August 23, 1946

SC

Ernest George Hansell

Social Credit

Mr. HANSELL:

I am told that it would cost three-quarters of a million dollars to put on one show for one hour only on a national network, under television. That is a lot of money. I believe the corporation would be on safer ground to say to the present operators of these wave lengths, "We will let you boost your power to 50 kilowatts. It may cost you a little money." They will be further ahead if, when they eventually had to make a change, they compensated these stations for any money which they might have spent in boosting their power.

Topic:   RADIO BROADCASTING ACT
Subtopic:   CORPORATION TO RECEIVE LICENCE FEES- ADVANCES ON ACCOUNT OF CAPITAL EXPENDITURES
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LIB

William Ross Macdonald (Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole of the House of Commons)

Liberal

The DEPUTY SPEAKER:

Order. I must inform the hon. member that his time has expired.

Topic:   RADIO BROADCASTING ACT
Subtopic:   CORPORATION TO RECEIVE LICENCE FEES- ADVANCES ON ACCOUNT OF CAPITAL EXPENDITURES
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PC

Arthur Leroy Smith

Progressive Conservative

Mr. SMITH (Calgary West):

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, it was promised by the government in this house, when the hon. member agreed not to discuss the resolution, that he should have as much time as he wanted when the bill came before this house.

I remember that distinctly.

Radio Broadcasting

Topic:   RADIO BROADCASTING ACT
Subtopic:   CORPORATION TO RECEIVE LICENCE FEES- ADVANCES ON ACCOUNT OF CAPITAL EXPENDITURES
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LIB

William Ross Macdonald (Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole of the House of Commons)

Liberal

Mr. DEPUTY SPEAKER:

With the unanimous consent of the house the hon. member may continue for five minutes.

Topic:   RADIO BROADCASTING ACT
Subtopic:   CORPORATION TO RECEIVE LICENCE FEES- ADVANCES ON ACCOUNT OF CAPITAL EXPENDITURES
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PC

Arthur Leroy Smith

Progressive Conservative

Mr. SMITH (Calgary West):

On another point- of order, sir, we adopted a different method. We brought a report in from the committee, and it was arranged with the leader of the house at that time: he told the hon. member for Macleod (Mr. Hansell) who raised the point, that when the bill came in he should have as much time as he required at this stage of the discussion of the bill. I am anxious to see that undertaking carried out.

Topic:   RADIO BROADCASTING ACT
Subtopic:   CORPORATION TO RECEIVE LICENCE FEES- ADVANCES ON ACCOUNT OF CAPITAL EXPENDITURES
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LIB

Ian Alistair Mackenzie (Minister of Veterans Affairs; Leader of the Government in the House of Commons; Liberal Party House Leader)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE:

The hon. member for Calgary West (Mr. Smith) is quite correct, but the only guarantee that a member of the government can give is subject to the unanimous concurrence and consent of this house.

Topic:   RADIO BROADCASTING ACT
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PC

Arthur Leroy Smith

Progressive Conservative

Mr. SMITH (Calgary West):

I gather that the government concurred.

Topic:   RADIO BROADCASTING ACT
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LIB

Ian Alistair Mackenzie (Minister of Veterans Affairs; Leader of the Government in the House of Commons; Liberal Party House Leader)

Liberal

Mr. MACKENZIE:

Yes.

Topic:   RADIO BROADCASTING ACT
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LIB

William Ross Macdonald (Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committees of the Whole of the House of Commons)

Liberal

Mr. DEPUTY SPEAKER:

Order. I repeat that with the unanimous consent of the house the hon. member for Macleod may continue for a period of five minutes.

Topic:   RADIO BROADCASTING ACT
Subtopic:   CORPORATION TO RECEIVE LICENCE FEES- ADVANCES ON ACCOUNT OF CAPITAL EXPENDITURES
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SC

Ernest George Hansell

Social Credit

Mr. HANSELL:

The time did seem to go very fast.

Topic:   RADIO BROADCASTING ACT
Subtopic:   CORPORATION TO RECEIVE LICENCE FEES- ADVANCES ON ACCOUNT OF CAPITAL EXPENDITURES
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LIB

James Joseph McCann (Minister of National Revenue; Minister of National War Services)

Liberal

Mr. McCANN:

You have been broadcasting.

Topic:   RADIO BROADCASTING ACT
Subtopic:   CORPORATION TO RECEIVE LICENCE FEES- ADVANCES ON ACCOUNT OF CAPITAL EXPENDITURES
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PC

Arthur Leroy Smith

Progressive Conservative

Mr. SMITH (Calgary West):

I am glad the minister has heard a good broadcast at last. It did not come from his side of the house.

Topic:   RADIO BROADCASTING ACT
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SC

Ernest George Hansell

Social Credit

Mr. HANSELL:

I appreciate the remarks

of the hon. member for Calgary West in coming to my rescue, but I have arranged my material in such a way that I think I can facilitate the business of the house. I just want to say a few more things; it will take only five minutes. The rest of my forty-minute speeches I shall be willing to give in committee. That is the way I have arranged it. However, five minutes will do now. I have another suggestion to make and this one will not be acceptable. The hon. member for Rosetown-Biggar read a statement made by Mr. Bennett that the air waves could be likened to the natural resources of the people, and that these air waves belong to the people. All right. The natural resources belong to the people and they belong to the people of the provinces. Here is a suggestion I am going to make. It is true that the air waves belong to the people and it is true that under the present broadcasting act the federal government seems to have jurisdiction over those air waves; but there is no reason in the world why provincial governments should not also have some jurisdiction over wave lengths, particularly when

those wave lengths are confined within the provinces themselves. If we want to have real competition in Canada, which I believe would be a good thing for radio-and I am not saying there should be no supervision at all; that is why we recommend a neutral body-then I suggest that each provincial government be given a wave length which will be their own to do with what they please. If they wish to have a station of their own, all right; if they wish to allow a private radio company to have that wave length, OH. It is their business; it is their wave length. Furthermore, I am going to suggest that the provinces could very well unite in a second network to be run by private radio stations. In that way each province would have a wave length which would be the people's, and you would have two national networks-no monopoly, and one running in competition with the other. That is my suggestion and I feel positive about it.

Even with my Liberal friends going socialist as they have gone during the war, I cannot understand this plunging the whole radio business into such a monopoly as they are doing. I cannot believe that the ministers who are piloting this bill through, and who seem to look so wise and intelligent about it, can at heart be really in sympathy with that policy, and I have concluded, perhaps wrongly-I do not believe wrongly-that the officials of the corporation have unduly influenced the government in respect of radio policy, and that what we are dealing with in the bill is not essentially government policy but is essentially C.B:C. policy, because they want their position solidified and entrenched. With these words, I shall now conclude my remarks and what I have to say otherwise I shall say when we are in committee.

Topic:   RADIO BROADCASTING ACT
Subtopic:   CORPORATION TO RECEIVE LICENCE FEES- ADVANCES ON ACCOUNT OF CAPITAL EXPENDITURES
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CCF

Robert Ross (Roy) Knight

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. R. R. KNIGHT (Saskatoon City):

Mr. Speaker, I believe that one of the things that add zest to being a member of parliament in this house is that there are at least four parties in it. Some of my hon. friends have blamed the hon. member for Rosetown-Biggar (Mr. Coldwell) for agreeing in this particular instance with the principles of the Liberal party on the other side. Surely, after all, once in a while one has to agree with someone, and: may I say to my Conservative friends to my right that when they bring forward such a good idea as that advanced by the Liberal party in this particular instance they may be sure of our support in that regard. There is nothing sinister in the kind of alliance that I have named, because we in this particular group agree with the particular party in this house that we think for the time being is right.

Radio Broadcasting

May I say that I am very much interested in this matter of radio in general, and in particular I am very much interested in the work of this c-ommittee of which I was a member. I am seized with the importance of radio as one of the greatest media we have for the spreading of news, of information and of education and for the promotion of good taste in music, in literature and in the arts. I am somewhat disappointed in my hon. friends, both to my left and to my right, that they have not any one of them to-night mentioned that particular phase of the matter. It would appear to be a struggle between two interests, or two ideologies or two ideas, and one in which, I submit, there is a substantial amount of cash involved.

Radio is a great blessing and a great gift, and it involves great responsibility. I said there was cash involved. I remember, when we thought that everything was very dear, we used to joke and say, "Well, at least the air is free." In this particular respect, even the air is no longer free. The air has become big business, and if you wanted any evidence of that, all you had to do was to attend some of the sessions of the radio committee, of which I did not miss any meetings. If you looked at the faces of the people around you, those occupying chairs and those who wished to occupy chairs but for whom there was no room, you would understand that there must be some money somewhere in this business of radio.

There are those who would like to sift the air through their fingers and retain something in the process. There is a question, to whom does the air belong? The matter was expounded by the hon. member for Macleod (Mr. Hansell) and again in this connection my leader the hon. member for Rosetown-Biggar stated! that the air over Canada belonged to the people of Canada. The question fortunately was settled in the main for this country in 1932 and again definitely in 1936 when the broadcasting act was passed. The resolution that preceded the bill was introduced by the Right Hon. R. B. Bennett. I shall mention his name again, although for some reason my Conservative friends do not seem to relish quotations from that right hon. gentleman. Perhaps this is one of those mild reforms which the Right Hon. R. B. Bennett advocated and then, or shortly afterwards, he ceased to be the leader of the party of my hon. friends. However, I shall quote from that resolution of 1932:

That it is expedient to bring in a measure to provide for the constitution of a commission to be known as the Canadian Radio Broadcasting

Commission, for the purpose of acquiring, operating, regulating and controlling radio broadcasting in Canada.

To whom does the air belong? As I said before, I suggest that it belongs to the people of Canada; and it is for us to decide-and when I say "us" I mean the people of Canada -not certain radio institutions that have managed to get their fingers upon some of what I at least consider to be the public domain; it is for us to decide what should be done with it. The hon. member for Macleod has challenged us to say this is not a monopoly, in which he says we believe. All right, I shall accept the challenge. If it is a monopoly of the people, let it be a monopoly, provided that the people have it in their hands and have power to control it through this parliament. As I said a moment ago, this ownership, whether it be the ownership of the people or the ownership of private interests, involves responsibility for what goes on the air, the type of programme, the kind of music; and I maintain that this responsibility can be better fulfilled by a body which is under public control than it would be fulfilled by any commercial enterprise which has as its main object the profits it can command from the handling of the air waves. I believe we can have more freedom of speech under a system that is publicly owned than under a system under which any man with sufficient money can buy his way on to the air, while the man who has no money cannot have the same privilege because he cannot afford it. Where profit is the motive, I am afraid some of us sometimes lose our moral sense. Where profit is the motive, I am afraid there is a temptation, shall we say, to take too much time for advertising, too much time on profitable announcements.

I could go into the record of the private radio stations in this country. I shall not take time to do so. but I have here a publication which show's the comparative amount of time spent on sustaining programmes and on commercial or paid programmes in this country over a period of two weeks. I can show the house where at least four of the private stations whose names have been bandied about here to-night during those two weeks devoted about twenty per cent of their time to what might be called public service and eighty per cent of their time to a straight money-making commercial proposition.

Another point I wish to make is that there is a temptation to accept the sponsored propaganda of those having one set of ideas when there is insufficient time to give those with opposite ideas an equal opportunity on the air, or when the people who hold those other ideas, as I have said, do not have sufficient

Radio Broadcasting

money to pay for their expression over the radio. There is also, I think, quite a temptation to accept anything that is paid for, irrespective of its merit or its effect upon the culture of the country in general.

That, of course, brings up the question of whether commercialism has a conscience. I would submit, sir, that commercialism finds itself in a constant struggle with its conscience, a struggle between the desire for profit and its conscience. Little has been said to-night of this matter of culture. You may say that many good men are in private business, and I would agree. But I would also point out that regulations are necessary in this country to curb that very thing of which I am speaking; that greedy, avaricious commercialism which cares about nothing except the profit it makes. If you do not believe that, let me mention the fact that regulations are necessary in this country to keep commercial interests from selling cigarettes or liquor to children; that there are commercial interests who would cheerfully sell drugs to drug addicts if they could get the money for them and if the regulations and the policemen did not prevent them from doing so. If you think commercialism has any particular conscience, look at our news stands and see the type of literature, so-called, offered to our young people there. Those who put out these publications for profit are apparently not concerned with the effect of that type of reading upon the people. You may say, "Well, after all, these people are in a commercial business." That is exactly the answer I got when I put that question to the editor of a great newspaper. I found some fault with the sort of thing they were publishing, and saying it would have a harmful effect upon the mind of the body politic. His reply was, "Sir, we are not running a Sunday school here. We are going to give the people what they want and what they are prepared to pay for. We are running a commercial institution." That very thing has always been a problem in my mind. To what extent is it the responsibility of an editor, or of a radio broadcaster, or of the C.B.C., if you like, to try to elevate the public taste? I say we have more chance of having the public taste elevated by an organization controlled by the people of this country, through this parliament, than by a mere commercial institution which is primarily in the business for the money it makes. I hold that men not motivated by the desire to make money out of programmes will make better decisions, more nearly in conformity with the public good.

I now come to the matter of this radio committee. One could see that what was

chiefly stirring there was this matter of money interest. Evidently something was going to be done that would cost somebody some money, and there was a good deal of protest against that. I come to one of the main recommendations of the report. I agree with the report when it says it is best for the C.B.C. to retain its dominant position in Canadian broadcasting. I believe-and this is where the money lies-the national system is fully justified in taking over the three wave lengths which have been mentioned, whose power is to be increased under the Havana agreement. Earlier the hon. member for Rosetown-Biggar read from page 732 of the proceedings of the committee the questions he asked Doctor Frigon away back in 1942, so I need not repeat that. One of the claims of these private companies was that they did not understand they would have to surrender these wave lengths, and, second, that they did not get sufficient notice from the C.B.C. that those wave lengths would have to be surrendered. I cannot accept the word of these private companies on either count. That whole matter was discussed in the committee of 1942, while counsel for these private interests sat by in a chair and, as the evidence showed, himself took part in the discussion. Can anyone tell me that the head of any great corporation where millions of dollars are involved or the counsel for any such corporation, would not understand the conversation which was going on in that committee, particularly when he was taking part in it, and that then these same interests should come back-if not the actual men-four or five years later, and say that they did not understand that they were to lose those wave lengths?

Then there is the matter of insufficient notice being given. They said that on their licence in 1941 there appeared some new, mysterious words which had never been on there before: "This licence is granted subject to regulation, number so-and-so". But they said, "We did not pay any attention to it". Counsel who are employed by corporations of that kind are not men of that type. There is no doubt in my mind that those men knew, just as well as if the regulations had been translated for them, and I have no doubt that they were looked up, and thoroughly understood and discussed.

I would say, "The nerve of them!" I should say they should have been thankful for the use of those wave lengths for three or four years in this country, which has been able to establish them and get them on their feet, instead of at this date protesting that they

Radio Broadcasting

is more or less a reproduction of a section in the act of 1932. As was suggested by the hon. member for Macleod (Mr. Hansell), the hon. member for Rosetown-Biggar (Mr. Cold-well) seems to have carried in his pocket some lines of some of the speeches of the Right Hon. Mr. Bennett. It is true that in those days Mr. Bennett did favour government-owned radio, but it is well to remember the reason for his attitude at that time was that radio, which had been hardly more than a toy or plaything a few years earlier, had become a great agency for formulating opinion. It was learned one day in Canada that the air channels had been largely taken over by our neighbours to the south and nothing less than the government of Canada could redeem Canada's position in the air over this continent. It was, I think, by the use of that argument, the truth and sound basis of which no one at that time doubted or possibly still doubts, that there was recruited to the doctrine of government ownership people who generally are not so profoundly impressed by the wisdom of that doctrine. The leader of the government at that time used strong language, language which is now being interpreted as favourable to a government-owned monopoly of broadcasting to-day. I think it well that the house should know that the reason for that attitude was that anything less than the voice of Canada, speaking the language of diplomacy and speaking for the Canadian people could have redeemed for Canada her place in the air.

But this is a new science, something that has become one of the greatest influences upon human life that has been devised probably in the last two thousand years. Through it news is transmitted instantaneously from the remotest corners of the earth; through it information is spread; through it opinions are formed; and through its use or abuse minds are moulded and men galvanized into action in ways entirely unprecedented. I doubt if a Mussolini or a Hitler could have found his way to power as rapidly or as absolutely as they did had it not been for the device that is now under discussion. So that I do not think there is any reason to apologize if a person were to modify his position.

The hon. member for Rosetown-Biggar (Mr. Coldwell) seemed to think that everybody who had ever been associated with the Conservative party was absolutely bound by the statements that had been made some years ago in other circumstances by a capable and a distinguished Canadian. I for one do not feel that I am bound or that any member of this party is bound by anything that may have been said by a distinguished leader of

the Conservative party fifteen years ago when he was struggling strenuously and successfully, to regain for Canada her place in the air over this continent.

But there have been changes, changes particularly in the use of radio. I am going to be very candid, possibly curt, in stating that my fear is that the government, not only this government but any government, will use this power, this great and unrivaled power, improperly to maintain itself in oflice or to defeat its opponents. I do not think it is wise that we on the northern half of this continent should unnecessarily expose ourselves to such a danger.

I have been looking through some of the reports of former years. I have before me seme of the reports that were made in 1943 and 1944. I am not going to weary the house by reading from them; but it was stated, not once, but stated a dozen times, that the broadcasting corporation would be non-partisan, that it would be free from political domination. I have cut most of my eye teeth. I do not pretend to be wiser or to have more experience than other hon. gentlemen who have lived in Canada and have had some association with public affairs, but I think we have to admit, in all honesty, if not in pride, that bodies like the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, closely associated with government, whose administrators are government appointees, in moments of stress yield to the temptation of government dictation. I believe that to be a fact; I know it to be a fact. I will go farther and say that if the party to which I belong were in power and were subjected to the same temptations, to the same possibility of wdelding that irresistible power of formulating public opinion by the statement of fiction as facts or by the colouring of facts or by the repression of facts or by keeping opponents from saying what they wished to say over the air, I am not certain it would have the grace to resist.

I do not think it is well that we in this country, cherishing and believing in freedom of speech as we do should subject ourselves further to that kind of danger.

I am not disposed at this moment to put on the record all the information I have here; but there are letters, some of which are already incorporated in the debates of this house, which show that the broadcasting corporation, under direction of the government, kept certain political opponents of the government from the air. That is not a healthy situation. It is not a type of thing which should be tolerated. When a political party is in stress, whether it be in. one province or whether it be in another, the agencies which are under its control, be it radio commis-

Radio Broadcasting

sion, be it liquor commission, be it unemployment insurance commission, be it old age pensions, all these bodies are more or less wracked, if not wrecked by the stresses and strains of the moment. I ask the government to amend this act in such a way as to relieve those strains and perils.

One point which I wish to develop further is the very minor position in which the private station finds itself. The private station is restricted to the humblest kind of local work. Radio in its essence is the defeat of distance. If you restrict radio in its

flight, if you pinion it to a village or a locality, or one low-powered station, you defeat and deny it its own essence. It is the hook-up that is the essential characteristic of broadcasting, and when the private station is denied the privilege of becoming associated with other stations throughout the land it is put on a lesser and lower plane than the stations owned and operated by the government. The government-owned corporation enjoys the only privilege of communication throughout the whole area of this dominion.

It is stated that the private stations are mere money-making enterprises, and some rather harsh things have been said about them. If it be desired that a portion or a greater portion of the time of the private station be devoted to cultural work, to educational work, to music or to literature, all well and good. It is within the competency of the regulating body so to determine. And here I wish to associate myself with what the hon. member for Eglinton has said about the function of the C.B.C. which is both a competitor and a judge in the same race. The activities of the privately-owned station can be properly regulated. But to put the privately owned stations in such a position that they cannot compete with the government-owned station is to create and develop a monopoly of broadcasting in Canada.

There is something more. We have heard about the taking over by C.B.C. of one or two stations: I am not going into that. But if these privately owned stations are to be displaced and forced to seek other and less favourable channels for their broadcasting, private enterprise is going to say, "Well, there is no future here; we are only tenants, not even during good behaviour, but only tenants so long as it pleases the particular party in power to let us breathe." That is not a healthy situation.

We have developed in Canada something which is peculiar to ourselves. I am not certain that it is a wise policy but here we have government-owned facilities in competition with privately owned ones. We have the railways, the ships, the telegraph, the aeroplane. I sincerely hope that the semipromise given by the Minister of Reconstruction and Supply (Mr. Howe) the other day may be realized and that aerial navigation will not be a total monopoly of government as it was indicated it was going to be. But we have in transportation and in communications the publicly owned services in competition with the privately owned services, and they all serve to keep the privately owned and the publicly owned services alert, active, and not quite as arrogant as they might otherwise be. I believe that the minister who is guiding through the house the bill which is before us to-night should remember that competition has not been entirely banished from the realms in which government owned service operates, and that he would do well to suggest amendments to the act which would permit some rivalry between the publicly owned and monopolistic corporation and privately owned stations, degraded and humble though they be.

Mr. D. G. ROSS (St. Paul's); There are a few remarks I should like to make this evening. I was a member of the radio committee, and I have been a member for quite a few years. One thing I find difficult to understand: I should have thought that,

before this bill was introduced, the particulars of it might have been discussed in the committee. As far as I can find out, that has not happened.

I am not in favour of the bill as it stands. The taxpayers of Canada believe-and I agree with them-that this is a time for economy, not for spending their money. Taxes are already too high in this country.

One other criticism I would make is that the committee was set up very late. The first meeting was not held until, I believe, May 28, long after the session started, and the heavy programme which the committee had to consider made it inevitable that the report would be brought down very late in the session. As a matter of fact, Mr. Speaker, there were a great many aspects of broadcasting in Canada which, owing to the lateness of the sittings of the committee and in spite of the fact that in the last few weeks we sat two and three times a day, we did not have time to consider. Among other things, we did not get the financial statement of the corporation until almost the last day or so of the sittings of the committee and there was no opportunity to discuss it thoroughly. I think the house now fully

Radio Broadcasting

understands that the report of the committee and other reports of previous committees have been far from unanimous. As the hon. member for Eglinton aptly stated, it was a majority union report of the C.C.F. and the Liberal party.

Topic:   RADIO BROADCASTING ACT
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?

An hon. MEMBER:

Good combination.

Topic:   RADIO BROADCASTING ACT
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PC

Arthur Leroy Smith

Progressive Conservative

Mr. SMITH (Calgary West):

You said it, brother.

Topic:   RADIO BROADCASTING ACT
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PC

Douglas Gooderham Ross

Progressive Conservative

Mr. ROSS (St. Paul's):

And how! In anything I say I do not wish to be misunderstood. I am in favour of a nationally owned system of radio in this country, but I am in favour of radio broadcasting being properly controlled and not controlled in the manner in which it is.

A good' deal has been said about the original setting up of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, but times have changed and the act which gave sanction in 1936 to the principles we have to-day are out of date in these modern times in view of the changes that have taken place from year to year. A great many members of the committee feel, therefore, that there is need for a change in the act. But there is only one way in which we shall ever get that change, and that is to have it go before an independent tribunal in open session and have witnesses called representing all points of view, including listeners. Then we may come to some conclusions which will be more suited to modern times.

I hold no brief for any private stations. I am not speaking to-night for anyone in particular, but I have great fear of the dangers that exist in Canada along the road we are travelling in the matter of radio and in view of the growing monopoly on the part of the C.B.C., and the grave danger that the people of Canada will eventually be listening to one or two voices but only one point of view, and freedom of speech will be lost.

I think it has been proved to-night that there is a monopoly of radio in Canada, and it has also been shown how the radio broad1-casting corporation is constituted. It maintains a monopoly of all telegraph wires and will not allow private stations to have full use of the facilities at their disposal. It has been ' shown how the whole thing works.

On motion of Mr. Ross (St. Paul's) the debate was adjourned.

At eleven o'clock the. house adjourned, without question put, pursuant to standing order. LMr. D. G. Ross.]

Saturday, August 24, 1946

Topic:   RADIO BROADCASTING ACT
Subtopic:   CORPORATION TO RECEIVE LICENCE FEES- ADVANCES ON ACCOUNT OF CAPITAL EXPENDITURES
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August 23, 1946