Broadcasting | The Canadian Encyclopedia



IntroductionBroadcasting. Vast distances and the isolation of communities have posed major problems for Canada. Radio and TV therefore have contributed immensely to the nation's cultural life, particularly radio in the case of music.


Broadcasting. Vast distances and the isolation of communities have posed major problems for Canada. Radio and TV therefore have contributed immensely to the nation's cultural life, particularly radio in the case of music.

Canada's broadcasting system is the world's most complex, being an amalgam of many privately owned profit-motivated stations and publicly-owned networks and stations, broadcasting for the most part in one or the other of the two official languages, English and French (and in some others locally as well), through longitudes spanning seven time zones and over a land area (10 million square kilometres) second only to that of the Soviet Union. Moreover some 80 per cent of all Canadians live along the southern fringe, within easy electronic reach of the world's most clamorous broadcaster, the USA. Broadcasting for Canada has certainly been a unifying force. However it has also opened electronic channels to ease the penetration of foreign cultures, particularly the USA.

The general status and objectives of this publicly-cum-privately owned system are prescribed by the Broadcasting Act (1968); it is to be '... owned and controlled by Canadians so as to safeguard, enrich and strengthen the cultural, political, social and economic fabric of Canada'. The principal interpreter of the Act is the Canadian Radio Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), set up to report to Parliament through the Secretary of State (and thus to be under the control of Parliament rather than of the government of the day). By about 1970 the CRTC had begun to draft and to implement regulations to ensure that Canadian broadcasters would use 'predominantly Canadian creative and other resources,' as required by the Act. Since for many years most radio broadcasting of music had consisted of playing records, and since the Canadian recording industry until recently (with the partial exception of the Province of Quebec) had been an importing industry only, such regulations were bound to encourage Canadian recording, though probably more of popular than of serious music.

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC)/La Société Radio-Canada (SRC)

The largest single component of the system is the publicly-owned CBC, which broadcasts not only through its own networks of stations and transmitters (by 1991 860 television and 673 radio) but also through privately owned 'affiliate' stations and transmitters with which the CBC has retransmission contracts (243 TV and 87 radio). The problem of covering vast territories has been formidable, and during the 1970s the system was extended by use of the Anik satellite; by the end of the 1970s at least 62 TV and 25 radio stations drew their national service signals from Anik, many in turn feeding other transmitters in their areas. Most of the CBC's radio broadcasting has been of programs originated by the CBC itself. On TV, however (especially English-language), the foreign-produced content is extensive. Also, on TV less than 1.5 per cent of total air time is of 'Music and Dance,' while on CBC radio, serious music might accountfor some 15 per cent on AM Radio thus provides the staple diet of music programing, and indeed for most of the employment of musicians for music broadcasting. There was justice in the statement (1952) of Geoffrey Waddington, at the time director of music for the CBC English (radio) network, that the CBC has been the dominant factor in providing some measure of economic security for the Canadian musician'. (He might have added that the CBC also was the most effective champion of the Canadian composer, through commissions, public performances, payment of royalties, etc.) Although the foregoing would no longer be true by the mid 1970s, nonetheless the story of the broadcasting of serious music in Canada has been dominated by the CBC.

Early History of Canadian Broadcasting

As befits a nation so dependent on long-range communication, Canada has an honourable place in the early development of radio. Marconi, of course, is credited with accomplishing in 1901 the first trans-Atlantic 'interrupted code' transmission, from St John's, Nfld, but it was a Canadian, Reginald A. Fessenden, who developed the principle of continuous-wave transmission upon which all modern broadcasting depends; Fessenden first transmitted the sound of the voice in 1900 over a distance of 50 miles, and in 1906 from Boston to Scotland. Fessenden was bitterly disappointed that Marconi's company, rather than his own Wireless Telegraph Company of Canada, was granted by the Canadian government exclusive rights to build the first transmitting stations in Canada. Fessenden's aim had been to make Canada a world centre for long-range radio transmission, but he never again chose to live in his native country. His name as one of the great radio pioneers has remained largely unknown, even to Canadians.

Regularly scheduled radio broadcasting did not begin until after World War I, however, and to the Canadian Marconi Company station XWA (now CFCF) in Montreal went the distinction of giving, on 20 May 1920, the first scheduled broadcast in North America, possibly in the world.

In the USA radio broadcasting boomed in the early 1920s, as businesses and corporations vied with each other to pay for air-time advertising, but in Canada commercial messages were at first forbidden (although sponsor identification was permitted), and commercial interest in radio lagged. Nor did the government help to develop the medium.

Initiatives were many and varied in these uncoordinated early days, and many an amateur appeared on local radio in the spate of ever-popular (and inexpensive) 'amateur hours'. Public service was the order of the day, and the beginnings of educational broadcasting soon appeared. In 1925, for example, Canada's earliest French station, CKAC (begun in 1922 by the Montreal newspaper La Presse), presented a 30-week radio series of music lessons prepared and delivered by Émiliano Renaud, including many of his own pieces, some probably written for the purpose, apparently a first for Canada, perhaps the world. Probably the first successful systematic school broadcasts were given over CNRV, the CNR radio station (see below) in Vancouver in 1927; the Vancouver School Board prepared the series, the musical portions of which were organized by the assistant supervisor of music for Vancouver schools, Miss E.R. Roberts. (See School music broadcasts.)

CKAC Montreal - and on occasion its affiliated stations in the province of Quebec - carried an early example (1929-38) of provincially sponsored broadcasting: 'L'Heure provinciale,' broadcasts devoted mainly to the work of Quebec composers and performers and directed by Henri Letondal (later succeeded by Alfred Mignault).

Individual stations provided many enterprising programs. In 1924, however, Sir Henry Thornton, the farsighted president of the recently formed Canadian National Railway system, was thinking on a larger scale. He decided that his transcontinental passengers should be able to listen to radio on their long journeys, so receivers were installed on CNR trains, an attractive travelling novelty. At that time the available listening fare would have been largely of US origin, so Thornton decided to build Canadian transmitting studios, the first in Ottawa (CNRO, 27 Feb 1924) and another in Moncton (CNRA, 7 Nov 1924), and this initiative culminated five years later in a trans-continental network linked by the CNR 'landlines' (which subsequently, with those of the CPR, provided the mainstay of inter-city radio linkage until the establishment of the Bell system's microwave network in 1962). In 1924 the airwaves were relatively uncrowded, and some transmitters could be heard for hundreds of kilometres, especially over the prairies. Radio audiences were growing swiftly.

Although 'public service' programming (news, weather reports, local announcements, etc) was of prime importance, music was not neglected. In October of 1925, for example, from CNRT in Toronto not only was a complete studio performance of The Yeomen of the Guard given (under Reginald Stewart), but so also was a special series, 'The Music Makers,' by J. Campbell McInnes, one program of which was devoted to the music of Bach; two months later a complete performance of The Mikado was broadcast from CNRM in Montreal. That same year the CNR signed an exclusive contract with the Hart House String Quartet, who two years later made a trans-Canada tour, broadcasting programs of Beethoven quartets over each of the CNR's radio stations in honour of the Beethoven centennial.

By 1927 a new method of multi-channel transmission was being developed for long-distance lines, and it became evident that broadcasting 'networks' of interconnected stations could be contemplated. To mark in a spectacular way the Diamond Jubilee of Canada's Confederation, 1 Jul 1927, a broadcast of trans-continental scope was suggested by the Association of Canadian Clubs. The engineers pronounced it feasible, though ambitious, and on 1 July, after months of planning and two weeks of testing, the broadcast itself took place, emanating from Parliament Hill in Ottawa, with a 1000-voice choir (augmented by 10,000 children singing in English and French) and the new Peace Tower carillon (its inauguration) played by Percival Price; also participating were Éviola Gauthier, Allan McQuhae, the actress Margaret Anglin, the Hart House String Quartet, the Bytown Troubadours under Charles Marchand, and the Chateau Laurier Orchestra under James McIntyre, who included among his selections a Suite by Governor General Lord Willingdon. The Governor General also spoke, as did Prime Minister W.L. Mackenzie King and other dignitaries. The broadcast was given in three segments, the first beginning at 10:45 am and the last at 9:30 pm. It was a daring experiment and succeeded superbly, in no small measure due to the contribution of the musicians. Thereafter, in the minds of public and politicians alike, it was clear that for the first time since the early colonization of the northern wilderness, the vast country that had coalesced into Canada could indeed become one nation.

Two years later (20 Oct 1929) Thornton inaugurated North America's first trans-continental symphonic series, the 'All-Canada Symphony Concerts,' with Luigi von Kunits conducting 55 members of the TSO. The last concert of the series (6 Apr 1930) was entirely of music by Canadian composers, among them Champagne, Forsyth, Lucas, and MacMillan, another 'first' for the burgeoning broadcasting system.

In September of 1929 Thornton added to his broadcasting staff Esme Moonie, of a distinguished Edinburgh family of musicians. As program director, particularly for music, it was the bilingual Moonie's task to present the best of Canadian and foreign talent not only on the existing English network but also on the new French network. Indeed by the end of her tenure in 1932, studio productions of condensed versions of great operas had become regular fare on her network programs (particularly those on the French network, which were conducted mostly by Henri Miro).

Meanwhile the Canadian Pacific Railway also had been developing its own chain of hotels and broadcasting outlets, and in 1930 it began its own series of music broadcasts, including from Montreal an orchestra series under Douglas Clarke, and from Toronto the Concert Orchestra broadcasts under Rex Battle from the CPR's new Royal York Hotel. The Imperial Oil Company sponsored another imposing series from the Royal York conducted by Reginald Stewart, featuring a 55-piece orchestra and some of the leading world soloists of the day.

With the Depression, the CNR in 1931 and the CPR the following year were forced to abandon broadcasting, and the clamour grew for a reorganization and consolidation of public broadcasting. Especially vocal was the public-spirited Radio (later Canadian Broadcasting) League, headed by Graham Spry and Alan Plaunt, to whom Canadian music-lovers of later generations were to owe tremendous gratitude. In September of 1929 the government's Royal Commission on Broadcasting (the Aird Commission)had come down strongly in favour of a publicly owned broadcasting system. In consequence the Canadian Radio Broadcasting Commission was formed in 1932 under the chairmanship of Hector Charlesworth, the music critic of Saturday Night magazine. However, owing to a combination of underfinancing, lack of government support, and administrative ineptitude, in 1936 the CRBC was superceded by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, which was organized as a Crown Corporation, and which swiftly set about establishing the necessary basic physical and technical facilities, at the same time expanding its contractual links with private stations hitherto active only locally, thus extending the national service. In order to develop an integrated national broadcasting system the CBC's board of governors had been given the basic regulatory powers over private broadcasting as well as its own. This later was to prove an embarrassment, and in 1958 such powers were given to the specially created Board of Broadcast Governors. These powers were weak and philosophically unclear, and in 1968 a new Broadcasting Act was promulgated and the CRTC created. A further Broadcasting Act was proclaimed in June 1991.

The Era of CBC Radio (1936-52)

From the first, the presentation of good music was given high priority in CBC broadcasting, and the musical public became indebted to the work of such early producers as Albert Chamberland, Morris 'Rusty' Davis, Georges Dufresne, and R.-O. Pelletier II in Montreal; Norbert Bauman, John Kannawin, and Ernest Morgan in Toronto; and Norman Lucas in Winnipeg. In 1938 Jean-Marie Beaudet was appointed the first overall director of music. That same year in Montreal a regular symphonic series, 'L'Heure symphonique,' was inaugurated, and the 'Chalet' concerts from Montreal and the 'Prom' concerts from Toronto became standard summer fare, as did regular broadcasts by various chamber groups, choirs, soloists, etc. By the 1940-1 season, for example, the various CBC national, regional, and local schedules encompassed no less than 45 programs of opera (including the Metropolitan Opera from New York), more than 600 symphony concerts (including relays of broadcasts by the major US orchestras), over 2000 programs of chamber music, and over 3000 of 'semi-classical' music. These were mostly 'live,' recordings not yet being in regular use; in fact, until revoked in 1958 there was in effect a ban on the use of recordings and transcriptions during the evening hours to encourage the use of 'live' talent.

The experience of the ill-fated CRBC had already pointed clearly to the need for a distinct French service, particularly in eastern Canada (by the 1970s trans-continental in both radio and television). J.J. Gagnier was the CBC's director of music of the Quebec region from the corporation's earliest days until his death in 1949. The musical pace set in the late 1930s was continued during the war years with special attention being paid to Canadian music, through Samuel Hersenhoren's series 'Tribute to Young Canadians,' through the music of many Canadian composers for radio dramas and documentaries (John Weinzweig lists about 100 such scores, mostly from the 1940s), and through other commissions, such as Healey Willan's radio operas Transit through Fire in 1942 and Deirdre of the Sorrows (Deirdre) in 1945. In 1943 Rex Battle initiated the very popular nation-wide talent-hunt series 'Singing Stars of Tomorrow' and its French-language equivalent 'Nos Futures Étoiles' played their parts in the emerging careers of many Canadian singers. Other wartime series of exceptional interest and enterprise included one 1943-4, under Sir Ernest MacMillan, devoted to the oratorios of Handel, one on the cantatas of Bach, and another in 1943, with Wanda Landowska, conducted by Adolph Koldofsky, featuring keyboard concertos of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach

This also was a period of program exchange with the USA, whereby Canadian orchestras and musicians were heard widely over the NBC, the CBS, and the MBS networks in the USA. The weekly broadcasts of the TSO and the CSM (MSO) were carried regularly by the MBS, and in the early 1940s the Promenade Symphony Concerts from Toronto were carried by the NBC. In 1939 the internationally-known Toronto Mendelssohn Choir under Herbert Fricker broadcast Bach's entire Mass in B Minor not only throughout Canada over the CBC but also throughout the USA over NBC. For a number of years from 1948 Roland Leduc's 'The Little Symphonies' chamber orchestra broadcasts from Montreal were also carried on MBS.

The importing of US programs into Canada was, as usual, much heavier, including such series as 'The Longines Symphonette,' 'The Firestone Hour,' and the Metropolitan Opera and New York Philharmonic Orchestra broadcasts. (The Metropolitan continued in 1991 on the CBC English and French networks as part of the continental 'Texaco Radio Network'.) Indeed, this was also a period in which commercial sponsorship played a vital part in musical broadcasting on both sides of the border, although neither the CBS's New York Philharmonic broadcasts, nor those by the NBC SO (Toscanini) were sponsored. This also was a period when certain Canadian stations were also affiliates of large US networks. (For example, CFRB in Toronto and CKAC in Montreal were affiliates of CBS.)

By 1944 the broadcasting obligations of the national radio network, the so-called 'Trans-Canada,' whose anchor station was CBL in Toronto,) were pressing heavily on available time. A second and alternative English-language network, the 'Dominion,' was therefore inaugurated coast-to-coast, 2 Jan 1944, for the evening hours only. Its anchor station was the CBC-owned CJBC in Toronto, all others being non-CBC but affiliatesd stations. Programming therefore tended to be lighter than on the Trans-Canada, although the TSO and the MSO alternated live on Dominion on Tuesday nights and were followed immediately by the half-hour recital series 'CBC Concert Hall'. The Dominion Network provided its alternative service until 1962.

In 1947 the Trans-Canada Network instituted 'CBC Wednesday Night' - an entire evening of substantial fare each week, entirely unsponsored and including much serious music and many musical documentaries, often markedly esoteric, the whole being integrated with advance commentary by the legendary James Bannerman (b Jack McNaught). This distinguished series and its successors ('CBC Sunday Night,' 'CBC Tuesday Night') continued until 1976. Another widely popular young talent series, 'Opportunity Knocks', produced by John Adaskin, also began in 1947 and continued throughout the next decade. It was also in 1947 that Geoffrey Waddington was appointed music adviser to the CBC (and in 1952 director of music), thus succeeding Jean-Marie Beaudet.

In 1948 the CBC Opera Company was formed, under the dynamic leadership of Terence Gibbs, who had arrived in Canada from England that same year. In collaboration with Herman Geiger-Torel, Ettore Mazzoleni, Nicholas Goldschmidt, Arnold Walter, Ernesto Barbini and others of the Royal Cons Opera School (University of Toronto Opera Division), Gibbs studio-produced the North American radio premieres of Britten's Peter Grimes, Dallapiccola's The Prisoner, and Arthur Benjamin's A Tale of Two Cities. Stravinsky's The Rake's Progress, Don Giovanni, Fidelio, Turandot, and many others also were presented - by 1952 some 25 major opera productions in all.

During this period various CBC studio orchestras were active - the Halifax Symphonette, Montreal's 'The Little Symphonies' (under Roland Leduc), various CBC Toronto orchestras, the CBC Winnipeg Orchestra (Eric Wild), and the CBC Vancouver Chamber Orchestra (John Avison); the latter's programming, produced by the composer Robert Turner, pointedly included much new music by Canadian and many foreign composers. The existence of these orchestras was of crucial importance in enabling musicians to remain and work in these cities, especially those other than Toronto and Montreal.

Mention should also be made of the work of composers working with producers of radio drama, in Toronto notably Lucio Agostini and Morris Surdin, and in Montreal Neil Chotem.

While the dreams of some of the earlier broadcasters for French-English exchange programming were never adequately realized, a few series exchanges did prove successful - for example, the alternating broadcast concerts of the Montreal and Toronto SOs and other large-scale orchestral and choral concerts. Many other series had their more or less direct counterparts on the other network, such as

Distinguished Artists/Artistes de renom
Sunday Morning Recital/Récital du dimanche matin
Music of Today/Musique de notre siècle
(TV) Music to see/Son et Image
Jazz Unlimited/Jazz en liberté
International Concert/Concert international
The Happy Gang/Les Joyeux Troubadours
Opera Time/L'Heure de l'opéra

CBC Television

The first CBC telecasts were seen in September of 1952. The impact of this powerful new medium on the patterns of radio music was, however, far from immediate. At first the TV medium itself was explored by imaginative producers (and in fact the CBC Montreal studios quickly became the second-largest producers of French-language programs in the world). From Toronto the opera productions of Franz Kraemer were particularly noteworthy, as were Norman Campbell's of ballet and light opera. The names of Vincent Tovell and Eric Till are also among those associated with some outstanding productions in the first several decades. One series of youth programs, 'Junior Magazine,' shared by both English and French TV networks, was given in the 1961-2 season), produced by Paddy Sampson with Louis Applebaum as executive producer (one program featured Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf, not only conducted but also narrated, in English and French, by Mario Bernardi). In 1962 Stravinsky came to Toronto to mark his 80th birthday and to tape two documentaries on his life and work - one of two hours for radio (produced by Keith MacMillan with the composer Harry Somers as musical guide and host), the other for TV produced by Kraemer with notable scenes of Stravinsky rehearsing as well as conducting L'Histoire du soldat and Symphony of Psalms. Both these documentaries were subsequently seen and/or heard world-wide.

A particularly distinguished musical series also was seen in 1962, 'Concert,' presented for 37 weeks on the English and French TV networks, 20 of these originating in Montreal, 11 in Toronto, 4 in Vancouver, and 2 in Winnipeg.

Probably the most breathtaking musical series on all Canadian TV was 'L'Heure du concert' (1954-65) from Montreal, mostly to the French network but occasionally appearing on the English as well. In its first five years its programming included 88 operas, or segments thereof, and 82 ballets; of the more than 7250 artists engaged, only 244 were not Canadian (among them Pierre Boulez, seen in a memorable rehearsal and performance of Le Sacre du printemps). The series included much Canadian music. Two members of its production team, Pierre Mercure and Gabriel Charpentier, were themselves noted Canadian composers.

Unfortunately, by the late 1960s the pace of music broadcasting on TV, especially English-language TV, had slackened markedly. Even so, Norman Campbell's production of Prokofiev's Cinderella with the National Ballet of Canada did win an Emmy Award in 1966; similarly outstanding was Kraemer's production (telecast 29 Oct 1969) of the Canadian opera Louis Riel by Harry Somers (which was later the subject of an interesting study by R. Murray Schafer, that dealt not only with Louis Riel but also with televised music in Canada generally).

By the end of the 1960s very little remained of music on Canadian television, save for the occasional 'special,' the modest series 'Music to See,' and the largely imported 'Musicamera' (English-language), 'Son et Image' and the hardy 'Les Beaux Dimanches' (French-language). For all practical purposes, by the 1970s the TV medium had ceased to have any influence on the development of music in Canada, let alone of Canadian music.

CBC Radio 1952-79

Although TV's roster of programs in the 1950s and into the1960s contained many riches, radio continued to provide the mainstay of the music listeners' expectations, and of musicians' employment. The period from the late 1940s to the early 1960s could truly be called the 'golden age' of music on Canadian radio, with a sumptuous program fare including the full range from classics to moderns, Canadian and visiting musicians, and with much attention being paid to Canadian music. Indeed, it was in no small measure due to the CBC that the serious contemporary Canadian composer began at this time to come into his own, through performances, through commissions, and in general through the CBC's acceptance of the composer as a serious working professional. Programs of orchestral, choral, recital, and chamber music were presented from CBC studios across the country in startling abundance, not only for adult audiences but also in many broadcasts tailored to the special needs of school classrooms. The nation-wide 'CBC Talent Festival' series, initiated in the mid-1950s under the travelling baton of Sir Ernest MacMillan, carried on the work of its predecessors 'Singing Stars' and 'Opportunity Knocks' and continued throughout the 1970s (see CBC radio competitions). This was the era of the musical directorship of Geoffrey Waddington and subsequently (from 1964) music broadcasts under the supervision of John Peter Lee Roberts, whose chapter on broadcasting in the book Aspects of Music in Canada (Toronto 1969) details many of the outstanding programs and series of that whole period.

Although the French radio network did not develop its own opera company, under its musical directors Roy Royal (1959-62, the first appointment since the death of Gagnier 10 years before), Hugh Davidson (1962-5), Jean Vallerand (1965-6) and Jacques Bertrand (1966-78) its schedule did evolve a distinctive musical personality with such programs as 'Adagio,' 'Chefs d'oeuvre de la musique,' 'Heure du concert,' 'Radio-concerts canadiens,' 'Sérénade pour cordes,' the sponsored 'Théâtre lyrique Molson,' 'Radio-Carabin,' and 'Festivals européens' (the last-named hosted by Maryvonne Kendergi). During the eras of Royal, Davidson, and Vallerand the French network programmers were particularly conscious of Canadian music and the need to encourage Canadian composers. Indeed earlier in the 1950s the French radio network inaugurated the 'Premieres' series featuring the works of Canadian composers, especially those from Quebec.

In 1952 the CBC Symphony Orchestra was founded, broadcasting from Toronto, mostly with guest conductors, and produced first by Terence Gibbs, later by Carl Little, then by Keith MacMillan. At that time it was the only radio orchestra in North America. Under the musical directorship of Waddington, who sometimes also conducted the orchestra, its programming was eclectic, at least 40 per cent of its repertoire being post-1900 including many Canadian works. Under such pressures the orchestra acquired an enviable reputation among many visiting conductors (including Stravinsky and Beecham) for its phenomenal talent for sight-reading. By 1964, heavy financial and other pressures forced the 'suspension' of the CBC SO, the CBC's Toronto-based studio orchestral needs thereafter being served for a period thereafter by the TSO.

Some of the more prominent music producers of that era (as well as those mentioned above) were Ira Stewart (Halifax); Pierre Boutet (Quebec); Jacques Bertrand, André Clerk, Jean-Yves Contant, Kit Kinnaird, Earl Pennington, and Gilles Poirier (Montreal); Srul Irving Glick, James Kent and John Reeves (Toronto); Norman Lucas and Tom Taylor (Winnipeg); Duncan McKerchar (Edmonton); and Robert Chesterman and Robert Turner (Vancouver).

After 1952 not only the competition of TV (especially following the introduction of colour with its higher costs) but also certain other technical developments began to reshape CBC radio broadcast music policies. For one thing, radio had become the poor sister of the broadcasting family (hence the demise of the CBC SO). Then too, in the 1950s, the adoption of tape as a broadcasting tool tended more and more to encourage producers to modify the traditional 'studio broadcast' techniques of the 1930s and 1940s towards the more careful (and more artificial) recording and tape editing techniques of the recording studio. Indeed, by the mid-1960s the SM (Serious Music) series of Broadcast Recordings, first in mono then in stereo disc form, were being produced by the English Services division for broadcast use (some later for limited public sale), to the point where by the mid-1970s the producers and broadcast executives had virtually abandoned the studio-produced 'programs' altogether, in the swing toward the program manipulation of disc and pre-taped material 'packaged' and delivered across the microphone by the program series 'host'. Such programming practices have many obvious production and listening advantages. They also detach the practicing musician from the 'on-the-air' producer and commentator, softening the immediate impact on them, and therefore on the listener, of music as a serious art.The increasing use of recordings grew hand-in-hand with the growing independence of FM programming, especially during the 1960s, culminating in the establishment of the coast-to-coast English language FM stereo network and the extended French-language FM stereo network late in 1975. FM, with its superior sound, even after trans-continental transmission, became the more important broadcasting medium for music, even though the initial eight English transmitters at that time covered no more than some 56 per cent of the population of Canada's vast territory.

After the pre-1950s period of 'live' broadcasting, to counterbalance the somewhat deadening effect of so much recorded material, a remarkable series of public CBC festivals was presented in several cities across the country in the late 1960s and early 1970s, tape-recorded in public for later presentation as delayed broadcasts of 'live' events. These were discontinued in 1975 under the pressure on technical resources necessary for the coming radio and TV coverage of the 1976 Olympics in Montreal. By the end of the 1970s, after one or two fitful regional revivals, there seemed no likelihood that the festivals or their like would be continued on a similar scale in future years.

CBC International Service/Radio Canada International

Whereas the foregoing has dealt with CBC music broadcasting within the country, Canada's musical image abroad had long been projected most ably by the CBC's International Service (in 1972 renamed Radio Canada International - RCI), operating from its inception in 1945, as the 'voice' of the federal government's Department of External Affairs, but functioning after 1968 as a department of the CBC. Although most IS/RCI voice transmissions are beamed to Europe and the Americas by short-wave from Sackville, NB, quality music has from the start been distributed to foreign national broadcasting services through the medium of disc recordings, first (briefly) on 78 rpm albums, then on the standard 16-inch broadcast transcription discs, then in the early 1950s on LP discs, and subsequently on stereo discs. These albums, almost 500 by 1977, are virtually all of Canadian artists and overwhelmingly of Canadian music of all types, constituting by far the largest single repository of recorded Canadian music, whether licensed for broadcast only or whether for public sale as well. Moreover the production staffs, headed successively by Gérard Arthur, Patricia Fitzgerald, Roy Royal, Gérard Poupart, Hugh Davidson, Gilles Potvin, and Edward Farrant, have been meticulous in the making of these discs.

At first these IS transcriptions were restricted only to broadcast use abroad but in 1966, through the collaboration of the RCA Victor company of Canada, 17 of the more recent albums were released on the RCA 'Canada International' label for commercial sale in Canada and abroad. During the following years other such IS/RCI discs were also released commercially and by the early 1970s many of these and a number of the growing series of SM broadcast recordings had been relicensed for public sale. These constitute the 'Canadian Collection' of discs available to the public by mail-order through the CBC Publications Division in Toronto, and in Montreal (IS/RCI discs only) through a sales booth at the Maison Radio-Canada and from the CMCentre in Montreal.

It is also part of the mandate of RCI to represent the CBC and Canada generally in the international forums of such agencies as the EBU, the Unesco International Rostrum of Composers and performers, and the Communauté radiophonique des programmes de langue française, all of which promote many forms of international exchange through which Canadian music and musicians are heard throughout the world.


Late in 1975 Robert Sunter, as head of music for the English radio networks, was named as successor to John Roberts, thus heralding new directions for those networks' music broadcasting policies. Earlier that year the CBC English Services division had released a 'Report of the CBC Radio Study Group on Programming of and about Arts, Music and Drama,' compiled (somewhat hastily) by an in-house group consisting of Doug Field (chairman of the group), John Douglas, and Harold Redekopp. Field was subsequently promoted to the CBC radio head office, and Redekopp became executive producer of a highlighted series, indicating that the essential recommendations of the report were to be followed. The overriding concern of the report is the recapturing of audiences. In music, at any rate, mostly on FM, the new policy was successful toward that aim, but very much at the cost of distinction in broadcasting. Rarely indeed does the CBC now initiate a musical event which demands the attention of the serious music-lover. Virtually all its broadcasting is essentially 'pipeline,' useful reportage on (or rebroadcasts of) existing musical events across the country, but owing little to the initiative of the CBC. To be sure the initiative functions (experimentation, commissioning, etc) had been taken over increasingly by universities, orchestras, and contemporary music groups, subsidized by the Canada Council and the provincial arts councils. Undoubtedly these policies have recaptured as listeners a large number of music-lovers who blessed the CBC, especially in smaller centres, for at least a radio diet which provided a welcome respite from the clamour of mindless inanity which otherwise dominated the North American airwaves. However, as a musical creator and innovator the CBC, even CBC radio, had largely ceased to matter.

The Private Sector

The contribution of commercial TV is now, and always has been, virtually nil. As to private radio, over the years many stations had provided their listeners with small helpings of serious music fare from time to time. These might take the form of a 'Concert Hour' of recorded music hosted by a locally prominent musician, or perhaps a broadcast of the community orchestra; but these would constitute a very small percentage of the station's broadcasting time or budget. In the early years of burgeoning FM (1960s) a number of FM stations attempted to carve out their programming niche as commercial 'good music' stations. By the mid-1970s few of these remained. A very few might be said to have made something of a specialty of the classics and/or light classics. Some are by intention avowedly educational, and a very few of these, notably CJRT in Toronto, have presented their programming with care and imagination. However, there is little, even on these stations, which the listener could not conveniently buy from a good record store.

One enterprising organization deserves special mention - the Canadian Talent Library of broadcast recordings, initiated in CFRB in Toronto and developed over the years by the veteran broadcaster Lyman Potts, its royalties accruing to the CTL Trust. The CTL has functioned as a syndicated series to which private stations subscribe, featuring Canadian performers and, in part, Canadian repertoire. Basically the repertoire is light, 'middle of the road' music. Nonetheless the intention has always been to buck the supposition, rampant among the private broadcasters of Canada, that Canadian talent is better ignored. Many of the CTL discs have also been available in record stores.

Provincial Government Educational Broadcasting

One other development in the late 1970s which may contain the germ of good TV music broadcasting was the emergence of provincial government educational TV program services, transmitting principally through cable (Canada at the time being one of the most heavily 'cablized' country in the world). It seemed that such services as those for Quebec, Ontario, Saskatchewan, and others might successfully venture where only the CBC had not feared to tread.

By the end of the 1970s, therefore, it seemed that the great innovative days of Canadian music broadcasting were past, dead on TV, and even the publicly-owned radio system subsiding into coast-to-coast easy-listening formats fast becoming as familiar as wallpaper. Yet even this provided for the public a ready listening resource undreamed of scarce half a century before.

See also CBC; CBC Recordings; 'CKNX Barn Dance'; Country music; Dance bands; Jazz; Recorded sound; Rock.

Further Reading

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