Margaret Lyons

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Margaret Lyons

Margaret Lyons.jpg
BornNovember 21, 1923
DiedOctober 4, 2019(2019-10-04) (aged 95)
Other namesKeiko Margaret Inouye
Alma materMcMaster University
OccupationRadio executive
AwardsOrder of Canada

Keiko Margaret Lyons CM (née Inouye; November 21, 1923 – October 4, 2019), was the first female vice president of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC). She is known for her role in the CBC's "Radio Revolution", a populist revamp of the CBC Radio network which resulted in programs such as Quirks and Quarks and As It Happens. Lyons was designated a Member of the Order of Canada in 2010 for her work in broadcasting.

Early life and education[edit]

Lyons was born Keiko Margaret Inouye on November 21, 1923,[1] in Mission, British Columbia,[2] to Japanese immigrants Yoshinobu Inouye and Teru Tsuji. In 1942, Lyons and her family were forced to leave Mission due to a mass expulsion of Japanese-Canadians from the area.[1] The family settled in Winnipeg, Manitoba, where Lyons did domestic work.[3]:323–4 In 1944, Lyons moved to Hamilton, Ontario, and worked as a maid at McMaster University while completing her high school diploma. She then attended the university and earned a degree in economics. After graduation, she married fellow student Ed Lyons[1] and relocated to London, England.[3]:323-4


Lyons began working as a typist for the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) in 1952. A year and a half later, she became a producer for BBC's Asian current affairs service, where she worked for six years.[1][3]:322–4 In 1960, Lyons interviewed Lester Pearson following his receipt of the Nobel Peace Prize, and he encouraged her to enter the Canadian journalism industry. Accordingly, Lyons moved to Toronto that year[3]:324 and became a public affairs producer for CBC Radio. She was soon promoted to supervisor.[1] Lyons headed CBC Radio's current affairs department and directed the AM radio service before being promoted to vice president of network radio in 1983, becoming the first woman vice president at the CBC.[3]:324 Within the CBC, Lyons held a reputation of "benevolent ferocity"[4] and was affectionately referred to as the "Dragon Lady".[1][3]:324

During the early 1970s, Lyons was tasked with revitalizing CBC's struggling radio service, which, according to Barbara Frum, had become "ponderous, a sort of university of the air ... it talked down to people and was patronizingly intellectual".[5]:218 Aiming to create a more informal and entertaining atmosphere, Lyons hired several young producers and hosts, including Frum, Mark Starowicz and Peter Gzowski.[5]:218 Lyons incorporated pop and rock and roll music[6] into her programs and eliminated lengthy documentaries.[1] Under her leadership, CBC produced influential programs like Quirks and Quarks, As It Happens and Morningside. This populist reimagining of CBC Radio was termed the "Radio Revolution".[5]:219

Lyons's changes were met with controversy:[5]:219 producer Val Clery complained that Lyons prioritized marketing over content,[1][7] and newspaper critics accused Lyons of pandering to yuppies[8] and turning the CBC into the "Burger Queen of public broadcasting".[6] Supporters called Lyons "formidably brilliant"[6] and commended her for saving CBC Radio from a "suicidal" trajectory.[8] Lyons was remembered by CBC executive Peter Herrndorf as "arguably the most important and the most influential CBC radio executive in the past 60 years" and one of the network's greatest talent developers.[1]

In 1986, Lyons moved back to London, where she worked as Director of European Operations for the CBC. Lyons retired from the CBC in 1991 and returned to Toronto.[2]

Lyons was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Letters by McMaster University in 1996. The university's Lyons New Media Center is named for her.[1] In 2010, Lyons was made a Member of the Order of Canada for her achievements in broadcasting.[9]

Personal life and death[edit]

Lyons (née Inouye) married Ed Lyons in 1949.[2] She had two children, a son and a daughter.[1] Lyons served on the McMaster University Senate for six years and volunteered for local historical preservation societies and Japanese cultural organizations.[2][9]

Lyons underwent medically assisted death in Toronto on October 4, 2019.[1][10]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Houpt, Simon (October 11, 2019). "Margaret Lyons, 95, was an influential executive who sparked CBC's Radio Revolution". The Globe and Mail. Archived from the original on October 15, 2019. Retrieved October 14, 2019.
  2. ^ a b c d Nikkei National Museum and Cultural Centre. "Keiko Margaret Lyons (Inouye)" (PDF). Nikkei Place. Archived from the original (PDF) on December 12, 2018. Retrieved October 16, 2019.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Susan Crean (1987). Newsworthy: The Lives of Media Women. Formac Publishing Company Limited. ISBN 978-0-88780-150-1.
  4. ^ McLean, Ross (March 31, 1984). "CBC Radio: the Dragon Lady's lair". The Globe and Mail. p. A7. ProQuest 1237575848. Lyons rejoices in a reputation of benevolent ferocity within the CBC, and is widely – and usually admiringly – known as the Dragon Lady. – via ProQuest (subscription required)
  5. ^ a b c d Richard Stursberg (April 5, 2012). The Tower of Babble: Sins, Secrets and Successes Inside the CBC. Douglas and McIntyre Limited. ISBN 978-1-926812-74-8.
  6. ^ a b c Boyd, Denny (December 4, 1985). "Did she turn a top radio service into a Burger Queen?". Vancouver Sun. p. 3. Archived from the original on October 16, 2019. Retrieved October 16, 2019. The Sun's Marjorie Nichols describes her as "formidably brilliant". An Eastern newspaper critic has called her "the woman who took over the best all-brow radio service west of the BBC and turned it into the Burger Queen of public broadcasting".
  7. ^ Clery, Val (January 17, 1978). "CBC pap seen destroying last oasis in radio wasteland". The Globe and Mail. p. 7. ProQuest 1238206107. May I, as a former executive producer and one of Margaret Lyons' early victims, add a little more detail? [...] Quasi-popular programs [...] exist only as costly monuments to Miss Lyons' remote patronizing attitude to listeners. The same philosophy, that hype and packaging are more important for boosting audience figures than content, has permeated current affairs programming also. – via ProQuest (subscription required)
  8. ^ a b McLean, Ross (March 29, 1986). "Lyons' roar was needed at the CBC". The Globe and Mail. p. 11. ProQuest 1143945702. To suggest – in the foolish shorthand of her least tolerant foes – that she has been driven by a felt need to embrace a yuppie listenership, is to misread her motivations entirely. She has simply responded to research within and without the CBC demonstrating that the corporation was contentedly failing to reach or serve a widening segment of the Canadian public. Such a drift was suicidal. Adjustment was necessary and relatively urgent. – via ProQuest (subscription required)
  9. ^ a b "Mrs. Keiko Margaret Lyons, C.M., B.A., D.Litt". The Governor General of Canada. Archived from the original on October 14, 2019. Retrieved October 14, 2019.
  10. ^ "Remembering Margaret Lyons". McMaster University Daily News. October 15, 2019. Archived from the original on November 2, 2019. Retrieved November 2, 2019.

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