Moses Znaimer: A New McLuhan, But With a Mission To Reinvent Television

14Mar20

A young Moses Znaimer

By Dom Serafini

Moishe (Moses) Znaimer is a media entrepreneur, media executive, media innovator, TV host, producer, content distributor, actor, TV historian, TV museum curator, TV philosopher, and prophet, who has been influencing and polarizing Canadian society since 1965, when he received a master’s degree in politics from Harvard University. But let’s start at the beginning.

Moishe Znaimer was born sometime in 1942 (he isn’t sure of the exact date), while his father, Aron, who was from Latvia, and his mother, Chaya Epelsweig, who hailed from Poland, were on a train to Kulyab in Tajik (which was then part of the USSR, but is now known as Kulob and is in Tajikistan) to escape the Holocaust, each as a sole survivor of their respective families.

After World War II ended, the Znaimers went to Poland, then West Berlin, then a Displaced Persons camp in Hessisch Lichtenau, Germany, before finally arriving in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, as refugees, in 1948. Shortly thereafter, they settled in Montreal, and eventually the young Moishe went to Toronto. This nomadic existence allowed him to be able to eruditely argue in four languages: Russian, Hebrew, French, and English. As an undergrad, he even served as president of McGill University’s Debating Union, and changed his official name from Moishe to Moses.

Znaimer documented his parents’ escape from the Nazis in the book Passages: Welcome Home to Canada (Doubleday Canada, 2002) by Michael Ignatieff and Rudyard Griffiths.

In its 2010 edition, The Canadian Encyclopedia reported that “Znaimer developed a reputation as the ‘bad boy of Canadian television’ due to his aggressive pursuits of opportunities, as well as his ‘aggressive sexuality,’ which the Toronto Star referred to in a 2009 [article] as his ‘most vivid personality tic.’ He is known for his tight control of his image in the media, and the way he crafts an enigmatic persona through the numerous contradictions in his work and life.”

However, the Encyclopedia continued, in 2006, “in recognition of Znaimer’s contribution to the Canadian media landscape, the City of Toronto designated the area around Citytv [the TV station that he founded] at 299 Queen Street West as Moses Znaimer Way.” The street sign wasn’t actually erected until 2008. (There is also a Marshall McLuhan Way on nearby St. Joseph Street, to honor the acclaimed Canadian media philosopher).

For this report, VideoAge contacted three of Znaimer’s former associates, each of whom declined to explain the “challenging” relationship they had with him, while a fourth one, a 25-year veteran of Citytv, answered: “He would very quickly get frustrated by the failure of others to see and execute his vision. He got frustrated when it took an idea of his a long time to roll out. He was prepared to be wrong, but his ideas and concepts were usually very well thought through, so it would take a very solid set of arguments to move him from a position. And… he was usually right.”

Znaimer’s interest in television first manifested at age 13 when he became a naturalized Canadian citizen and used C$200 of his bar mitzvah money to buy his family a 1955 Admiral TV set. This was just three years after the inauguration of television services by the state-owned CBC. That must have left a lasting impression on him, since in 1992, 37 years after that first TV set, he founded the Moses Znaimer TV (MZTV) Museum, with has a large collection of TV equipment dating from the early days of television that he began collecting in the 1980s and originally kept in the Citytv building. That particular Admiral TV set is not at the museum, but “there are other Admiral models in the collection, mostly from the 1940s,” he said.
Read the rest at https://tinyurl.com/swghfnr

On McLuhan’s influence on Znaimer see https://tinyurl.com/qvhv7b3 

Moses Znaimer in 2007


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