CTV is bidding farewell to a broadcasting pioneer who helped shape the network from its inception. Former CTV President and CEO Murray Chercover died Saturday from complications following pneumonia. He was 80.

Chercover was born in Montreal in 1929. In 1944, at the age of 15, Chercover began the career that would take him to the presidency of Canada's first private television network with a job at radio station CFPA in Port Arthur.

Pursuing his love of theatre, Chercover spent time in Toronto before heading to New York City. There, he worked as an actor, director and producer of various theatrical productions with companies in New York, Atlantic City and Kennebunkport, Maine.

Chercover also directed his first television production -- a drama for the Louis G. Cowan agency -- before returning to Canada to join the newly-formed CBC Television in 1952. During the next eight years, his credits at the CBC included dramas for General Motors Presents, Procter & Gamble's On Camera, The Ford Motor Company's Playbill, and Space Command.

In 1960, Chercover again sought new challenges when he left CBC to join Baton Broadcasting's newly licensed private station, CFTO-TV. From his first job as Executive Producer for all production, he went on to assume the titles of Director of Programming for CFTO in 1961, and then Vice-President of Programming later the same year.

When the CTV Network was formed in 1961, he chaired its Program Committee. When the CTV affiliates acquired ownership of the Network in 1966, Murray was appointed Executive Vice President and General Manager of CTV. By 1967 he became its President and Chief Operating Officer; in 1968 he became President and Managing Director. Finally, Chercover was made President and CEO in 1986.

He retired from CTV just four years later, but continued as a special consultant to the network while also developing his own business Chercover Communications.

During his 24 years at CTV, Chercover oversaw the launch of many famous programs including W5 and morning television pioneer Canada AM. Chercover's efforts to bolster news and information programming at CTV also included luring Lloyd Robertson from CBC.

"He put the stamp on the network as a credible and critical force in the Canadian broadcasting mosaic," Robertson said. But on reflection, what struck Robertson most about Chercover was his deep voice honed on the stage in New York.

"I though to myself, I have to make my voice deeper than his and I never managed that. He was always deeper than I was."

In addition to an Emmy for his contributions to the broadcasting industry, Chercover collected countless personal honours during his career including:

  • the CAB Distinguished Service Gold Ribbon (1986)
  • the CFTA Gold Medal for Lifetime Achievement (1988)
  • a "Rockie" Lifetime Achievement Award from the Banff Television Festival and the Conestoga College Award for Excellence in Broadcasting (1990)
  • the Broadcast Executives Society's "Achiever" Award (1991)

Murray Chercover was named to the CAB Broadcast Hall of Fame in 1994.