Canadian media industry legend and Hollywood Suite co-founder, Jay Switzer, died peacefully in Toronto on January 29, 2018 with his family at his side, after a too short, but courageous battle with brain cancer.
Jay was beloved and respected in both his business and personal life, and a dedicated, loyal, and loving husband, son, son-in-law, brother, and friend to many.
Jay was born to a life in television, raised with his dear sisters by two loving parents, both of whom were legends in the Canadian TV industry. Jay’s first introduction to the business came when his mother Phyllis asked her 13-year-old son to attend a CRTC hearing in Trois Rivières and bring back a report for her regulatory newsletter. When Phyllis co-founded Citytv in September 1972, 16-year-old Jay’s first full-time job was on the station’s switchboard. This was followed by regular Saturday nights as floor director assembling the boxing ring with his high school classmates on Citytv’s live “Fight Night” broadcasts. The pay was $1.50 an hour but he got to clean George Chuvalo’s spit cup.
After getting his MBA from the University of Western Ontario, Jay returned to Citytv on a full-time basis as Program Manager, the job that was truest to his calling, and one he never really let go of. His passion for great TV and film was contagious, and led to Citytv, and its offspring MuchMusic, Bravo!, FashionTelevision and many other CHUM channels, expanding across Canada and around the world. Jay rose through the ranks at CHUM over the years, ultimately being appointed CEO in 2002.
In 2010, Jay co-founded Hollywood Suite, where he served on the Board of Directors as Chair of the Canadian independent, privately owned broadcasting company.
Jeff Sackman, Hollywood Suite co-founder and current Chair of the Board of Directors says: “Jay defined friendship, loyalty, fairness, selflessness, and basic human decency. He will be proud to know that these traits have been passed on to so many others who will pay it forward, ensuring that Jay’s legacy is intact and the world will be a better place. Thanks for all you did for me! Love!!”
Catherine Tait, Hollywood Suite co-founder and Director says: “Amongst Jay’s many qualities was his unwavering support to women in an industry which has often turned a blind eye. He tirelessly promoted and encouraged so many of us – and we hold him in our hearts forever, in gratitude.”
David Kines, Hollywood Suite co-founder and President says: “On behalf of the staff, directors and investors of Hollywood Suite, we want to express our most heartfelt condolences to Jay’s wife, Ellen Dubin, and the Switzer family. 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. His certainty in our success will be sorely missed by both myself and the staff and our industry.”
Jay’s quiet contributions and commitment to community and country have been recognized with awards including the Friend of Women in Film and Television (Toronto) Award (1994), the Queen’s Jubilee Medal (2002), and the Human Relations Award (2005) from the Canadian Centre for Diversity. He was appointed a Member of the Order of Canada in December 2017.
Jay is recognized by his peers as a media business and cultural leader, leading major broadcasting entities, mentoring emerging talent—both individuals and organizations—and advancing the quality and success of the Canadian broadcasting sector. As a mentor to countless independent producers and creators of Canadian works for the screen, Jay is celebrated as a champion of independent Canadian feature film and television production having supported more than 200 projects throughout his career.
Jay was an active board member serving organizations including the Canadian Association of Broadcasters, the Banff Television Festival, the National Association of Television Program Executives, and the Toronto Film Board. He served as Chair of the board of GlassBOX Television from 2009-2011, and most recently served on the boards of: OUTtv; Shaftesbury Films Inc.; and Comweb Corporation. He was also a long-time supporter of Ryerson University, serving on the Advisory Board for the Faculty of Radio and Television Arts since 2012.