History Television brings the past to life

By Reena Parhar, Savka Andic, François Louis-Seize
and Marc-André Cloutier

  Sydney Suissa is the Director of Programming and Development with History Television, one of Canada's specialty television channels. His job involves determining the schedules and programs that appear on History Television and working with the producers of the various programs.
Suissa was a speaker at the "Giving The Past A Future" conference, hosted by the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada in Montreal from January 29-31. He spoke with a group of student reporters during a break in the conference activities.

SNN: When was History Television launched?

Sydney Suissa: History Television was launched October 17, 1997, the same date as the 80th anniversary of the Russian Revolution.

SNN: How do you select your historical content?

SS: Basically, it is Canadian content. We select material that has populist appeal, blending movies with documentaries to build a strong station with character.

SNN: Do you feel that there is a lack of interest in Canadian history?

SS: Not so much as a lack of interest, but a lack of knowledge in the world. Yes, there is an interest, an interest in good stories. Ideally, we would reach everybody, but older males (24 - 54) are the group most interested in history, because they're interested in their roots. History was made of males, by males, for males.

SNN: How do you make your programs reach out to students and teachers?

SS: Well... we don't - not specifically! We try to make our programs as engaging and appealing as possible. We offer certain programs for students and teachers, for example, "Cable in the Classroom", study guides, etc.

SNN: Do you believe there is a mentality among some Canadians which rejects history and treats the subject with an attitude of indifference? People who believe that the past should stay in the past, as opposed to giving it a future?

SS: Not so much as indifference, but many people find the past to be painful, and don't want to dwell on it.

SNN: What do you strive to instill in Canadians?

SS: A general curiosity in history.

Reena Parhar is a student at John Oliver Secondary in British Columbia, Saka Andic attends Burnaby Secondary School in British Columbia and François Louis-Seize and Marc-André Cloutier are students from École Le Ber in Quebec.