You are not currently logged in.

Login through your institution for access.


Log in through your institution.

Listening In

Listening In: The First Decade of Canadian Broadcasting, 1922-1932

Copyright Date: 1992
Pages: 400
Stable URL:
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Listening In
    Book Description:

    Mary Vipond's approach is based on the idea that the development of radio broadcasting was a process that involved equipment manufacturers, broadcasters, and "audiences/customers." She charts the expansion of these three groups, surveys the development of advertising and networking as methods of financing, and analyses the evolution of programming. From 1922 to 1932, radio administration was the responsibility of the Radio Branch of the federal Department of Marine and Fisheries. Vipond discusses the regulatory policies of the branch. She completes her study with an analysis of the period from the formation of the Aird Royal Commission on Radio Broadcasting in 1928 to the passage of the Radio Broadcasting Act of 1932.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-6348-3
    Subjects: Sociology
    × Close Overlay

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations
  1. Front Matter (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments (pp. xi-xii)
  4. Introduction (pp. xiii-xviii)

    Countless times during the seven years I have been working on this book‚ I have been asked about my research subject. When I replied‚ “The early years of Canadian broadcasting‚” the response was almost invariably‚ “Oh yes‚ the history of the CBC.” No‚ I explained (I hope patiently)‚ before the CBC - the more than ten years of broadcasting in Canada before the Canadian Radio Broadcasting Commission (CRBC)‚ the predecessor to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation‚ was created in the spring of 1932.

    The assumption made by my interlocutors is not surprising. The first years of broadcasting in Canada have never...

    • 1 The Beginnings of Radio Broadcasting in Canada (pp. 3-25)

      On 20 May 1920‚ the members of the illustrious Royal Society of Canada gathered in the ballroom of the Chateau Laurier Hotel in Ottawa to hear a concert performance featuring vocalist Dorothy Lutton. The unusual feature of the event was that Miss Lutton was singing in a small room in the factory of the Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company of Canada over one hundred miles away in Montreal and her voice was being transmitted to Ottawa through the air‚ without wires.¹ This specially arranged demonstration was‚ some scholars argue‚ the first regularly scheduled radio broadcast ever‚ and gives XWA‚ the Marconi...

    • 2 Manufacturers‚ Listeners‚ and Broadcasters (pp. 26-53)

      Broadcasting involves three interdependent parties: the manufacturer‚ the broadcaster‚ and the listener‚ who provide three interdependent services: equipment‚ programming‚ and consumption. The evolving interrelationship among these parties and their functions determined the rather uneven patterns in the growth and spread of broadcasting in its first decade. Fuelling the process was a double-pronged drive for markets: the manufacturers trying to sell a new product to as many customers as possible‚ and the broadcasters endeavouring to attract as many listeners as they could.

      As outlined in Chapter 1‚ broadcasting in North America was initiated by the interaction between manufacturers searching for a...

    • 3 “Who is to Pay for Broadcasting?” (pp. 54-78)

      As radio broadcasting became more sophisticated in technology‚ programming‚ and audience‚ it also became increasingly costly. Rising expenses led the original broadcasters to seek more and more urgently for means to increase their revenues. Ultimately the solution to these twin problems was found in the interrelated phenomena of advertising-sponsored broadcasting and national networks‚ but the outcome was by no means a foregone conclusion from the perspective of the pioneers.

      In the very early 1920s‚ one could open a station with little more than a licence ($50 per annum)‚ some used parts‚ an ingenious engineer cum announcer (often seconded from other...

    • 4 Listening In (pp. 79-104)

      Broadcasting evolved during the 1920s from a diverting novelty to a fully rounded entertainment medium. Programming developed out of the interplay between broadcaster and audience within a particular economic and cultural context. Both the private-enterprise nature of most Canadian broadcasting‚ which led to its use as an advertising medium‚ and cultural habits‚ including traditional expectations of entertainment forms and the longstanding exposure of Canadians to American popular culture‚ moulded the format and content of radio programs in the early period. By 1932 the shape of future radio programming on private Canadian stations was clearly identifiable‚ although only the major city...

    • 5 Government Regulation: Licensing (pp. 107-124)

      From July 1922 until early 1933 the administration of radio in Canada under the Radiotelegraph Act was the responsibility of the Radiotelegraph Branch of the Department of Marine and Fisheries. Among the duties of the branch was the operation and supervision of navigational and directionfinding stations and beacons on both coastlines and along the Great Lakes and of a variety of commercial‚ ship‚ and long-distance stations. The branch also handled the telegraph-traffic accounts for all commercial‚ government‚ and international stations‚ as well as the examination and certification of all radio operators.¹ These aspects of the branch’s work accounted for most...

    • 6 Regulation of Interference and Content (pp. 125-149)

      Once a licence for a broadcasting station was granted‚ the branch prescribed a variety of rules and regulations for its operation‚ some of them printed on the four-page licence form‚ others communicated on irregularly issued mimeographed sheets. Among the rules in force by 1926 were specifications regarding the wavelength to be utilized‚ an injunction against interfering with other radio stations‚ and requirements that a wavemeter be used to keep track of the wavelength‚ that a proces verbal of all signals transmitted be kept‚ that all operators be British subjects‚ and that all apparatus be completely and accurately described on the...

    • 7 Frequency Assignment: Negotiations with the United States (pp. 150-171)

      The most complicated and touchy duty of the Radio Branch was the assignment of wavelengths or frequencies to broadcasting stations. The issues were difficult because many different interests had to be satisfied‚ because incorrect frequency assignments could cause objectionable interference‚ because changing technology required constant adjustments‚ and because frequency allocation was not only a national but an international question‚ involving branch officials in a close but not always harmonious relationship with their counterparts in the United States. The threads are tangled; in this chapter and the next both the actions and what can be deduced about the intentions of the...

    • 8 Domestic Frequency and Power Assignment (pp. 172-192)

      Policies regarding domestic frequency and power assignment were constrained not only by the need to avoid the detrimental effects of interference and the practices of American radio authorities. Two other related factors also circumscribed the branch’s actions: the technical capabilities of broadcasting and receiving sets and listener preferences. These “limits” were the key elements in determining the Radio Branch’s assignment decisions‚ but within them its officials had some room to manoeuvre and made some choices that reveal the principles and assumptions underlying their approach to radio development in the early years.

      The essential technical factor upon which optimum wavelength assignment...

    • 9 The Aird Commission (pp. 195-224)

      When 1928 began‚ broadcasting had received very little public discussion in Canada. While the numbers of those who listened in was steadily growing‚ few concerned themselves with questioning the directions in which Canadian radio was developing‚ how it was regulated and controlled‚ or what its cultural implications might be. Neither had the subject reached the political agenda; aside from the occasional broadcast speech or attempt to aid a supporter who might want a broadcasting licence‚ politicians paid little attention to radio. Within a few months‚ however‚ the curtain was to be raised on a full-fledged debate which raged on and...

    • 10 The Debate about Broadcasting (pp. 225-254)

      The Aird commission’s report was issued on 11 September 1929‚ simultaneously in English and French. Parliament was not in session so it was not debated in the House. Prime Minister Mackenzie King’s initial reaction seems to have been positive‚ for he commented to his diary‚ “[The report] is‚ I think‚ a good one.”¹ Donald Manson was asked to prepare a draft bill for a new radio act to be presented to Parliament at the next session.

      The bill was ready by early February 1930. It followed the report in most respects.² The name Canadian Radio Broadcasting Company was confirmed; according...

    • 11 The Radio Broadcasting Act of 1932 (pp. 255-280)

      Within a month of the Judicial Committee’s ruling on 9 February 1932 upholding the federal government’s authority over radio‚ Prime Minister Bennett announced the formation of a parliamentary committee to recommend a course of action. This committee reported on 9 May; the broadcasting bill was introduced on the 16th and passed with one dissenting vote on the 24th. Quickly ratified by the Senate‚ the act received royal assent on 26 May 1932. The circumstances in which the Bennett government’s radio legislation was written in the spring of 1932 however‚ were very different from those at the time of the Aird...

  8. Conclusion (pp. 281-286)

    As a child‚ I was raised on the old joke about the Irishman who‚ when asked the way to Cork‚ scratched his head and replied‚ “If I wanted to go there‚ I wouldn’t start from here.” The advocates of public broadcasting for Canada in the early 1930s must have felt like that Irishman.The system they espoused would have been much easier to initiate if the ten years of development in the competitive private marketplace had not occured. But that was not an option. Canadian broadcasting had reached a certain stage in its evolution by 1932 and the choices made in...

  9. Notes (pp. 287-358)
  10. Bibliography (pp. 359-372)
  11. INDEX (pp. 373-380)