Visualizing Radio Networks across Canada: Mapping the Growth of Radio in the 1930s

Saturday, January 7, 2012: 9:00 AM
Chicago Ballroom G (Chicago Marriott Downtown)
Anne MacLennan, York University
Visualizing Radio Networks across Canada: Mapping the Growth of Radio in the 1930s

Anne MacLennan

York University

Visualizing a radio network across Canada dated back to the Aird Commission Report in 1928. Unlike more densely populated or smaller countries, Canada’s size and population required planning and investment to establish a national network that did not provide sufficient coverage until 1939.

Many of the assumptions regarding the spread of Canadian radio broadcasting are predicated on the necessity of the establishment of a Canadian radio broadcasting network.  However, it is in part the delay in the establishment of the type of technical regulation, such as that established earlier in the United States, which permitted smaller independent Canadian radio broadcasters to persist.  While the rise of large networks certainly contributed to the demise of small American broadcasters, regulations such as the Federal Radio Commission’s, General Order 84 to prevent interference by amateur stations and authorizing the radio apparatus in 1930, General Order 111 in 1931 on power regulation and General Order 116 requiring operation within assigned frequencies were among the many American restrictions that made continued operations of small broadcasters unfeasible in the face of economic depression. 

This work will chart the ability “reach” of Canadian and that of American broadcasters within Canada. CRBC and CBC remained embryonic in the 1930s, with national coverage only reaching 84.2 percent by 1939, in time for the Royal Tour.  Fewer technical restrictions worked to the advantage of small independent Canadian radio stations serving local and regional audiences with low-powered stations and limited technical ability.  Low power levels and limited broadcasting range of Canadian and American stations in Canada are a part of an anomalous broadcasting environment that allowed for shared frequencies, American affiliates, Canadian network stations and independent broadcasters of various strengths.