Before Bell converted it into a dumping ground for stuff moved off of the Comedy Network in order to make room for even more Big Bang Theory reruns, MuchMusic was a very important, you might even say revolutionary TV channel. It was, as its name suggests, a music station. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, it was nothing but music videos, music news, interviews with musicians, live performances and anything else music related you could think of. It was one of the places a lot of us went to see what was new and to learn what we should care about and why. I’ll remember it most for the Weird Al specials, how much fun it was whenever Ed the Sock was on, the times they did the laugh-a-thons and Beavis and Butt-Head, but it was also cool to just randomly hang out and watch it with friends.
To celebrate its recently passed 35th birthday, Retrontario put together a nice written and video history of how it came to be, including all the work done by Citytv going back as far as the early 70s to make it happen. Ahh, Citytv. There’s another station that’s had all the spirit sucked out of it by current ownership. Thanks, Rogers.
May 4, 1983 was when the CRTC opened the door for MuchMusic, with a call for applications for specialty licences. This would become the second wave of pay television in Canada, three months after the initial group of stations went live: First Choice, Superchannel, C Channel and Quebec’s TVEC. (ChumCity’s original application, for a movie channel called Premiere, was turned down by the CRTC.)
By the end of 1983, two of those new ones were gone. First Choice and Superchannel were broke, but survived thanks to a CRTC bailout scheme. The services were allowed to merge: First Choice took the eastern half of Canada, and Superchannel took the west.
So, this second wave invited proposals for narrowcast programming. This time, Znaimer zeroed in on the reference to music as a suggested genre. With the word “Much” as a statement of intent—not to mention an anagram of CHUM—Citytv began to plot Canada’s first full-time music TV service…
Four other applicants aspired for permission to create a Canadian answer to MTV: The Music Channel, by Rogers Radio Broadcasting Limited and Molson Limited; Canadian Music TV (CMTV), led by Montreal real estate developer Gilles Chartrand; two applications by concert promoter Donald Tarlton in conjunction with Astral Communications; and Michael Sheridan, a Toronto artist who had almost no broadcast experience, but was advocating programming with puppets, so that the content could be easily versioned into other languages.
(Quickly enough, it became apparent that the race for the license was essentially between ChumCity, Rogers/Molson, and Chartrand.)