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The Politics of Canadian Broadcasting, 1920-1951

The Politics of Canadian Broadcasting, 1920-1951

Frank W. Peers
Copyright Date: 1969
Pages: 475
  • Book Info
    The Politics of Canadian Broadcasting, 1920-1951
    Book Description:

    This fascinating book traces both the development of radio from its beginnings in 1920 to the inception of television in 1952, and the formation of public policy throughout these years.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-6459-3
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-2)
    (pp. 3-14)

    In north america radio and television have developed primarily as commercial media. Typically, the programs exist to sell goods, and the stations and networks are private ventures, only lightly touched by state regulation. We might have expected that Canada, a country whose social characteristics strongly resemble those of the United States, would have developed a broadcasting system on the American model, or even subsidiary to it. But Canadian radio diverged from the American - and the how’s and why’s of that divergence are the theme of this book.

    Canadians did not find it easy to strike out on their separate...

    (pp. 15-36)

    When broadcasting got under way in 1920, Canada was reasonably well equipped to regulate it and supervise its development. There was a small branch of government with technically qualified men to look after all radio affairs; and they had a broadcasting act to administer which had at least some of the basic provisions, even though it had been intended for point-to-point communication.

    Twenty years earlier, in 1900, wireless telegraphy had been placed under the Department of Public Works; it was transferred in 1909 to the Department of Marine and Fisheries. The first legislation was the Wireless Telegraph Act of 1905,...

    (pp. 37-62)

    Parliament prorogued soon after approving the broadcasting investigation, and the King government delayed further action for several months. Finally, on December 6, 1928, a royal commission on radio broadcasting was appointed under the chairmanship of Sir John Aird, president of the Canadian Bank of Commerce, Toronto. Sir John was seventy-three years old; men who knew and worked with him say that he had considerable charm and a good sense of humour. In politics he was a Conservative,¹ and he was predisposed to favour the private-enterprise system in broadcasting.² One Toronto station owner told the press, “The personnel of the Commission,...

    (pp. 63-107)

    Both Liberals and Conservatives used radio extensively in the 1930 election campaign, but broadcasting itself did not become an issue. Each of the two stations that had led the fight against the Aird proposals identified itself with one of the parties: CKGW in Toronto with the Conservatives, and CKAC in Montreal with the Liberals. After the somewhat unexpected victory of R. B. Bennett and the Conservatives, no one knew what the Conservative policy on broadcasting would be; but those on the left probably agreed with Professor Frank Underbill who wrote in theCanadian Forum:“The CPR wants to construct a...

    (pp. 108-136)

    The prime minister had said during the Commons debate that he thought one of the commissioners should be French-speaking and that another should be a well-informed radio engineer. An international radio conference was being held in Madrid in the fall of 1932, and the minister of marine left Canada before the commission was appointed. One of the two other Canadian delegates was Lt. Col. W. Arthur Steel, friend of W. D. Herridge and technical adviser to the Radio Committee earlier in the year, and a probable choice as one of the three commissioners. But the question of who would be...

    (pp. 137-163)

    While persuading the House to pass the amendments to the Broadcasting Act in 1933, Bennett had promised that a special committee would be appointed in the next session to review the work of the commission. When the membership of the committee was announced it seemed to the commission that “the dice had been in some measure loaded against us; at least one-third of the committee were affiliated in some degree with private stations that had made impossible demands upon us.”¹

    The Conservative members of the Special Committee were Dr. Morand, who was once again named chairman; Onésime Gagnon of Quebec,...

    (pp. 164-191)

    As the months went by following the 1934 radio committee, and the government showed no disposition to change the broadcasting structure, Flaunt became convinced that any hope for reform in radio rested with the Liberal party. He was not himself a political partisan, preferring to work for social justice through a non-party agrarian group, the Young Canada Movement, of which he was founder.¹ Indeed, most of the others active on the executive of the Canadian Radio League were not identified with a political party. Graham Spry (the exception) was now CCF organizer in Ontario. Brooke Claxton, who was to become...

    (pp. 192-221)

    From the time he first submitted proposals to the Liberals for broadcasting reorganization (February 1935), Flaunt assumed that Gladstone Murray of the BBC was the Canadian best qualified to become general manager of the broadcasting corporation. Murray was put in touch with Vincent Massey in March of that year, and Flaunt kept Murray constantly informed of each major development until the new broadcasting act had been passed. At the end of December 1935, Plaunt received verbal assurance from C. D. Howe that he regarded Murray as the man for the post.¹ Under the proposed legislation, the general manager would be...

  12. 9 THE TESTING PERIOD, 1938–1939
    (pp. 222-253)

    It was all very well, in Gladstone Murray’s words, to have a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation modelled on the British Broadcasting Corporation, with the common characteristics of “remote State control, independent management, an unpaid board of governors as public trustees, an executive of the normal business model.”¹ On this fundamental of the public corporation, there was now little disagreement within Canada; nor was there on the proposition that the CBC should operate a system of high-powered stations to provide radio service to most of Canada’s populated area. This amount of consensus at least had been established.

    But as Gladstone Murray knew,...

    (pp. 254-280)

    Two interrelated issues were crucial for the broadcasting system and the corporation’s place in it: what opportunities the network should provide for controversial broadcasting, and what policy should govern freedom of speech on the air. The corporation had to develop and define its role both as producer of programs and as regulatory board; it was in political and controversial programs that the CBC found its greatest opportunity and its principal challenge.

    As a producer of programs, the CBC was intended to give expression to the thoughts, experiences, and artistic achievements of Canadians. This responsibility, it was generally agreed, had not...

    (pp. 281-295)

    By september 1939 broadcasting in Canada had been in existence for twenty years. For two-thirds of this period it had developed with minimal controls and under no well-defined national policy. Beginning in 1932 a new public policy was formulated, a governing body established, and a licence fee collected from listeners to be used for broadcasting purposes. What effects had this had on the Canadian broadcasting system?

    In 1939 no one disputed the importance of radio in the life of the average citizen, or radio’s general pervasiveness; with the outbreak of war, this was to be demonstrated even more dramatically. In...

    (pp. 296-322)

    In the summer of 1939 Canadians were reasonably well satisfied with their broadcasting system. The CBC was exercising control in accordancece with general standards set down by Parliament, yet the network was not operating as the official voice of the state and certainly not speaking for the government of the day. Canadians could have programs reflecting their own interests without sacrificing the popular entertainment from the United States. Service was being provided in two languages at reasonable cost. A working partnership had developed between the national authority and the owners of private stations. In the selection of programs for broadcast,...

    (pp. 323-345)

    During the war, the CBC assumed extra responsibilities which very nearly made it into an arm of government. The CBC’S wartime role raised perplexing questions about who was responsible for policy, to what extent the board of governors remained independent of the minister, and how far the corporation should go in giving voice to diverse and conflicting views in wartime. The CBC saw its own function in these terms: “Even in time of peace, national radio has played an increasingly important role in welding together the diverse elements of our population; in wartime it serves also to interpret policy, by...

  17. 14 PRIVATE BROADCASTING, 1939–1945
    (pp. 346-365)

    When the war began, the position of private stations in the broadcasting system seemed clear. There were about 75 of these stations, compared wtih ten CBC stations. But since it was agreed that their job was to provide local service, most of them were of relatively low power – 1000 watts or less. About 60 had an affiliation with a CBC network: in 1942, 26 were affiliated as basic stations of the network, and released on an average about eight hours a day of CBC sustaining programs; another 35 were supplementary stations which were added to the networks for particular programs,...

    (pp. 366-393)

    The end of the war brought a revulsion against government controls, in the business community especially, and a hope that the expansion of the economy could continue under normal business auspices. Canada was quite a different nation from the one that had gone to war six years previously. The shift of population from farm to city was increasingly evident, and would sooner or later be reflected in the political life of the country. Many families were enjoying an affluence they had not previously known, not even in the boom years of 1927–8. Canada was becoming a consumer-oriented society, part...

    (pp. 394-439)

    In the year 1948 several questions demanded urgent attention from the government. First, an authoritative answer was needed on who should regulate and control the activities of private stations; their scope and function had to be defined or restated. Second, financial provision had to be made for the CBC; the licence fee of $2.50 was now clearly inadequate. The government had to decide whether to increase the fee substantially or find some other means of supporting the public system. Third, there was the new problem of television. The country, it seemed, would be faced with the same kinds of difficult...

    (pp. 440-450)

    There had been thirty years of radio broadcasting in Canada, and now there was television. For the Canadian system, the most significant fact was that Parliament had decided to continue the mixture of public and private ownership as before, reaffirming the clear pre-eminence of the public sector. As another government explained it fifteen years later, “The determination to develop and maintain a national system of radio and television is an essential part of the continuing resolve for Canadian identity and Canadian unity.”¹ The compulsion to have a broadcasting system to serve national needs was just as strong in 1951 as...

  21. INDEX
    (pp. 451-466)