August 24, 1946 (20th Parliament, 2nd Session)


Thomas Reid



The trouble is that I might have to live too long to do that. I am sincere however, in my opposition to this. It may not be popular in my riding or in the government. I feel keenly about this usurpation of power rvhich belongs to the Canadian people, this placing of power in the hands of boards which are becoming our masters rather than our servants. Every time I know that a man is up against any body or official I am going to do my utmost to see that justice is rendered; for where else can the appeal be taken?
While one of the hon. members from Toronto was speaking the other night I asked him a question. I was wondering whether he was in favour of giving newspapers the right to operate radio stations. This is something we should be very careful about. The newspaper is one of our media of free expression, and it is able to control news and other items which it publishes. If a man however is denied his rights, if he is not permitted the use of a
Radio Broadcasting

newspaper, he should be able, if he wishes, to use the radio to tell the people about it. If the same people are to also have control of the radio station that in my opinion would be placing too much power in the hands of one person or business concern. I am going to suggest that when the committee meets next year it deal with this very matter and bring in a recommendation that newspapers be not also granted the right to operate radio stations.
I know everyone wants to get home, and I may be accused of delaying the house, but I felt that I must get up in my place and say what I have. I contend that there should be an appeal board. I have referred to the case of CKNW in New Westminster, which found itself thwarted because the corporation would not grant it its just request. I went before the corporation with this case on the suggestion of a minister. I asked if it would be all right, and he suggested that I go before the C.B.C. This was a worthy case and there was no reason why this station should not have been permitted a change in frequency or granted more power. It would not have interfered with any other station. Their present frequency of 250 covers the Vancouver area. The nearest station having a greater frequency was 600 miles away at Prince George. For this and other reasons I am protesting against the present bill.
Mr. SOLON E. LOW (Peace River): Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for New Westminster (Mr. Reid) has made a most gracious speech, and one with which I can agree very largely. I take it that we are discussing two things to-da3', the report of the radio committee and the bill which is before us for second reading. Inasmuch as I was not a member of the committee I must confine myself to the discussion of the bill.
Before saying what I have to say I should like to pay a tribute to the men who pioneered radio and brought it to the state of efficiency that existed a considerable time before there was any Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Those men performed a signal service for the people of Canada. I should also like to pay a tribute to the group of private stations which are performing a great service for this country and which are assisting the achievement of a standard of democracy evidenced by the reports that have been made to the people through the broadcasts - known as "Reports from parliament hill." Their representatives have been very helpful, especially their genial manager, Mr. James Allard. This does not say that I am not also appreciative of the services rendered by the C.B.C.

I do not intend this afternoon to debate the question of government ownership of radio. Last night I thought that we were getting into that sort of debate. About all I heard from my friends to my immediate right was the need for more and more overriding ownership of radio by the C.B.C. As a matter of fact radio in Canada to-day is under the control of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. It is a fait accompli, so there is no sense in our discussing the merits or demerits of government ownership at this stage. However, I think the leader of the C.C.F. (Mr. Coldwell) was presumptuous when he attempted to compare the merits of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and its administration of affairs in Canada with what is being done in the United States by private corporations. It seems to me that the people in the United States are pretty happy with their arrangements. Who is the leader of the C.C.F. to say they are not satisfied? If they were not satisfied they wrnuld change and get something like the C.B.C. or worse.
The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation has been given wide powers, and it is my observation that they have assumed some powers that were not intended to be given. As the hon. member for New Westminster (Mr. Reid) has said, they have been entrusted with great responsibilities-we might even say, with sacred responsibilities. I should like to mention some of these. One of their sacred and grave responsibilities is to give the people of Canada clean and wholesome entertainment, to provide cultural education. They have the obligation to bring to the people factual information in the form of news. We all listen to the newscasts which are an important part of the work of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. It is also their obligation to present over the waves points of view on events, both current and historical, by means of what- we call commentaries. That also is an important responsibility. Then they have the obligation of presenting political and economic programmes to stimulate the thinking of the people. Finally, they are to control the airwaves of Canada in the national interest.
How well the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation has measured up to these responsibilities can be judged only in the light of its record. I believe the corporation has done some good work and a number of commendable things. I believe it has filled a need in Canadian life. I am not in position to criticize the idea of having a corporation like the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, but I certainly have criticism to make of the powers that have been assumed and the way in which they have been exercised by the C.B.C.

Radio Broadcasting
It is not always realized, nor is it always remembered, that sacred responsibilities are usually accompanied by great danger. In the case of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation that danger is definitely to the Canadian people as a whole, and not merely to the members of the corporation. Dangers are inherent in the type of set-up represented by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, and it seems to me it is of urgent necessity that this parliament build up adequate safeguards against them. I do not mean against the corporation, but against dangers inherent in that particular set-up, so that the responsibilities of the corporation may be discharged as fully as possible without in any way endangering the things that Canadians hold most dear.
To-day, Mr. Speaker, I claim that the very freedom of the Canadian people is at stake. It does not require very much vision to see that personal freedom is rapidly being put in jeopardy in Canada. I am not pretending for one moment that the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation is alone responsible for this condition. I would say it is a result of a combination of circumstances and of forces that are at work in our society. But while the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation is an institution potentially capable of bringing the understanding of the Canadian people up to that point where freedom is made secure in Canada and where democracy is real and virile, that same institution is perfectly capable of contributing in very large measure to the enslavement of the people under a totalitarian state. Adequate safeguards against such a dreadful contingency have not in my judgment been provided by the government and this parliament. There is still plenty of room for either malevolence or stupidity to get in their deadly work within the organization of the corporation. I am not so sure that some of it has not been in evidence over the years.
One great danger of government by commission, especially monopoly commission, is that the commissions are apt to become very powerful and a law unto themselves. They become sacrosanct, so that very few people in the land have the courage to criticize them or to demand a thorough investigation of their affairs. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation is fast becoming a law unto itself, and I suggest too that there has been developed a sacrosanctity about the corporation which in time could remove it entirely from the realm of democratic and parliamentary control. It would be a very sorry day for Canada if that should happen.
One of the main reasons, Mr. Speaker, why the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation has been able to exercise authoritarian power and 63260-336
has been able to assume wider and wider powers as the days have gone by, is that there never has been a' well-defined government policy laid down to guide them. That has been perfectly evident. This afternoon I am going to give to the members of this house an example of the abuse of power by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, to illustrate the effects of a lack of a well-defined government policy to guide it. I am also going to say that this material which I shall present indicates the existence of a condition which is a complete prostitution of the responsibility of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
In 1927 the university of Alberta purchased a broadcasting station from a private corporation which was operating in the city of Edmonton. In 1939 certain capital funds were required by the station if it were to perform the functions for which it was purchased from (he private corporation. Accordingly an application was made to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in that year for an increase in the power of the station from 500 to 1,000 watts, and also for permission to enter into the commercial advertising field as a means of assisting the university to pay the expenses of the larger and more powerful station. The university in that year was granted permission to increase the power of the station up to
1,000 watts, but it was refused the commercial privileges. The university therefore was compelled to seek assistance from the provincial government in the form of a grant. They did obtain that assistance to the extent of $25,000, and immediately set about to increase the power of the station. Between 1939 and June, 1944, the university, in connection with the educational pursuits of that institution and in collaboration with the Department of Education, developed one of the finest and most outstanding examples of education by radio that has ever been developed in America. This experiment, which proved finally to be a very wise and important one, resulted in the establishment of the School of the Air through which more than a thousand boys and girls in the far reaches of the northern part of Alberta were enabled to complete their high school courses by correspondence and by radio instruction. Anyone desiring to investigate the effects and the results of that experiment can apply to the university of Alberta for a brochure that has been issued called the Chalmers' report on the School of the Air.
The station was found not to be adequate to the needs in the frontier places, and as a result, the university decided that they should step up the power further, beyond 1,000 watts, and rebuild the station- relocate the trans-

Radio Broadcasting

mitter and build a new studio that would take care of the demands for space and of the equipment which they required. After discussing the matter with me while I was in the department of education it was decided in June, 1944, that the university should make an agreement with the Alberta Government Telephones for a transfer of the licence held by the university of Alberta for CKUA on the channel 580 kilocycles, and for power of
1.000 watts. Accordingly an agreement was reached between the Department of Telephones and the university for that transfer. The reasons that were given to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation at the time for desiring that transfer were these. A very large additional grant would become necessary if the university were to carry on the station themselves. This large additional grant would throw out of balance the per capita tuition costs of the university of Alberta as compared with the costs of other universities, and it was felt that that would put the university at a disadvantage in attracting students from other quarters of the globe.
The second reason was that in view of the existing procedure with respect to government accounting at that time, the disposition of funds by the university was not subject to scrutiny in the legislature as it would be if the operation of the station were in the hands of Department of Telephones.
The third reason was that the Department of Telephones of the government had the engineers and technicians and the transmission lines over which the network arrangements had to be made. They had the money, and they had the management to make a real success of the operation of the station CKUA. This was no means a unique arrangement. Already in the province of Manitoba the Manitoba Telephone Department had been operating for some years two radio stations, CKX and CKY.
The fourth reason why the government and the university desired that this transfer be made was this. The people through their representatives in the legislature twice passed, by overwhelming majorities, resolutions to the effect that the transfer should be made. There is no better reason in the world than the expressed wishes of the people.
Another application accompanied the application for transfer of licence. This was an application for a private commercial broadcasting station licence. I contend that this was a reasonable request, for the following reasons. In the first place, the frequency of 580 kilocycles with a 1000 watt power gave station CKUA a very large listening audience. In the next place, from surveys made it
[Mr. Low.l
was evident that Edmonton could readily support three commercial stations, having at that time only CFRN and CJCA. Calgary, with a similar situation and a smaller listening audience, has supported three commercial stations for some years. Particulars of the surveys and supporting statistics were filed, along with the application for the private commercial licence. It was pointed out at the time the application was made that radio station CKUA could not possibly compete with existing commercial stations in Edmonton on a fully competitive basis, by reason of the fact that the university would be given first call upon such time as they required to continue the regular university programmes and also to enlarge the educational programmes generally, both for themselves and for the department of education. The policy of the government of Canada expressed through the policies of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation was that radio stations should be operated on a commercial basis. I make that contention, supported by the following evidence.
Various unsuccessful attempts over the years have been made by the university of Alberta to obtain from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation financial assistance in providing educational programmes. I say, unsuccessfully; that was in itself a tacit admission that the stations were expected to be operating on a commercial or semi-commercial basis. Further than that, in April 1943, in response to the university's application for a commercial broadcasting licence, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation indicated its approval- I -want you to note that, Mr. Speaker-of a commercial licence, subject to these two conditions: first, that the gross advertising
revenue for CKUA should not exceed 825,000 per annum; and second, if CKUA took in any existing business from CFRN, then in Edmonton, the commercial licence of CKUA might be cancelled. I maintain that never has such an authoritarian thing as that been done by any government commission in Canada before this, in my time and within my knowledge. I do say, however, that this approval, although qualified, establishes the principle of the right of CKUA to a commercial licence; and further, it indicates that the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation policy was dictated, not by the needs of the people, but by the financial appeals of the Edmonton station CFRN.
I suggest, sir, that any objection to permitting a university-owned and operated station to enter into commercial broadcasting had certainly disappeared by virtue of the fact that station CKUA by this time was the property of the Alberta Government Tele-

Radio Broadcasting
phones, and that the relationship between Alberta Government Telephones and CKUA was almost identical, if not identical, with the relationship that existed between the Manitoba telephone system and radio station CKY in Winnipeg and CKX in Brandon.
The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, at the time the application was made, were assured that they could expect the same cooperation from the radio department of the Alberta Government Telephones as they were then receiving from the radio department of the Manitoba telephone system. The province of Alberta felt, with perfect reason, that it was entitled to exercise its right of ownership of radio station CKUA by engaging in the' business of commercial broadcasting. The C.B.C. contended that if CKUA were granted a commercial licence it would detrimentally affect radio station CFRN. There is no force at all in that contention, for the reason that CKUA had no affiliation with a broadcasting corporation, either the trans-Canada network or the dominion network, as did the other stations in Edmonton. CFRN had affiliations with and was sustained by fees-large fees every year, from the dominion network of the C.B.C. CJCA, the other station in Edmonton, which, by the way, was the top money maker for 1,000 watt stations in the whole of the Dominion of Canada-and that is an important point and has a bearing on this whole case-was affiliated with the trans-Canada network, and received from C.B.C. large fees to sustain it in the field, in addition to its commercial gatherings. I say to you, Mr. Speaker, that the statistics which were submitted by the department of telephones to the government of Alberta at the time indicated very clearly that the Edmonton area afforded ample business for three radio stations.
An objection was raised by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation that radio station CKUA, being government owned, would pay no income tax, while the other competing stations would be subject to payment of income tax. The answer to that proposition is that this identical situation existed in the province of Manitoba with respect to CKX and CKY.
To cut a long story short, eventually, after several months of deliberation and handing it back from one board or bureau to another, Mr. Walter A. Rush, the controller of radio, notified the department of telephones in Edmonton that C.B.C. had recommended a denial of the application, and1 he did so in the following terms:
In reply to your inquiry, I may say that the board of governors-
63260-3361 .
I want hon. members, Mr. Speaker, to note this particularly.
-have not recommended favourably on your application for a transfer of the licence of radio station CKUA from the university of Alberta to the department of telephones of the government of Alberta for commercial operation, for the following reasons:
Having noted that the present licence to CKUA-
Note the barefaced audacity of that.
-ivas issued for educational broadcasting purposes, and having reviewed all circumstances surrounding the radio station in Edmonton with respect to the commercial field, the board feels obliged to recommend denial of this application' for transfer of the licence.

Full View