THEY CALL HIM the Czar of radio, but he doesn’t like it.
Yet the wires from every microphone and from every one of our 770,000 radio sets are tied, figuratively, into his desk at Ottawa.
He is Hector Charlesworth, Chairman of the Canadian Radio Commission, chief administrator of the statute enacted by Parliament in 1932 nationalizing broadcasting.
He sits in a ministerial suite at Ottawa, looks ill at ease behind a glass-topped mahogany desk. His bulky frame completely hides the chair beneath him. His massive head is sunk between broad shoulders.
The Commission made its début to the radio public in the Empire Christmas broadcast. Since then other programmes of lesser importance have been sponsored, but development, of necessity, is gradual. In fact, only now is Mr. Charlesworth in a position to appreciate the problems of broadcasting, to define in a general way the policies which will govern its development. Only now can Mr. Charlesworth speak with confidence on, “What I hope to do with the radio.”
British and U. S. Programmes
MONEY is an essential consideration. The statute declares that the Commission must be supported out of revenue from radio licenses. Even so, the Commission is not the first charge on this revenue. First, there is the cost of collection. Then there is the cost of the radio branch of the Marine Department, which controls ship-to-shore broadcasting and operates several stations in the Northland. The balance goes to the Commission.
Last year Parliament voted $400,000, being the residue of 1931 collections, and this money was placed at the disposal of the Commission shortly after its creation, October 6, 1932.
The Commission’s share of 1932 revenue will be approximately $1,000,000, and this will be voted by Parliament this spring. It sounds like a lot of money, but, stacked up against the cost of operating a
organizing programmes, paying artists, it is not impressive. Radio licenses are now two dollars, and many are advocating higher fees to enable the Commission to get ahead with its work. Parliament recommended construction of several high-power broadcasting stations and many less powerful stations at various points throughout the country.
Asked if this programme will be carried out, Mr. Charlesworth said:
“To be quite frank, we don’t know yet exactly what we will do. That, however, is the general plan. In my view, the times are not propitious for large capital expenditures. Maybe, later on, we will have our own stations, but it will take several years to reach that point. As to licenses, I am opposed to raising fees this year. When we are able to give real programmes, I do not think a cent a day will be too much for radio owners to pay —say three dollars instead of two.”
Meantime, with the construction programme temporarily shelved, the Commission is proceeding vigorously to build up the physical equipment for national broadcasting. It is hoped that by March, at the latest, the Commission will have leased transcontinental wires for one hour per day, maybe more if pending negotiations can be completed. Which raises the fundamental problem confronting all radio operators: What sort of programmes will the National Commission sponsor? Will Mr. Charlesworth seek only to please, or to instruct, or to do both? Will he accept programmes from private broadcasting stations? Will he import programmes from Britain or the LTnited States? Will he pay to have his programmes broadcast by private stations? Can he find talent in Canada to measure up to the demand of the radio public? Will he
strive to model Canadian broadcasting on the British or the United States pattern?
Mr. Charlesworth’s answers were clear cut.
The Commission, as a rule, will not accept privately sponsored programmes. Mr. Charlesworth and his staff will originate their own programmes, national and regional. Private stations will not be paid to broadcast Commission programmes. The programmes will be given to these stations without charge.
The Canadian broadcasting system will not be modelled upon the British or the United States plan. The B. B. C., while possessing many features that will be adopted, is not really suitable for Canada. For one thing, the British Isles operate on Greenwich time, while there is a time spread of four hours between Halifax and Vancouver. Britain possesses a compact population with a unity of interest. Canada has a scattered population with a diversity of interests. Canada has two languages and, in Canada, it is impossible to obtain a monopoly of the air. For these reasons, many of the B. B. C. methods cannot be applied to Canada.
Nor does the United States broadcasting system appeal to Mr. Charlesworth. He points out that advertising control over there has been relaxed. There is a noticeable let-down in the enforcement of regulations. He does not propose to follow the example of the United States in this regard.
Continued on page 48
Continued from page 13
As to importation of programmes, Mr. Charlesworth intends to bring in British programmes as often as possible. These transatlantic broadcasts cost money and require the co-operation of the B. B. C., but every effort will be made to give the Canadian public the best that British broadcasting offers.
And so with United States programmes.
“Some of them,” said Mr. Charlesworth, “are the finest in the world. The New York Philharmonic Symphony orchestra is an example. The best of their programmes no other country can touch ; the worst no other country wants to touch. And the best of the American programmes are those in which advertising has no voice. The Commission intends, when finances permit, to lift some of these splendid programmes and carry them across Canada.”
The Theatre of the Air
HAS CANADA the talent to furnish firstclass radio entertainment ? Mr. Charlesworth answers, “Yes and no.” There are two kinds of entertainment—music and the spoken word.
“We are rich in musical talent,” he said, “and the Commission will make the best use of it. We have seven orchestras—two at Montreal, one at Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary, Regina and Winnipeg. There are smaller orchestras at Edmonton, Hamilton and other centres. They may not be classed as great symphony orchestras, but they are suitable for effective broadcasting.” Moreover, Mr. Charlesworth will seek to get the best from Canadian talent.
“Advertising,” he declares, “has hurt radio programmes. When you put your broadcasting in the hands of advertisers, you no longer depend upon the good taste of the artist but upon the taste of the advertiser. Instead of the artist selecting his own programme, the advertiser’s agent selects it. We are not going to interfere with artists. We are not going to insist upon every orchestra playing‘The Blue Danube,‘nor are we going to insist upon every artist singing ‘Love’s Old Sweet Song.’ We will allow latitude to the orchestra conductors and to the artists.”
The crux of the radio problem, however, is not in the building of stations, the leasing of wires, or the furnishing of splendid programmes of music. It is more subtle, more elusive.
“Our problem,” said Mr. Charlesworth, “is what I term the ‘theatre of the air’.” By that he means the creative element, plus radio technique essential to the broadcasting of good drama.
“The problem is wholly different to the
stage,” he continued. “You must create pictures through the ear. You cannot rely upon facial expression, gesture, make-up. scenery. You cannot entirely rely upon dialogue. You must devise a new technique, and very little has been done in this regard on this continent. The B. B. C. has done better. They have ‘air versions’ of many good plays—some of Shakespeare, ‘Milestones,’ ‘The Silver King’ and others. The Commission intends to borrow these plays and put them over in Canada. I am confident we can find the talent. The Little Theatre movement is producing excellent material for radio drama. I am equally confident that we will find Canadian authors with the talent to write original Canadian sketches for the radio. This will be a gradual development, but the Commission will not be satisfied until progress is being made.”
Purely educational broadcasts, usually the product of small stations, will be encouraged by the Commission. This kind of broadcasting is regarded as highly important, but the Commission has no intention of putting on national educational broadcasts unless the subject is of supreme importance.
Finally there is the problem of censorship. The responsibility in this connection is one that Mr. Charlesworth cannot evade. The statute thrusts it upon him. The Commission must pass upon the license of every broadcasting station, must maintain supervision of programmes.
“The public is looking to the Commission for reasonable censorship,” said Mr. Charlesworth. “But we don’t really censor. We offer advice and make recommendations. Many impracticable forms of censorship are being suggested. Professors and educationalists are urging the Commission to edit private programmes and improve the English of announcers. In Quebec, a definite movement is afoot to banish vulgar forms of P'rench. The Commission is not highbrow. We will do our best to achieve better standards of English and French, but censorship of this sort is not really practicable.”
Other forms of censorship, however, are already in operation. Patent medicine continuity must now be submitted to Ottawa, where it is gone over by the Federal Department of Health. Quackery is being eliminated.
Censorship, however, is not one of Mr. Charlesworth’s chief interests. He is interested primarily in the upbuilding of a national system of broadcasting, the development of Canada’s musicians and vocalists, in the providing of high-class entertainment for radio listeners. Above all, he covets for this country success in that new field, the “theatre of the air.”
How to Store Potatoes
POTATOES keep better in storage if they are kept comparatively warm for the first few days, according to recent findings of the Cornell University Experiment Station. Three years of tests have shown that nearly half the losses by rots and much of the water losses are obviated by keeping the temperature at about sixty-five degrees Fahrenheit, for the first ten days in storage, but the customary practice is to hold the
temperature at forty degrees Fahrenheit. The reason for the reduction in losses at the higher initial temperature lies in the fact that the thickening and toughening of the skin are hastened. As the greatest losses in weight of stored potatoes are due to losses of water, the thickened skin reduces this loss early in the season. After the first few days of warm temperatures, the usual cool temperatures should be maintained.— Scientific American.
The story you want is part of the Maclean’s Archives. To access it, log in here or sign up for your free 30-day trial.
Experience anything and everything Maclean's has ever published — over 3,500 issues and 150,000 articles, images and advertisements — since 1905. Browse on your own, or explore our curated collections and timely recommendations.WATCH THIS VIDEO for highlights of everything the Maclean's Archives has to offer.