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P. Suri


Leslie Sole, Rogers Media Executive Vice President announced that effective July 1, 2001, Madeline Ziniak will be promoted to the position of Vice President, Station Manager of Multilingual TV for Eastern Canada for Rogers Media: Television. In this capacity, she will maintain her responsibility as Executive Producer of CFMT-TV's ethnic productions. Ziniak's promotion represents the leadership that she has provided, not only for CFMT-TV's three stations, Toronto, Ottawa and London, but her ongoing dedication to the continued growth of the station's multilingual/multicultural television programming.  

Madeline Ziniak
Madeline Ziniak

Madeline Ziniak, Vice President and Executive Producer of CFMT-TV, chosen to receive the 2001 Global Television Network/Canadian Women in Communication (CWC) Management Development for Women Award, was asked at an interview in 1980, how many hours would she be able to devote to Journalism along with her family responsibilities. This question is illegal today. But Ms Ziniak’s answer was frank and forthright, that “Journalism is a way of life.” And she meant it.

 Madeline’s schedule is her commitment, and that is the secret of her success. Her family has always been supportive of her commitments and responsibilities, not only as the Vice-President and Executive Producer of the CFMT-TV, but also of her other public roles like the  Executive Director(1992-present) Canadian Ethnic Journalists and Writers Club(CEJWC) and  various other Committees on Racial or societal Trends and Issues or Councils on Family Violence etc. And Ms Ziniak has made her mark all along the way by winning a number of honours and awards.

 When I congratulated her recently on winning the prestigious 2001 Award, she, very modestly, observed that it had been initiated with the specific purpose of providing the women with an opportunity to learn more about broadcasting through seminars in association with the National Association of Broadcasters. This, she said, would enable them to have a proper look at the broadcasting environment and to see, through the seminars, as to where the business of broadcasting is going.

This business of  broadcasting takes us directly  to 2000 AD, when Ms. Ziniak made history by pledging annual donation of multilingual/multicultural television programming to the National Archives of Canada. It was the first time that such a sizeable donation of heritage( non-official) language material was  committed to the Archives by a private broadcaster. Ms Ziniak  had observed “CFMT-TV is honoured to contribute broadcast documentation of the ethno-cultural perspective…..We are pleased to make these examples of diversity television available to the public as important  manifestation of our identity.”

CFMT-TV’s donation of diversity television programming represents a cross-section of Canada’s multicultural communities, and consists of productions of  national significance. Again, it is because of her efforts that CFMT-TV, Canada’s first multilingual/multicultural television system, and the first such broadcaster was named Television Station of the Year by the Ontario Association of Broadcasters. It is the leading provider of ethno-cultural programming. It broadcasts 60% of its programming in 16 languages to communities encompassing more than 18 cultures.

I was so intrigued that  I  could not help asking her, and very bluntly  too, as to how  she had managed to get so deeply interested in the language and culture of the non-white communities in Canada. She said she was born in Toronto. Her parents had emigrated from Russia in 1949. Her father, a dissident  writer in the country of his origin, initiated  a paper titled "Byelorussian Voice". He was the Editor and Publisher of this paper from 1949 till his death in 1992. “ He is the father of  the Canadian Ethnic Journalists’ Club,” she said, and “I am the Executive Director of this club.”  She said she had helped her father in the lay out of the paper, which started to deal with the issues of importance to the immigrants, because the traditional and established media was not touching upon these issues. “ I have always been involved with ethnic and cultural media; and I have been learning throughout my career in journalism for about 25 years,” she said.

Back in 1979, she reminisces, it was not trendy to talk about the multicultural or multilingual aspects of the society, but she steered on, consistently and steadfastly, winning several honours like the Ontario Programming Award for Innovation and Excellence, Ethnicity, in spring,1987; Excellence in Journalism, Ministry of Citizenship and Culture, Reaction, March1987; League for  Human Rights of B’nai Canadian Cable Television Birth of Canada, Ethnicity, 1985; and  Canadian Cable Television Association Award, Ministry of Citizenship and Culture 1983, for promoting the ethnic diversity of Ontario through mass media.

Madeline Ziniak  had made her mark as a  producer/director with  Rogers Cable 10 before she joined the CFMT-TV. “I started my career at the Rogers Community channel, and that was the first time they started looking at ethno-cultural realities.” And then, in 1986, Rogers purchased CFMT-TV and she became  the Vice-President and Executive-Producer of Canada’s first Multi-lingual/Multicultural Television System (CFMT-TV). Thus she holds the executive level position of responsibility for television production and programming decisions in a commercial, multilingual/ multicultural broadcast environment.

By succeeding at the executive level in this highly specialised field, coveted by quite a few male aspirants, Madeline has become a role model to serve the cause of diverse communities with unique needs and expectations. She has established a standard of professional excellence for women in this field. She says, “ We have been targeting the anti-violence messages in 16 languages.”  Needless to say though, that she has been the proud recipient of several awards both at the provincial and national level. The most outstanding ones include:

  • Baisakhi  2000, Sikh Centennial Foundation”. In recognition of SEWA/ Service—Leadership Excellence.
  • Macedonian Heritage (2000); “ For her great contribution to Canadian Multiculturism.”
  • Lt. Governor’s Gold Medal (1995) for Print and Electronic Media. Human Rights, and Race Relations

As Ms Ziniak’s position involves direct, personal, interaction with a diversity of ethno-cultural communities, who, more often than not , are rather averse to dealing with women in leadership roles—she has to deal with the adverse perception  and reactions of various interest groups in her everyday decisions. But she says, “ I am always trying to be able to share experience and come back with new information.”

And then I asked her about her target. She said, she has been trying to get a licence for another station at Vancouver, a multilingual/ multicultural centre like the CFMT-TV in Toronto, but the request has been turned down twice. Now, it is the third time in 8 years that they we have applied for the licence. The CRTC has not taken a decision yet. The decision is expected this fall.  “ I feel it is the right of every individual to have information in the language of his/her comfort. And for this,” she goes on, “Women have to perform better…They can bring quality, not only to management, but also to media where others may not be available.”

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