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BriefsReportTable of ContentReport IndexRoyal Commission on National Development in the Arts, Letters and SciencesRoyal Commission on National Development in the Arts, Letters and SciencesRoyal Commission on National Development in the Arts, Letters and Sciences

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works often reach vast bodies of listeners, and on whose ideas and creative skill a whole elaborate production may be built." 17

Another group offers a detailed analysis showing how badly paid a radio writer may be in relation to his hours of work, setting aside all other considerations.

34. Moreover, complaints that the programmes of the C.B.C. are excessively centralized came with singular unanimity from practically every part of Canada, excepting, not unnaturally, Toronto and Montreal. In Regina in was pointed out to us that at the time the Federal Government assumed control and ownership of radio it was the avowed policy to present programmes which would be fairly representative of all provinces. This was continued only for a year or two. The benefit of a national broadcast to the morale of an artist, it is said, is as important to him as his fee. The quality of local orchestras has not been questioned by the C.B.C.; but regional broadcasting is expensive. It has, however, been argued in smaller centres that, apart from quality, there is an intrinsic interest in regional broadcasts. Canadians interested in music want to hear from Canadian musicians in various parts of the country. This does not mean that there is not a genuine concern for quality. The Symphony Orchestra of Victoria presented its claims to consideration, but wished nothing at the expense of the Vancouver Orchestra which the witness (the conductor of the Victoria Symphony) referred to as a national asset. A group in Quebec City did state with some warmth that Quebec musicians were not receiving a fair share of employment on programmes of the C.B.C.; that this was both unjust to them and harmful to the cultural life of their city. Such observations, however, seemed to us to have been made in a spirit generally free from parochialism. Representations on decentralization, it should be stressed, came not only from groups of professional musicians, and not only in relation to music. Drama groups also were much concerned, and many others representative of the general public.

35. The local programmes and services of the private stations received considerable attention. In public sessions and in private communications people have spoken with gratitude of the work of local stations, especially those serving isolated areas. They broadcast special announcements such as storm warnings, messages to and from the sick, notice to rural dwellers of telegrams or perishable commodities received in their name, to say nothing of what they do in urban centres to aid community efforts. The tale of the functions of the active local station, for example in Newfoundland or central British Columbia, is very largely the tale of the community itself. 18

36. We heard much on this matter from voluntary groups. Not only from various national organizations, but from a number of places in the Prairies, in the Maritimes, and elsewhere, have come thoughtful comments


on the importance of the private station. "Private stations contribute at the local level in a way that the C.B.C. can never hope to do, simply because the C.B.C. staff is not in on all the little things that vary from one community to another but which each community nevertheless wants to hear about," said a group of community leaders in Charlottetown;19 others stressed the value of local self-expression; but we also heard that ". . . the private stations are doing and can do their best in the public interest by remaining complementary and supplementary to the C.B.C." 20

37. Indeed the general programme content of the private stations was rather severely criticized. They were accused of sharing to an excessive degree the occasional fault of the network programmes of under-rating public taste. The number of recorded programmes, the neglect of live talent, the general lack of interest in all cultural programmes, were matters for comment. At the same time, certain programmes were singled out for praise, such as the Radio Bureau of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters; other programmes, varied in character, and broadcast from some eight or nine private stations in various parts of the country, received warm tributes. The services of private stations in broadcasting religious programmes, French language lessons, and special events of local interest, were mentioned with appreciation. But these special tributes are not sufficient even in number to call into serious question the sweeping statement of the Canadian Writers' Committee that "[the private stations] hardly rate a pass on cultural programmes".21 The Alberta Federation of Agriculture, strongly supporting national radio, insisted that it is not reasonable to expect cultural programmes from private stations, since to them radio is purely a commercial matter. The general impression received is that, with some notable exceptions, private radio's cultural offerings are considered poor; some think that a better standard is possible and should be insisted upon by the C.B.C.; others feel that the main function of private stations is to broadcast local news and to provide other public services, and that much more cannot be expected of them.

38. A general cause of complaint was that commercialism, even though it has not gone so far as in the United States, is becoming excessive. There were many requests that the C.B.C. reduce the time allotted to commercial programmes; several organizations were inclined to think that the C.B.C. should leave the commercial field altogether. In a precise and detailed statement the Canadian Association for Adult Education showed how commercially sponsored radio affects its field of interest. Although in 1947-48 commercial radio took up only 17.7 per cent of the total broadcasting time, during a sample week in February of that year it was found that in the best listening hours, 7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m., commercial programmes occupied 50.8 per cent of the time on the Trans-Canada and 59.7 per cent of the time on the Dominion network. We have since learned that commercial radio occupied 59.1 per cent of


the same time on the French network. "Put briefly, it means that less than half of the peak listening time provided in the public interest is being planned with that interest exclusively in mind." Although the C.B.C. has theoretical control over all advertising, this control is not always effectively exercised. When an important national advertiser wanted the programme time of the Citizens' Forum, the C.B.C., we were told, moved that programme against the expressed views of its listeners to an hour inconvenient for most families. We have a report of a similar occurrence on the French network. Sponsors may also demand special settings for their programmes; for example, they may object to any talk or programme of a serious nature for at least an hour before their programme is to begin. "This is a shadow of the kind of deals which have so plagued and stereotyped American radio." 22

39. We received serious criticisms of "soap operas" from authoritative sources, although some defended them as legitimate entertainment and relaxation especially for those confined to their homes by their duties or by physical infirmity. In a special study prepared for us on French daytime serials it is reported that only one of the twelve serials reviewed was a satisfactory production. The others were guilty of melodramatic exaggeration, unreality, and an excessive use of commonplace and stereotyped forms. This judgement on French serials is very similar to that passed on serials in English by the Ministerial Association of Greater Winnipeg:

"Notwithstanding the remarks attributed in the daily press to the Chairman of the Board of Governors of the C.B.C. to the effect that the so-called 'soap opera' is of benefit in releasing nervous and psychological tensions, we believe that the alleged benefits, if any, are fleeting and that the day to day effect of false values and unreal emotionalism can only be harmful." 23

40. It would be inaccurate to say that, in general, the comments on soap operas were as severe as the two which we have cited. These are quoted since they come from authoritative sources. A number of groups urged that the serial of every-day life had acquired wide popularity, and that those serials which might be unsatisfactory should be replaced by others of higher quality and with a Canadian setting.

41. Apart from the special objections to daytime serials it was stated that commercialism tends to have an unfortunate effect on the content of many programmes. Two writers' groups accused commercial radio of stifling original creative writing and of imposing a dead level of mediocrity. Moreover, it is said to be difficult for Canadian writers to find expression even at this level; "there is not much Canadian expression in Canadian commercial radio".24

42. In summing up the various opinions expressed to us throughout Canada on radio programmes in general, we repeat that Canadians are


obviously proud of the sustaining programmes of the C.B.C., but that they still see room for improvement even in them. They like what they get, on the whole, but they want more of it, and of even better quality. The statement that the C.B.C. often underestimates public taste appears more than once, and the demand already mentioned, that national radio be used as an instrument of education and culture came from every section of the country. French-speaking Canada was particularly emphatic on this subject and, on occasion, severe, not only upon programmes but upon staff as well: "One may be astonished to see our C.B.C. directed entirely by technicians and that no man of letters (in the wider sense of the word) has been given [a] seat with the upper level directors".25 Local programmes of private stations were severely criticized. Commercialism both over the C.B.C. and over private stations was deplored.

43. In addition to comments on the quality of radio programmes, we heard a good deal about coverage. The problem of radio coverage was discussed from two points of view. First, representations from the Maritimes, south-western Ontario, Ontario west of the Lakes, central British Columbia and the Yukon complained, occasionally with asperity, of inadequate coverage or of none at all. Second, French-speaking groups in the Maritimes and in the West stated that they were, for practical purposes, not covered from the linguistic and cultural point of view. At present there is short-wave coverage by the French network of Western Canada from noon until midnight, and of Ontario and northern Quebec for sixteen hours. This is supplemented by recorded programmes. There was, however, a specific request for better coverage, and, in particular, for a nation-wide French network; in addition, there were requests for a second French language network in Quebec. Privately-owned French language stations in Western Canada suggested that until this can be done, certain French language broadcasts be sent to them over C.B.C., that there be a free transcription service of programmes in French, and that they receive a subsidy from the C.B.C. for their own programmes which, if their quality warranted it, could be sent out over the C.B.C.

44. We found general unanimity in the views of the voluntary groups, including specialized groups interested in the arts and letters or in radio's educational possibilities, on Canadian radio needs and interests. There is, as we have said, an insistent demand for an improved service as well as for greater attention to the needs of minority groups, and for a better understanding of the capacity and the willingness of the public to improve its tastes and enlarge its interests. The C.B.C. musical programmes, it is stated, show what can be done.

45. We did not, however, in our study of the programmes of the national system, confine ourselves to the views of the general listener. We conducted a precise and detailed investigation into the general nature of programmes over Canadian stations, comparing with particular care


those broadcast by the C.B.C. over national networks with the local programmes of the private stations. 26 We noticed, first, that the national networks do in fact live up to their ideal of producing balanced programmes. Time is found for popular music, drama, serious music, news, sports and comment, talks, variety shows, educational programmes for children and religious periods, approximately in that order of emphasis. The French language network devotes more time to serious music than to drama; otherwise, programme structure on the French and the Trans-Canada networks is about the same. The Dominion network, offering a lighter programme for the evening only, gives special prominence to popular music and variety shows. All three networks give decidedly less attention to children's, educational and religious programmes. Of the three networks, the Trans-Canada gives the most time, 7.6 per cent in all, to these three kinds of programmes. 27

46. There will naturally be wide differences of opinion on whether the balance is correctly conceived and properly maintained, but there is no doubt that the programmes offered appeal to a very wide range of tastes; and that minorities, even small minorities, have not been forgotten. The principle of the C.B.C. that it must consider not only the number of listeners but the worth of the experience offered to each listener on the theory that the total value of a broadcast may be taken as its value to each person who listens multiplied by the number of listeners, has been, its seems to us, very fairly observed. The most familiar illustration of this fairness is the Wednesday Night experiment which has met with an enthusiastic response. These and other network programmes indicate that much is being done, not only to satisfy the interests of small minorities, but to develop new tastes among larger audiences. Unfortunately, since the limited financial resources of the C.B.C. do not permit systematic listener research on an adequate scale, it is impossible to make any precise statement on this matter.

47. We found, also, that the many appreciative comments we have heard on the distinctively Canadian character of the programmes are justified. In music and drama an admirable record has been maintained. The stimulating effect of friendly rivalry has been achieved by the exchange of regional programmes, and by discussion groups on a national basis through voluntary organizations.

48. This last activity has not only produced rewarding and distinctive Canadian programmes, but has served to correct in part the passive listening habits encouraged by ordinary broadcasting. We have stated that Farm Radio Forum, Citizens' Forum, Les Idées en Marche and Le Choc des Idées seem to have been welcomed and to be increasingly popular. We believe that these programmes are of great value in making better citizens of us, in that they awaken our critical faculties. Imaginative


school broadcasts have been another successful experiment in group listening and discussion.

49. Our investigation of the radio programmes in Canada has also revealed that the tributes paid to the national system, during our sessions, for encouraging Canadian talent in music and in drama are fully justified. This is one of the purposes for which the system was created, and it has undoubtedly led to a greater interest in the arts, to a proper sense of pride, of national unity and of self-confidence.

50. Moreover, the C.B.C. performs on a national scale services comparable to those private stations in their own communities. We have mentioned a request for more attention to national celebrations, but it is proper to remember the value of such programmes as the one which celebrated the entrance of Newfoundland into Confederation in April, 1949, and the numerous special events in various regions which are relayed to the nation. The C.B.C. also pays the production costs of special programmes on the work of national societies such as the Canadian Society for the Blind, the Canadian Cancer Society, the Canadian Tuberculosis Association and others. Special programmes are also given to Book Week, Education Week, Army and Navy Week and others. Finally, the Northern Messenger Service with its personal messages to Royal Canadian Mounted Police constables, missionaries, trappers and others in the far north, parallels the special services offered by community stations in their own areas.

51. We do not wish to suggest that our national system of broadcasting has fulfilled all the hopes of its founders and of its supporters. We have already reported upon many criticisms which have been brought to our attention. It seems proper to recall once more the policy laid down in 1936, "to provide Canadian programmes varied by the best programmes available from abroad". Granting that our national system imports much that is excellent from the United States, we question whether any of the declared objects of Canadian radio can be reconciled with the more than generous provision of soap operas. Again, regional programming and the encouragement of local talent need further development. Our national radio system, designed to unify a sparsely populated country, has perhaps with justice been accused of centralizing its efforts in one or two large centres where production is easy. Finally, although the small amount of time now allotted to specifically educational programmes may be sufficient, we are of the opinion that inadequate attention is given to the serious intellectual needs of adults. It is true that the time devoted to talks (11.2 per cent on the Trans-Canada and 12 per cent on the French) is probably a fair allotment in comparison with the time devoted to serious music (16.1 and 23.3 per cent respectively). Yet it seems safe to say that there is no comparison at all between the effort and money expended on these two types of programmes. While admitting


that musical programmes must always be far more costly, we wonder whether the disparity of expenditure may not be excessive. The C.B.C. has courageously refused to underestimate Canadian capacity and taste for serious music; we think it might also explore more fully Canadian capacity and taste in purely intellectual matters.

52. In addition to our examination and analysis of national network programmes, we have studied the local programme practices of private stations, especially those which, while operating under the regulations of the national system, are not affiliated with the national networks. As we have remarked, the original intention to expropriate these stations was not carried out. It was thought that they could render an important service to the public in providing a medium for local advertising, in giving local news and in other ways, including the development of local talent. There seems to be no doubt that the needs of local advertising and of local news are satisfactorily met. We have, however, already referred to comments made to us on the indifferent quality of local programmes and on the restricted use of local talent. We have found these comments to be justified. There is, no doubt, a great variation in the performance of the many private stations; the programmes of some are satisfactory, and of a very few, praiseworthy. On the other hand, far too many stations, regulated in principle by the C.B.C., offer programmes which must be described as regrettable.

53. For example, an examination of the programmes of five stations chosen from large and small urban centres in different parts of the country shows results that are not consistent with the general impression given by the briefs and the representations of private broadcasters. These five stations confine themselves almost exclusively to news broadcasts, sports and music; most of the music is of the popular recorded variety. The programmes of live talent are, at best, commonplace. There is no apparent attempt to fulfil the proper function of the local station as we understand it: to reflect the life and interests of the community, and to use and develop the local talent available.

54. A few facts and figures may be illuminating. One of these private stations under review operates in a large city for twenty-four hours a day throughout the week. For six days a week, from midnight throughout the morning and until seven o'clock in the evening, it broadcasts news, sports commentaries and music, broken only by a daily ten minute talk of interest to women and by a fifteen minute news commentary. The music broadcast throughout the day is almost entirely recorded popular music. Programmes in the evening hours and on Sunday are more varied, but consist largely of recorded or transcribed programmes. The use of local live talent during our sample week was limited to seven hours and five minutes of day-time broadcasting out of a total of one hundred and thirty-three hours; live talent was broadcast for a total of nine hours


and twenty-five minutes out of the thirty-five hours available in the evenings from Monday through Friday. This figure of nine hours and twenty-five minutes included three hours and fifty-five minutes in which hockey matches were reported. We understand that this broadcasting station is prospering.

55. This is not an isolated example but is fairly representative of a number of private stations. These stations live by advertising; and spot announcements crowd their programmes sometimes to the limit tolerated by the regulations. An analysis of the programmes of another important private station in a large centre revealed that spot announcements in the permitted hours occurred at an average frequency of five each hour. Of the friendly services of the private stations to the public we have abundant evidence, and these services help to justify the continued existence of such stations in our national system; but from the study we have made we cannot believe that there is any justification for their undistinguished programmes. After a careful consideration of the evidence available, we are convinced that only very rarely can limited revenue be advanced as an extenuating circumstance for this inexpensive and unimaginative programming.

56. We must emphasize that these general strictures apply to the private or independent stations. Affiliated stations of the C.B.C., and more particularly the Basic and Supplementary A stations, carrying network programmes, are able to offer a more varied and acceptable fare to their listeners. Some, but not all, of these stations are prepared to take full advantage of the sustaining programmes made available by the C.B.C. We note with regret the following passage from the Report of the C.B.C. for 1949-50:

"An experiment with a regional service begun in 1948 in the Maritimes at the request of affiliated stations, in which the C.B.C. paid line and program costs for a weekly half-hour program to be originated in turn by the participating stations, was discontinued in November, 1949. The plan was to give opportunities to the stations to develop network talent in that area which might be found to be of national network calibre later on. The series was discontinued when it was found that few of the participating stations were carrying the program." 28

57. Our special investigation appears to bear out the comments which we received throughout the country to the effect that the C.B.C. is in general performing its duty satisfactorily, sometimes even admirably, in providing appropriate and varied programmes; less admirably does it exercise its responsibilities of control. The national system, however, has constantly kept in view its three objectives for broadcasting in Canada: an adequate coverage of the entire population, opportunities for Canadian talent and for Canadian self-expression generally, and successful resistance to the


absorption of Canada into the general cultural pattern of the United States. Much remains to be done, but the record of the past fourteen years is most encouraging.

58. One final criticism, however, can justly be made of the national system and of those who have so enthusiastically supported it. Canadians esteem their national radio service, as we have shown; but, as we have also found, they do not fully understand it or how it operates. In part, this is due to the complexities of our broadcasting system which reflect the country it covers. But the inadequate information service of the C.B.C. is also at fault, and equally the indifference of the listeners who enjoy or resent their fare in silence. The reticence of the C.B.C. matches the passivity of its audience and results in a widespread ignorance of an essential national service.

* From: Canada. Royal Commission on National Development in the Arts, Letters, and Sciences. Report. Ottawa : King's Printer, 1951. By permission of the Privy Council Office.

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