Community television pioneer Wendell Ellis dies

Published on January 14, 2016
Community television pioneer died Monday at the Prince County Hospital at the age of 71.

 One of the pioneers of   community television in P.E.I. has died.

Wendell Ellis died Monday at the Prince County Hospital at the age of 71.

Ellis spent more than three decades at Island Cablevision Studio 10, now Eastlink TV, filming events and personalities across the Island.

He retired in 2009.

During his tenure there he produced a number of award-winning and very popular programs, including Bill’s Jamboree, Heritage 92 and Community Showcase.

He was also instrumental in launching a telethon in support of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.

David Dunphy, Eastlink’s business development manager for P.E.I. and Ellis’s friend for 25 years, described him a man of vision and a true community television pioneer.

“I was very fortunate to have worked with Wendell,” Dunphy said. “He was a man of vision who worked on a lot of successful projects.  He was instrumental in the developing of community television here. He helped start the telethon for the QEH and was involved in a number of other fundraising projects.”

Dunphy said Ellis was very good at bringing important issues to the public’s attention.

 In 2012 his contributions to community television earned him a Diamond Jubilee Medal.

At that time he was described in the citation that accompanied the award as a true ambassador of Prince Edward Island who spent more than three decades bringing the stories of Islanders to the television screen.

“Spearheading Community Showcase, he both introduced viewers across the Island to the many wonders of our province and fostered a sense of collective pride in our home,” the citation read.

In 1982, his idea to produce and air a program called the Rally for the Internationally Disabled earned him his first Omer Girard Award for Innovation Cable Programming.

 Handed out by the Canadian Cable Television Association, the award is considered the industry's equivalent to the Academy Award.

Ellis nabbed his second community television "Oscar" nine years later by staging the ambitious Child Awareness Day - a project that involved thousands of volunteers, social organizations, all P.E.I. police and fire departments, safety organizations and every student on the Island.

"It didn't take very long to learn how powerful the community channel was and what it could do for people,” Ellis once said of his work. "I feel that the Islanders feel and know that it is their channel."

His work was also acknowledged by the Chamber of Commerce which presented him with the president’s award.

He was described by the chamber as a man who had the ability to rally the entire province behind an idea.   

Ellis was also an avid gardener and an award-winning photographer.

Ellis is survived by his wife Sandra, a son Stephen a daughter Lori Ann, as well as by three grandchildren.

He is also survived   sisters Mabel, Marion and Marlene and by a brother Wayne. He was predeceased by a brother David.

Funeral services will be held Saturday at the Moase Funeral Home, Summerside, at 11 a.m.