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


William Alfred Robinson


Mr. W. A. ROBINSON (Simcoe East):

Mr. Speaker, I always enjoy listening to the hon. member for Lake Centre (Mr. Diefenbaker) even when I disagree with him in some respects. I would, however, like to associate myself with some remarks which he made, and those were the remarks in appreciation of Mr. Allard and his work in connection with our reports from parliament hill. I think that has been appreciated by all hon. members, and I am very glad to mention it at this time.
I have listened with a great deal of interest to the previous speakers on this measure, mostly, I am afraid, in criticism, and I feel impelled to rise at this time to say a few words in support of the measure.
The expansion plans of the C.B.C. are not by a~ny means an innovation. They are merely part of a well settled principle which has had the approval of successive governments and successive parliamentary committees. I think most. Canadians, including most members of this house, approve the idea of a nationally owned broadcasting system, and I think it has always been contemplated that this system should be expanded and enlarged to serve the needs of the listening public.
Perhaps it will not be out of place at this time if I review briefly some of the major steps in the development of our thinking on this subject of radio broadcasting.- I do so, not with the idea of suggesting that we should be bound by the past, but rather to show a certain continuity of development.
Following the haphazard development of radio in the early twenties, the Aird commission was appointed in 1928. This valuable body established, amongst other things, three facts of major importance. They were: that broadcasting was tending to concentrate in more densely populated areas, leaving more lightly populated areas ineffectively served; also, that the majority of programmes heard was from sources outside Canada; again, that there was a great demand and need for the development of Canadian broadcasting in the

Radio Broadcasting
interests of Canadian listeners and in the national interests of Canada. The commission came to the conclusion that the interests of the listening public and of the nation could be served adequately only-
... by some form of public ownership, operation and control behind which is the national power and prestige of the whole public of Canada.
This conclusion of the Aird commission became the keynote of the subsequent develop^ ment of radio in this country.
In later years, committees of this house reaffirmed and enlarged this basic principle. The first parliamentary committee met, I think, in 1932 and recommended in part as follows:
. . . that a nationally owned system of radio broadcasting be instituted and that all stations required for its proper organization be eventually acquired.
Following some years of operation, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation was brought into being in 1936 by act of this parliament. Subsequent committees reaffirmed that basic principle, and I should like particularly to refer to the report of the committee of 1942-43:
Your committee now desires to reaffirm these principles as stated in the reports of the committees for the years mentioned in brackets:
(a) The paramount importance of a single national authority to control all broadcasting in the public interest; (4932)
(b) The public ownership of all high power stations under a national system of broadcasting. with low power stations individually operated or coordinated in relation to the dominant system; (1932)
(c) The coordination of all broadcasting in Canada through exclusive control being vested in the nationally owned system of:
(i) The character of all programmes, political or otherwise, broadcast by all stations
and of the advertising content thereof; and
(ii) All wire-line networks used for carrying broadcast programmes; (4936)
I think it is clear that the broad principles behind the development of the C.B.C. have been plainly enunciated. We must realize, however, that the corporation is only in its infancy. It was created in 1936, and is now only at its tenth or tin anniversary. If we have any pride in our national system, surely we can cooperate now to put it on a gold, or, at least, on a silver basis. Its development, its approach to maturity has been retarded for two very good reasons. First, it has been feeling its way in a rapidly developing art where the premature expenditure of money might prove unwise. Secondly, of course, the war has naturally restricted its orderly expansion. Surely, now that the war Is over and the corporation has an experience
of ten years behind it, we can allow it to develop in the manner which has always been contemplated.
It is inevitable but at the same time, in some respects, I think, regrettable that the expansion of the national system foreshadows the allocation of new wave lengths to certain private stations which had previously used clear channels allotted to Canada under the Havana agreement. I think I can say without. fear of contradiction that all members who sat on the recent committee were very much impressed by the able representations, made on behalf of two of the stations affected, and I refer to CFCN, Calgary and CFRB, Toronto.
We could not fail to recognize, and have recognized in the report, the good community service which has been rendered by these and other private stations. Nevertheless I cannot agree, as has been suggested by one hon. member opposite, that the private stations are not receiving "fair play" or that insecurity of their tenure of a particular wave length constitutes a "sword of Damocles" hanging over their heads. As a matter of fact, the two private stations I have mentioned, in their representations to the committee, attempted to show that they were taken by surprise to some extent by the present proposals, and I think it can be fairly said that they failed in this, and for three reasons. First, the statute law is perfectly clear that a proprietary interest in a wave length cannot be obtained. Secondly, since 1941, endorsements have been placed on the licences issued to these stations by the Department of Transport, which endorsements the department intended to operate as notice of a possible change in the future. I quite agree that the endorsements were not phrased as clearly as they might have been to indicate such an intention. That was made quite clear in the committee. But at the very least, these endorsements should have had the effect of giving to the affected stations good cause to weigh carefully the insecurity of their occupancy of these channels. Third, and I think possibly most importantly, the principle of public ownership of high-power stations was enunciated in parliamentary committees as far back as 1932. The committee of 1942 was particularly clear on this point, and I should like to refer to some of the proceedings of that committee.
In the committee of 1942, Doctor Frigon of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation was examined at some length by the hon. member for Rosetown-Biggar (Mr. Coldwell). I will read a portion of that examination as reported in the proceedings of the committee.
Radio Broadcasting

First, I might explain that the hon. member for, Rosetown-Biggar was referring to the three stations CFCN, Calgary; CFRB, Toronto, and CKY, Winnipeg, which were not owned by the corporation. I quote:
Q. These are not all corporation stations?
A. No. There are two that are not corporation stations.
Q. What two are they?
A. CFRB, Toronto and CFCN, Calgarj.
Q. I understood there was another.
A. CKY, Winnipeg; that is owned by the Manitoba government.
Q. That is three stations that have been allotted clear channels.
A. Yes.
Q. That can be occupied up to fifty kilowatts?
A. Right.
Q. Have they an understanding with you that they will be required to vacate these channels?
A. First of all, the frequencies are allocated annually and the Minister of Transport has always the right to make a transfer in each year.
Q. And there is no possibility of any misunderstanding that these stations have a vested interest in those channels?
A. No.
Q. None whatever?
A. No.
Q. So that they can be renewed at any time that the corporation needs those channels?
A. They can be turned over to the C.B.C.
Q. For its own purposes?
A. Yes.

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