TWILH – The CBC is founded on November 2, 1936

November 3, 2015

[[{“fid”:”865″,”view_mode”:”default”,”fields”:{“format”:”default”,”field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]”:”Folks in Calgary install lawn signs during the recent election”,”field_file_image_title_text[und][0][value]”:”Folks in Calgary show their support for the CBC by installing lawn signs during the recent election”},”type”:”media”,”link_text”:null,”attributes”:{“alt”:”Folks in Calgary install lawn signs during the recent election”,”title”:”Folks in Calgary show their support for the CBC by installing lawn signs during the recent election”,”height”:”169″,”width”:”300″,”style”:”width: 300px; height: 169px;”,”class”:”media-element file-default”}}]]


Perhaps you noticed these lawn signs during the recent federal election?

Yes, through lawn signs, petitions and letters, many Canadian citizens – as individuals, union members or “friends” of the CBC – are pressuring the government to stop the cuts to and political attack on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

Wondering if such tactics work?  Let’s reflect back on the events that led to the founding of the CBC in 1936.

Following concern that the much larger American radio networks would overwhelm the fledgling radio stations being set up in Canada in the 1920s, the federal government established a Royal Commission on Radio Broadcasting, known as the Aird Commission. Chaired by the President of the Canadian Bank of Commerce John Aird, the Commission was mandated to examine the state of broadcasting in the country. In 1929 the Commission concluded that Canada was in need of a publicly funded radio broadcast system.  

But it was the work of a citizens group known as the Canadian Radio League that successfully lobbied for the creation of public broadcaster. Established by Graham Spry and Alan Plaunta in 1930, the League took the cause to the labour movement among others (such as farm groups, business associations, churches, the Legion, newspaper editors and university presidents) who could influence the government.

During public hearings into the future of broadcasting, the League urged the creation of a national public broadcasting system reflecting Canadians' identity to Canadians.  "The choice before the committee is clear," Spry affirmed during the hearings. "It is a choice between commercial interests and the people's interest. It is a choice between the state and the United States."

Thanks to the efforts of the Canadian Radio League, the Bennett government introduced the Canadian Broadcasting Act of 1932 establishing the publicly owned Canadian Radio Broadcasting Commission (CRBC). It took over five stations operated by the Canadian National Railway, and began to broadcast in English and French. In 1936 a new Canadian Broadcasting Act created the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC)/Radio-Canada as a crown corporation. It assumed CRBC function and built the broadcaster we know today.

The CBC needed a public pressure group to get founded, and throughout its history the public have mobilized to protest steep cuts from various federal governments. In 1930 and again in 1968 Spry used the League to apply political pressure. Over the decades similar efforts were made to pressure the government to maintain funding and support for the CBC in English Canada and Radio-Canada in Quebec and across Canada’s French communities.

The Radio League dissolved in the late 1980s. Midway through that decade, in 1985, the new Friends of Canadian Broadcasting began advocating for a strong CBC. For the past three decades this group, along with labour and other organizations, has continued to actively speak out in support of publicly owned and operated broadcasting of Canadian stories to Canadians.  

There is so much to be said about the importance of a public broadcaster for Canada and Canadian culture and democracy.  

VIDEO: Watch a 1961 interview with Graham Spry on The Canadian Radio League’s beginnings and role following the Aird report

For more, visit these external links

From the CBC: Discover the history of CBC/Radio-Canada through a look at the major milestones of each decade…

From the Canadian Encyclopedia: The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC)/Radio-Canada is one of the world's major public broadcasting organizations…

From the Friends of CBC: The mission of the Friends of Canadian Broadcasting is to defend and enhance the quality and quantity of Canadian programming​…