Canada’s Radio Consciousness

How can radio be best utilized to inculcate national ideals and foster national unity?

ELTON JOHNSON October 15 1924

Canada’s Radio Consciousness

How can radio be best utilized to inculcate national ideals and foster national unity?

ELTON JOHNSON October 15 1924

Canada’s Radio Consciousness


How can radio be best utilized to inculcate national ideals and foster national unity?

WILL radio be a factor in the next general elections? Will this amazing invention for the entertainment and edification of thousands be put to political uses in this country to as great an extent as in the present United States presidential campaign? Logically, the answer should be “Yes.” But, as a matter of fact, and not theory, it is not so sure that Canadian politicians will follow the example set them by Coolidge, Davis and LaFollette.

In the United States, some broadcasting stations are reaping a harvest charging the politicians two hundred dollars for every ten-minute broadcast speech. If Canadian stations insist on making the orators pay for hurtling their propaganda through the unresisting air, it is mighty doubtful if they could get anyone to delve into the party chests for two hundred dollars for every six hundred second speech. Canadian party chests are never so liberally stocked as in the land of progress and propaganda to the South.

The majority of radio stations in Canada are owned by newspapers. Would not these dailies turn over their stations to the use of their own party candidates in the time of hectic elections as they do their own editorial columns? Would they not be glad to help the “cause” by broadcasting, free of charge, words of wisdom from orators on their side of the fence?

Not likely. Canadian radio stations have kept themselves free of propaganda of any sort. They zealously guard what goes out into the air—even censor typewritten copies of radio speeches. They know that radio fans do not want too many long speeches, particularly dealing with tariffs or taxes.

The exception will be found if the next campaign is a heated one and the issues involved have caught the imagination of the populace as a whole. In that case, I believe, many of the stations will broadcast the speeches of the leaders, possibly once or twice, free of charge. Many of them, moreover, may go further and allow more political broadcasting—at a price. But few stations would be willing to sacrifice the good-will they have so laboriously achieved by flooding the air with political speeches, no matter how much money is offered them.

In Quebec, they take their politics much more seriously thuk in most parts of Canada. The FrenchCanadians love a speech—especially an outburst of fiery political oratory. That is why CKAC, the broadcasting studio of La Presse, has broadcast more speeches by Canadian politicians to date than all the other Canadian stations put together.

As Jacques Cartier, the sagacious station director, says: “This station has tried to broadcast as many political meetings as possible in order to stimulate the sales of radio to country folks. French-Canadians are keen politicians and they will spend anything to hear their pet orators.”

For probably the first time in Canada, radio recently played a role in a political by-election. It was down in Montreal, in St. Antoine, where the Liberal Government held its seat in the face of determined opposition. La Presse broadcast several of these political meetings. At various times, it has broadcast speeches by Hon. Arthur Meighen, Dr. S. F. Tolmie, Dr. R. J. Manion, Premier L. A. Taschereau of Quebec, and Premier G. H. Feguson of Ontario.

When the Right Hon. Mackenzie King and members of his cabinet returned from the Imperial Conference in England a year ago, La Presse broadcast speeches by the Premier, Hon. George Graham, Hon. Sir Lomer Gouin and others which were delivered at a monster mass meeting held in the Montreal drill hall.

The consensus of opinion seems to be that during the next general elections broadcasting stations occasionally will broadcast, from their own studios, short speeches by the front-rank statesmen. Some stations will charge—some will not. What will be done much more frequently is this—whenever big political rallies are held in the same city as the broadcasting station, a telephone line will be run into the hall and the entire evening of speeches and songs will be broadcast by the “remote control” system.

Sermons for Shut-Ins

'~pHE chief objection to the broadcasting of political oratory is the belief on the part of some program managers that radio fans do not want to listen to long speeches. Every station director, however, makes an exception, even now, with regard to church services. There are few stations in Canada to-day which do not broadcast at least one entire church service every Sunday.

Not every radio fan appreciates these lengthy services of praise, prayer and preaching, but there are enough people to whom this type of broadcasting has tremendous appeal to convince the broadcasters of their value. Every Monday, these radio stations receive sheaves of letters from aged folk, the sick and invalids—shut-ins who were not able to attend service but who heard everything as clearly and as beautifully as if they had been in church.

CFCA (Toronto Star) broadcasts a church service every Sunday evening and the ministers whose sermons are thus heard by thousands of shut-ins are enthusiastic over the results achieved. As the Rev. W. A. Cameron says: “There is no doubt about it, radio can be made a wonderful agency for spreading the Gospel.”

Hospitals throughout the country are installing radio equipment for their patients. The largest of these installations is at the Mount Hamilton Sanitorium where 350 head sets are used, a pair hanging at every patient’s bedside. These shut-ins appreciate the church broadcasts particularly.

Evangelistic campaigns have been broadcast as well as regular church services. In Winnipeg recently, Dr. R. A. Torrey conducted revival services and these were broadcast by CKY. Dr. Torrey, in thanking the station for placing its facilities at his disposal, stated that he had learned, through letters, that he had achieved at least three conversions by his radio sermons. It has been prophesied time and again that radio would do away with hundreds of country pastors. It has been stated that small churches, many of them inevitably served by pastors who were not brilliant orators, would prefer to listen to a great preacher, speaking in a city temple, whose words would be made clear in the little rural church by means of a loud speaker. But there has been no actual indication of such a revolution, although a few churches on the western prairies are using radio-cast sermons as an addition to the regular sermons of their own ministers.

Rev. A. A. McIntyre, editor of the Canadian Churchman, recently devoted his entire editorial page to a discussion of “The Church and Radio.” He stated: “We believe

that the Radio is one of God’s most wonderful gifts toyman. When we read this: T am helpless and blind and the only way I can hear any religious service is by radio,’ we cannot but express our thankfulness that this blessing has come into the world.”

But Dr. McIntyre does not believe that the time will come when people will stay at home and listen to a preacher of world-importance via radio instead of going to his regular church and hearing his own minister.

“We cannot feel,” he says, “that any real good will come of the effort (in effect, if not intention) to supplant the Sunday worship of God in His Own House. Not that there is any real danger of losing the Church-going people. Those who have resisted the lure of the motor car to take them out into the world on Sundays in summer will resist the lure of the radio to bring the world (or the Church) to them on Sundays. What we lament is the organized effort on the part of zealous and alert Christians to make the Church reach the non-Church goers by means of the radio. You may arouse their curiosity for a while but you cannot ‘get’ them that way; you simply put a premium on selfindulgence.”

Jazz and Lectures

ASTART has been made by a few stations in Canada to educate the people as well as entertain them by means of radio. CKY, the station of the Manitoba telegraph system at Winnipeg, has led the way in this respect—many other Canadian stations have done little or nothing but broadcast music—jazz and semiclassical.

For months, now, this Winnipeg station has been broadcasting weekly educational lectures. These have been delivered, largely, by professors of the University of Manitoba and have covered a great variety of subjects, from architecture to zoology. Professors from the Agricultural College in Winnipeg delivered a series of twelve lectures of popular appeal to prairie listeners. “Teeth and Health” was the general subject of a course of ten lectures delivered by doctors representing the Manitoba Dental Association.

CKY, moreover, last year tried the experiment of broadcasting lessons in French. These were graded and anyone who followed them closely made considerable progress in learning this language. The great advantage of such a course is_ that the student acquires the pronunciation at the same time that he learns the rudiments of grammar. So successful was the course that it will be continued this winter. In addition, this Winnipeg station will give lectures on Esperanto, which was chosen this Fall by the American Radio Relay League as the official international radio language.

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The time is going to come—and it is not so far distant as most people imagine —when we in Canada will be listening, more or less regularly, to programs broadcast from England and France. Radio in Europe has already become an international affair and as a result a tremendous impetus has been given to the almost forgotten subject of Esperanto.

These experiments in education by this Winnipeg station—practised also by a few other broadcasters—have been steps in the right direction. Those who think that radio fans are jazz crazy are wrong. There are thousands of fans—• particularly in the small towns and country districts—who want something more than an orchestra from their loud speaker. They want news stories, often with bright Interpretations; they want interesting talks on science, politics, religion, history and literature—as short and as interesting as these talks would be if passed for publication by the city editor of a daily or Sunday newspaper. Of course they want music—orchestra selections, comic songs, rag-time ditties, operatic arias, violin selections—but they do not want every station in the country at all hours to be broadcasting nothing but this music.

This is a problem which is facing broadcasting stations to-day. It cannot be solved by Canadian stations only, because nine-tenths of the radio fans in this Dominion hear three or four times as many United States stations as Canadian. Few fans, no matter in what part of Canada they live, can regularly pick up more than three or four different Canadian stations; any fan with a good set can “log” a score of American stations.

IT IS being suggested that all the great broadcasting stations of Canada and the United States should get together and arrange programs in co-operation with one another. One station would specialize in classical and semi-classical music; another in popular songs; another in dance music and still another in lectures, addresses and news. Others could feature regularly fiction, or humor, or educational talks. Each station would achieve a reputation for one specialty and stations could exchange these specialities every three months, in order to give no station a premium on popularity.

The advent this year of the Canadian National Railways as radio broadcasters has given considerable variety to Canadian programs. The clanging of the big railway bell which proceeds C.N.R. programs may be heard all through the country—in every province, in every city, in every village. Nine radio stations in Canada are now broadcasting radio programs, prepared and operated by the National Railways radio organization.

Of these nine stations, only one—the one at Ottawa—is owned exclusively by the C.N.R. The other eight are regular broadcasting stations which are rented or loaned to the C.N.R. for one or more evenings each week. These stations are in Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg, Edmonton, Calgary (two), Saskatoon and Regina.

Two more stations are to be built. The one at Moncton, the eastern terminus of the railway, is well started and will be in operation soon. The other is at Vancouver and will be started this winter. Both will be as powerful as the new Ottawa station, recognized as one of the best transmitting outfits in America.

Radio has heen taken by the C.N.R. right into their hotels and trains. Seven of the hotels managed or operated by this company are equipped with radio receiving sets and guests listen to the news of the day and the music of the night. There are at present fourteen compartment-library-observation cars in the trans-continental service equipped with receiving sets, and also one parlor car on the Quebec run.

These cars are all equipped with a number of pairs of head phones as well as a loud speaker, so that should there be any objections by a passenger to the use of the loud speaker, the head phones may be used.

Between Montreal, Toronto and Winnipeg, it is a frequent occurrence for the operator on these cars to pick up at least nine different stations in an evening. In the Rocky Mountains, Seattle and Portland provide worth-while concerts. Through the prairies, all the Western Canadian stations are heard as well as some from the States directly to the South. Through Northern Ontario, some of the stations caught are: Zion City, Chicago, Hastings, Nebraska, Schenectady, Cleveland, Boston, New York and Pittsburgh. The Toronto station, however, is seldom heard west of Cochrane.

THE Prince of Wales, en route to the E.P. Ranch in Alberta toward the end of September, was regaled by concerts and news at intervals during the train journey. By arrangement with the London Times and Canadian newspapers, the world’s news was received through the loud speaker in the observation car and the Prince enjoyed the experience thoroughly. The Heir to the Throne is as great a radio fan as his father. King George, who “listens in,” according to rumor, many an evening at Buckingham Palace or Windsor.

Radio during the past two years has become almost as prolific a source of jests for the professional joke-maker as prohibition, golf or bobbed hair. We have read much about radiomaniacs and radio widows. More than one woman, not in Canada, you may be sure, has appealed for divorce on the ground that her husband ignored her for his radio set and never came to bed until all hours of the morning.

But these are freak cases. Radio does not destroy, but builds up, the happiness of the home. Radio is an indoor entertainment which can be, and is, enjoyed by the women-folk and the children equally with the man of the house. Reduction in cost, improvement in clarity and tone and simplification in operation are the three features which are converting family after family, as families, into enthusiastic groups of radio fans.

That radio will have an important influence in moulding and changing Canadian home life will be admitted. But will radio have anything to do with our national consciousness? Will it serve to unite or dis-unite the several provinces and communities in this Dominion? Will it increase or diminish our national patriotism?

Radio has a broadening influence. The man who can swing from Cleveland to New York to Montreal and to Zion City in five minutes must inevitably lose some of his narrow-minded, parochial instincts. But with our present standards of transmitting equipment in Canada, radio is doing very little to increase national unity.

A radio fan in Toronto hears Montreal and Winnipeg only on rare occasions, particularly the Western station. Montreal hears Toronto fairly well but rarely the Western provinces. Winnipeg fans can tune in on all the prairie and Alberta stations as well as those in the United States but do not often pick up Vancouver. Down in the Maritimes, the fans are fairly well limited to their own stations, a few Quebec ones, and the Eastern States. This is the regular order of events. Freak cases are the ones emphasized in the newspapers.

The result is that the Ontario fan, as far as radio edification goes, retains his Ontario point of view with only an occasional interruption from speakers and artists in other provinces. So it is with the fans of every other province and so it will be until our present broadcasting equipment is tremendously improved or until re-broadcasting on short-wave lengths is more generally introduced.

If radio is not increasing our national unity, it is certainly throwing us all the more under United States influence. Just as it is a tremendous pity that American magazines flood our book shops and news stands, that American news is given so much prominence in our newspapers and that American-made photo-dramas monopolize our moving-picture houses, so it is unfortunate that nine out of ten radio fans in Canada will pick up more American than Canadian stations almost every evening in the week. A dozen front-rank Canadian stations manned by newspapers, manufacturing companies :and by the National Railways are making a gallant fight to provide Canadians with •Canadian radio education and entertainment. They should be encouraged.