notably CHUM Ltd., where he served as president and CEO.

His death was confirmed by Hollywood Suite, the company he co-founded in 2010.

"Jay defined friendship, loyalty, fairness, selflessness and basic human decency," Jeff Sackman, Hollywood Suite co-founder and chair of the board of directors, said in a statement.

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Jacob (Jay) Howard Switzer was born in Calgary on July 11, 1956, to Israel (Sruki) Switzer, a cable television pioneer, and Phyllis Switzer, a print journalist. The family moved to Toronto in 1967, when Sruki took a job with Maclean-Hunter.

Jay's own introduction to the world of media came when he was 13 and his mother sent him to attend a CRTC hearing in Trois-Rivières. He was assigned to bring back a report for her regulatory newsletter. When he was 16, he started working the switchboard at CITY-TV, the upstart Toronto station his mother co-founded.

"I did all the joe jobs you love to do because you can learn the business from the ground up," he once told The Globe and Mail.

He worked his way up in a variety of roles, including floor director, which meant cleaning George Chuvalo's spit cup during live Fight Night boxing broadcasts.

After he received his MBA from the University of Western Ontario, he returned to CITY-TV full time as the station's program manager in 1983.

By this point, the station had been acquired by CHUM Ltd. One of Mr. Switzer's biggest projects in the following years was co-writing the licence application that would bring MuchMusic to air.

Mr. Switzer was appointed president and chief executive officer of CHUM Ltd. in 2002, succeeding the company's founder, Allan Waters. Mr. Switzer served in the position for five years, until he became a casualty of a takeover by CTVglobemedia, which then sold CITY-TV's five television stations to Rogers Broadcasting Ltd.

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In 2010, Mr. Switzer co-founded the independent multiplatform movie broadcaster Hollywood Suite.

He was also a board member of various media companies and was vice-chair of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters.

"Amongst Jay's many qualities was his unwavering support to women in an industry which has often turned a blind eye," said Catherine Tait, Hollywood Suite co-founder and director.

"He tirelessly promoted and encouraged so many of us – and we hold him in our hearts forever, in gratitude."

Mr. Switzer's honours include the Friend of Women in Film and Television (Toronto) Award, which he received in 1994, and the Queen's Jubilee Medal, for his significant contribution to Canada. In December, Mr. Switzer was also invested as a member of the Order of Canada.

The Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television plans to give him a special honour at the forthcoming Canadian Screen Awards.

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"Jay was a supportive and encouraging leader whose commitment and belief in the mission and people of Hollywood Suite never faltered, despite the many headwinds facing the broadcast business," said David Kines, Hollywood Suite co-founder and president.

"His certainty in our success will be sorely missed by both myself and the staff and our industry."

Mr. Switzer leaves his wife, Ellen Dubin; sisters Chiara Switzer, Sharon Switzer and Lori Newdick; and stepmother Bryna Park Switzer. He was predeceased by his parents.

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