Skip navigation links (access key: Z)Library and Archives Canada / Bibliothèque et Archives CanadaSymbol of the Government of Canada
Français - Version française de cette pageHome - The main page of the Institution's websiteContact Us - Institutional contact informationHelp - Information about using the institutional websiteSearch - Search the institutional - Government of Canada website

Archived Content

This archived Web page remains online for reference, research or recordkeeping purposes. This page will not be altered or updated. Web pages that are archived on the Internet are not subject to the Government of Canada Web Standards. As per the Communications Policy of the Government of Canada, you can request alternate formats of this page on the Contact Us page.

BriefsReportTable of ContentReport IndexRoyal Commission on National Development in the Arts, Letters and SciencesRoyal Commission on National Development in the Arts, Letters and SciencesRoyal Commission on National Development in the Arts, Letters and Sciences

Previous pageNext page




A Report prepared for the Royal Commission

on National Development in the Arts,

Letters and Sciences


Charles A. Siepmann, New York University



This study was undertaken to elucidate:

  1. The general nature of the programme content of radio broadcasting in Canada, under the separate headings--
    a. Network operations: CBC-owned and private affiliated stations.
    b. Local broadcast operations: private, independent stations.

  2. Specific aspects of broadcasting, with special reference to--
    a. The incidence of programmes of serious and popular music.
    b. The incidence of recorded and transcribed programmes.
    c. The extent of controversy (i.e. many-sided discussion) in programmes.
    d. The nature and extent of programme services which, apart from news and sports, in any way reflect Canadian life.
    e. The extent of programmes originating outside Canada.
    f. The extent of sponsored and sustaining programmes.
    g. The bearing (if any) of sponsorship on programme content.
    h. Acceptance of network programmes by affiliated stations.

A refinement of the study was introduced to throw light on some of the above characteristics of programming not only in all day broadcasting but in the main evening listening hours from 6:00 to 11:00 p.m.

The findings of this report are based on analysis of replies to a questionnaire, seeking information on programmes broadcast throughout the week of April 3rd, to April 9th, 1949, sent by the Commission to every broadcasting station throughout the Dominion of Canada.

Questionnaire forms were returned by 118 stations. Eighteen returns were discarded because of irreconcilable statistics in the summary sheets which could not be accounted for and four were received too late for inclusion. Ninety-six questionnaires were thus available for analysis and constitute the basis of this study. With respect to the number, function and geographical location of the stations represented, these returns provide a more than adequate representative sample of broadcasting activities in Canada.



The following considerations suggest restrained interpretation of the findings:

  1. Pressure of time precluded a sample pre-test of the questionnaire in the light of which modifications might have been introduced to insure more precise and uniform responses from the stations.
  2. Remarks Column on the questionnaire was in many cases inadequately used to clarify the exact nature of programmes listed in the questionnaire. As a result ambiguity to some programme descriptions.
  3. In some instances variant definitions of the same programme were listed by different stations over which it was broadcast, leaving the analyst in doubt as to how to classify the programme. Thus, for example, a programme titled "Cross Section" was variously described by different stations as "Talk Informative," "Labor Discussion," "Drama," "Child Psychology," "Special Event," "Citizenship," and "Education." Another programme, titled, "Can You Top This?" was variously described as "Talk Informative," "Narrative," "Comedy," "Drama and Feature."
  4. Certain programme categories, even if we assumed (as we cannot) that they were uniformly defined by every station, are too broad for any precise meaning to attach to them. Thus, "semi-classical" music lends itself to equivocal interpretation. Drama, likewise, is a category comprising programmes ranging from Shakespeare to Soap Opera.
  5. The process of averaging out the performance of stations in any given category inevitably attenuates and distorts the distinctive attributes of the performance of any given station in the group. Such average figures must, therefore, be taken as broadly indicative of performance by the group as a whole and not as characteristic of any single station in the group.
  6. Fuller information on pertinent facts and considerations is needed before judgment can fairly be passed on aspects of any given station's performance which seem to invite critical comment.
  7. The week, chosen at random, as basis for the inquiry may have included and/or excluded programme material which, with respect to some specific item, makes of the week an a-typical sample of broadcasting over a more extended period.

Despite these qualifications, however, it is believed that the findings disclose characteristics of Canadian broadcasting which, broadly interpreted, may be held to be true and perhaps illuminating.


The report analyses the data under two main heads corresponding to the functional distinction between two main aspects of broadcasting in Canada. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, with its owned and affiliated stations, exists to provide, insofar as coverage permits, a varied and well balanced national service of programmes with emphasis on the fullest reflection of distinctive facets of Canadian life and culture. The function of local station operations, (whether over stations affiliated to CBC or over private, independent stations) is to supplement the national service with alternatives of programme choice over as wide a range of subject matter as is possible and with particular reference to the reflection of local life and talent. This functional distinction makes point by point comparison between the two groups not only odious but in large measure irrelevant. The programme resources available to the two groups vary in extent


and in nature, as does their function. It is for this reason that network broadcasting and local station operations are examined separately. Comparative statistics, for what they may be worth, are provided separately in Part III.


Our analysis follows what would seem the logical sequence of thought of one seeking to inquire into the nature of network broadcasting as this develops from (a) a schematic outline of programmes to be offered to the public through (b) the many ramifications of network organization to (c) its final outcome in terms of programmes heard by the listener. We begin, therefore, with the basic programme output of the three networks and seek to answer the question, what kind of a programme schedule is offered by CBC over its three networks. We proceed thereafter to examine the relation between the basic output of the three networks and the programmes actually carried by the various groups of affiliated stations of which each network is composed.


The following chart provides a breakdown by subject matter of the Master Program Schedules of the three Canadian networks (a) for all hours of broadcasting, and (b) for the period 6:00 to 11:00 p.m. This latter period has been chosen as that in which broadcasting musters the largest available audiences. We wish to reiterate the cautions and qualifications, referred to in the introduction, which must attach to interpretation of the facts and figures given below.

Notes and Comments:


On all three networks there appears to be even handed justice in the provision made for a wide range of programme categories. Consideration appears to be given to the interests of lesser majorities and major minorities of taste. Thus for instance, "talks" and "serious music" seem provided for in proportions more generous than might result from the findings of a public opinion poll. The intrinsic merits of a programme appear to be equated with its likely popularity.

Of all the programme categories, popular music occupies the highest percentage of available time (33.7% on Dominion, 24.6% on French and 23.6% on Trans-Canada.)

Second place is enjoyed by drama on Trans-Canada (17.6%) and on Dominion (18.5%), and by serious music (23.3%) on the French network.

On Trans-Canada the high percentage figure for drama is accounted for by the frequency of daytime serial dramas, which in the week under review amount to a total of eleven hours and fifteen minutes.


The high place (almost equivalent to that of light music) accorded to serious music on the French network is possibly accounted for by cultural characteristics peculiar to this region. With this single exception, what is striking is the general consistency between the Trans-Canada and French networks in their distribution of time available for different programme categories.


*The actual period of broadcasting over the Dominion network in the evening hours is 7:30 to 11:15 p.m.

In marked contrast to programme scheduling in the United States where, in the main evening hours, programmes tend to be sponsor-dominated and to concentrate on the major appetites of the majority listener, there is remarkable consistency between 6:00 and 11:00 p.m. with the all day pattern of broadcasting on the networks here under scrutiny. In the evening hours there appears to be a like concern for lesser majorities and major minorities of taste, while at the same time concessions are made in terms of programmes with broad popular appeal.

Thus, as compared with all day broadcasting a higher relative percentage of time is devoted to news, sports, and commentary (on Trans-Canada and the French networks +4.5%) and to variety (on Trans-Canada +3.7% and on the French network +5.7%.)

There are relatively less talks on the French network (-4.9%) and on both the French and Trans-Canada networks less classical music (Trans-Canada -4.2%, French network -4%.) (On the French network, however, there is also less light music than throughout the day (-5.6%). As a result, the amount of serious music of an evening actually exceeds that of light music.)

News on the French network is less than on Trans-Canada by 5%. This is perhaps accounted for by the distinction between the scope of news service required of a national and regional network.


A. Sign-on to Sign-off.
B. 6:00 - 11:00 p.m. (Dominion 7:30 - 11:15 p.m.)
Network News Sports Comment.% Talk% Music Serious% Music Popular% Variety%
Trans-Canada: All Day 15:1014.1 12:0011.2 17:2516.1 25:2023.6 9:158.6
6:00 - 11:00 p.m. 6:3518.8 3:4510.7 4:1011.9 7:3521.7 4:3012.8
7:30 - 11:15 p.m.
3:4012.4 3:4512.6 1:305.0 10:0033.7 4:3015.1
French: All Day 10:049.3 13:0012.0 25:0923.3 26:3024.6 10:159.3
6:00 - 11:00 p.m. 4:5013.8 2.307.1 6:4519.3 6:4019.0 5:1515.0
Network Drama% Relig.% Children% Education% Miscel.%
Trans-Canada: All Day 18:5517.6 2:152.0 3:153.0 2:452.6 1:00
6:00 - 11:00 p.m. 6:4019.0 1:304.3 ---- ---- ----
7:30 - 11:15 p.m.
5:3018.5 ---- :301.7 ---- :15
French: All Day 15:1514.1 3:002.8 2:152.0 :30.5 1:57
6:00 - 11:00 p.m. 5:0014.3 :301.4 1:153.6 ---- 1:57


In evening hours, as in the total broadcast schedule, there is a significant consistency between the general programme pattern of the French and Trans-Canada networks.

The Dominion network, on the other hand, appears to operate as something of a makeweight to the fare provided on Trans-Canada. Thus, only ninety minutes of serious music are offered in the entire week as compared with four hours and ten minutes on Trans-Canada. Light music, on the other hand, predominates in the evening hours, amounting to ten hours in the week, or 33.7% of total time. This contrasts with seven hours and thirty-five minutes, or 21.7%, on the Trans-Canada network.

Description of drama in the logs suggests a somewhat higher quality of drama on Trans-Canada in evening hours, no serial drama occurring between 6:00 and 11:00 p.m.

Conspicuous by its total absence--on all three networks--is controversy, in the sense of many-sided discussion of a public question. Conceivably the sample week chosen for study was unrepresentative in this regard.


Music was the only category which lent itself to analysis in which the qualitative aspects of a programme might be appraised. A very broad distinction between serious and light music was here possible. It will be noted that music programmes are thus differentiated in the preceding chart. Programmes listed as classical, semi-classical or religious music were grouped as "serious," while salon music, light orchestras and dance music were classified as "popular." The distinction is, of course, a crude one, and much music is undoubtedly included in the serious category which is unlikely to satisfy the tastes of the classical purist. Purism apart, however, fair provision for serious tastes in music seems made both on the Trans-Canada and French networks, though not on the Dominion.


Analysis of record programmes brings to light the following facts:

  1. One-fifth of total broadcast hours on Trans-Canada, and over one-third on the French network are devoted to record programmes.
  2. On only one network (French) do record programmes consist of anything but music.
  3. The percentage of total broadcast time devoted to record programmes between 6:00 and 11:00 p.m. is reduced to half that for all day broadcasting on the French and to less than one-third on Trans-Canada. On Dominion only one hour of record programmes occurs in the entire week.
  4. The percentage of record programmes on the French network exceeds that on Trans-Canada by some 15% throughout the day and by 10% between 6:00 and 11:00 p.m.
  5. The amount of serious recorded music on the French network is markedly higher than on other networks, both throughout the day and between 6:00 and 11:00 p.m.
  6. Notable on the Dominion and French networks is the even balance between serious and light music, as also, however, is the contrast between the percentage of total time which they devote to music.


Record Programmes (1) All Day, (2) 6:00 to 11:00 p.m. as
Percentage of Total Hours in Period Throughout the Week.
 Record Percentages of Total Hrs. in Period
Network Total Hours Broadcast Total Hours of Records Serious Music Popular Music Other Records Total
6-11 p.m.
All Day 107:2022:206.812.61.420.8
Dominion:* (approx.)
7:30-11:15 p.m.
6-11 p.m.
All Day 107:5537:5915.716.72.835.2

*The Dominion network is not listed for all day because its hours of broadcasting are confined to evening hours.


In addition to programmes of Canadian origin and of records, the basic output of the three networks includes programmes originating in the United States and in Great Britain.

a. Programmes of United States Origin.

The Trans-Canada network carries twenty-two hours a week of programmes originating in the United States.

The Dominion network carries eleven hours and fifteen minutes.

The French network carries seven hours (consisting entirely of serious and light music.)

Of a week's total of forty hours and fifteen minutes on the three networks combined, over one-third (14 ½ hours) is devoted to drama, of which daytime serials and mystery dramas comprise all but one hour. The only other sizeable category is that comprising serious and light music, totalling fifteen hours (five hours serious and ten hours light music.)

A breakdown by network and by subject matter is shown below.

Network Programmes, Live or Transcribed, of United States Origin.
(Figures indicate hours and minutes.)
TalksDramaMusic SeriousMusic PopularVariety
Trans-Canada 1:00:1511:302:002:155:0022:00
Dominion 1:00:303:00--3:453:0011:15
French ------3:004:00--7:00
Total 2:00:4514:305:0010:008:0040:15

b. Programmes of United Kingdom origin.

The Trans-Canada network carried two hours and fifty-five minutes of programmes originating in the United Kingdom. Thirty minutes consisted of education; two hours and twenty minutes consisted of news and news comment.

The Dominion network carried no programmes from the United Kingdom.


The French network included thirty minutes in the week, consisting of daily five-minute newscasts transmitted by the British Broadcasting Corporation.


A. Programme Output from Sign-on to Sign-off.

It is not wholly flippant to warn readers of the foregoing analysis of CBC networks' master program schedules that any resemblance between these and the output of the many individual stations (CBC owned 'Basic' stations excepted) of which the networks are composed is purely coincidental. This is accounted for by the inherent complexity of network broadcast operations and the functional differences in the service to the network between various station categories.

Among the many factors accounting for individual variations in programme output are:

  1. Differences of power and signal strength.
  2. Regional time zone and audience variations.
  3. Functional differences between stations in the 'Basic,' 'Group A,' and 'Group B' categories.
  4. The distinctive function of "pick-up" stations which in effect originate few or no programmes but constitute relay transmitters for networks' basic output.
  5. The exceptional status of a few stations which enjoy affiliation contracts with one or the other of the major United States networks.
  6. Variant periods during which different stations are 'on the air.'

Of major importance is the variant contractual relationship between the CBC and stations in different 'group' categories. Thus 'Basic Private' stations receive (though they do not necessarily carry) all network commercial and sustaining programmes and are required to reserve specified periods for the latter. 'Group A' stations receive "unrestricted network sustaining service and may be added for commercial network programmes upon request of a sponsor." (emphasis supplied.) They, too, have "special, reserved time schedules, usually totalling 50% in time of 'Basic' stations." Group B stations, on the other hand, (presumably because of line charge costs and/or the blanketing of their area by more powerful Basic or Group A stations) receive no sustaining service but may be added to the network for commercial programmes, upon a sponsor's request.

Thus the character of network programme service brought to listeners in different localities is not uniform. It cannot, need not and indeed should not, be so. The CBC provides, as it were, cafeteria service. We have previously examined what provender it has available at the counter, its basic "stock in trade." We proceed now to examine what different stations in different groups carry away on their several trays for consumption by their listeners and what supplementary fare they offer on their own.


What proportion of the programmes listed in the networks' master schedules actually reach listeners over the different stations of which networks are composed? The research for an answer to this question proved to be the most exacting in our entire study.

It soon became clear, for instance, that the questionnaire form was inadequately


set up to provide the necessary data. Thus, most CBC owned stations and a few private affiliated stations, not only carried network programmes originating elsewhere, but themselves made individual contributions to the master schedule. These contributions, however, were concealed in the questionnaire returns under the rubric 'local live.' It therefore became necessary to secure from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation supplementary data as to the extent of such contributions to network service by individual stations.

It also became clear that to calculate 'network acceptance' as a percentage of total broadcast hours offered no meaningful basis for comparison between the performance of different stations. For network programmes were available (even to stations within a single group) in varying amounts. (Some of the reasons for such variant service were explained in the preceding section.)

It was decided, therefore, that the only analysis that held any promise of illuminating results was one which brought to light the percentage of available network programmes which a given station actually chose to carry. The following chart provides evidence of this order.

Percentage of Available Network Programmes Carried by Station Groups.*
Group Number of
Average Percentage
Network Programmes
in Group
in Group
Private-Basic 1248.961.829.0
CBC-Group A 494.4100.096.5
Private-Group A 446.967.221.1
Private-Group B 2These stations receive only those commercials requested by sponsors.
Private-Basic 2172.9100.027.3
Private-Group A 361.786.918.6
Private-Group B 7These stations receive only those commercials requested by sponsors.
Private-Group A 351.356.944.3

*For detailed analysis of individual stations within groups, see Appendix A.

Notes and Comments:

a. The very high acceptance rate of network programmes over CBC owned stations, both Basic and Group A, is in marked contrast to that of private affiliated stations in comparable (or any other) groups. The consequent benefits to listeners are proportionate to the extent of coverage provided by these CBC stations.

b. The lowest average acceptance rate on any CBC owned group of stations is 81.5% (CBC Basic, French network.)

c. Noteworthy is the comparatively low average acceptance rate (less than 50%) on Private Basic stations, Trans-Canada. On six of the twelve stations in this group less than 50% of network programmes available were carried.

d. Very marked is the variant acceptance rate of individual stations within all


groups of Private stations except Group A, French network. The extreme example is on Private Group A Stations, Dominion network, where acceptance ranges from as low as 18.6% to 86.9%.

e. Failure to accept available network services would seem to affect particularly the reception of sustaining programmes by the listener, these constituting a high proportion of the total network services offered.

f. The bare facts disclosed by our analysis offered no clue as to the causes either of the low acceptance rates on certain stations or the wide variations of performance within groups. Presumably local circumstances and consideration of policy and profit enter into the equation.


'Local live' programmes are those in which a community can find scope for self-expression. It is in broadcasts of this kind that radio provides a stage on which local artistic talent may perform, a platform on which leaders of thought and action in the community may give voice, a forum where matters of common interest may be ventilated, discussed and disputed. Thus radio can be the means of ensuring that no member of a community (other than by deliberate choice) need be an 'idiot', in the original Greek sense of the word, i.e. one who takes no part or interest in community affairs.

The questionnaire returns gave the gross figures for time devoted by stations to such programmes. Only broadcasts in which 'artistic talent' was represented were shown separately. Scrutiny of the returns, however, early disclosed that much of 'local live' broadcasting consisted of news and sportscasts. These programmes, while indisputably local and of great local interest, nevertheless constituted a form of reporting rather than a direct form of self-expression. The community itself was not here articulating. A refinement of the returns was therefore thought desirable to distinguish local live broadcasting under three heads--

  1. News and sports
  2. Artistic Talent
  3. Other local live broadcasts, e.g., talks, discussions, etc. Stations' performance, according to this breakdown, is indicated in the chart below.

Local Live Programming as Percentage of All Hours Broadcast.
Group Number of
Other Total
CBC-Group A
Private-Group A
Private-Group B
Private-Group A
Private-Group B710.
Private-Group A


Notes and Comments:

The following would appear to be among the characteristics of local live broadcasting.

a. On the Dominion network stations there are more 'local live' programmes in each group than are carried on stations in comparable groups on either the Trans-Canada or the French network. This, however, is not surprising in view of the limited availability of network programmes (7:30 to 11:15 p.m.) to stations comprising the Dominion network.

b. The amount of local live broadcasting varies considerably. It ranges from less than one-tenth of total broadcast time (on CBC Group A stations, Trans-Canada) to just short of one-third of total broadcast time on Private Group B stations, Dominion.

c. A high percentage of the total time devoted to live broadcasting consists of news and sports. Only on stations in the French network does this amount to less than one-third of the total time devoted to live broadcasting. In one group (Private Group B stations, Trans-Canada) news and sports comprise more than half the time devoted to live broadcasting.

d. Local artistic talent is represented in varying proportions, ranging from an average of .2% (CBC Group A stations, Trans-Canada) to 9.9% (CBC Basic stations, French network) of all hours broadcast.

e. In no group of stations does local artistic talent occupy 10% of total broadcast time and in only three of the eleven station groups examined does it exceed 5%.

f. The nature of artistic talent is so varied as to defy detailed analysis but consists in the main of musical talent, mostly of a popular nature.

g. In only three out of the eleven station groups analyzed in the chart above is artistic talent anywhere but in the lowest place as compared with either news and sports or other types of local live programmes.

3. MUSIC.*

*The charts from which the following facts and figures are drawn appear in Appendix B.

Music programmes live and recorded, were studied with particular care because in every station group on each of the three networks they constitute by far the largest single component of broadcast output. Moreover, as in our analysis of the networks' master schedules, so here, too, music provided the only programme category which lent itself to qualitative analysis. The crude character of the distinction hereafter drawn between 'serious' and 'light' music needs, however, to be reemphasized. The large number of station logs examined (24) clearly involves the risk of widely variant interpretations of what the terms 'serious' and 'light' music mean. Moreover, where programme descriptions were ambiguous, a somewhat arbitrary decision as to the appropriate category was involved. It is our impression that much music has been described as 'serious' which would not satisfy lovers of so-called classical music. Nevertheless, if we concede the looseness of the definitions, some interesting aspects of programme organization emerge from the study.*

*'Basic' stations were excluded from our analysis as conforming more or less closely to their network's master schedule. The period examined is that from sign-on to midnight only. A few stations broadcast on a twenty-four hour basis. It was felt that the enumeration of music programmes after midnight would distort the representative character of the statistical findings.

Fourteen Group A stations and nine Group B stations were scrutinized to discover:

* From: Canada. Royal Commission on National Development in the Arts, Letters, and Sciences. Report. Ottawa : King's Printer, 1951. By permission of the Privy Council Office.

Previous pageNext page

Proactive Disclosure