1920 to 1950
Educational broadcasting in Canada developed at both the provincial and federal levels, with ongoing tensions between the two jurisdictions. Education has historically been the constitutional responsibility of the provinces, broadcasting of the federal government.
Alberta’s role in public/educational broadcasting goes back the furthest, to 1927, when radio station CKUA was licensed to the University of Alberta’s Department of Extension. In 1944 the Department of Telephones was authorized to purchase and operate the station with the university retaining the licence and providing the programming for a certain number of hours each day. Attempts by the province to become directly involved in broadcasting were effectively ended in 1946 when the federal government stated that since broadcasting was the sole responsibility of the Dominion government broadcasting licences would not be issued to other governments or to corporations owned by other governments.
In Nova Scotia, in 1928 the Department of Education began producing weekly two-hour radio programs for schools, in association with Halifax station CHMS, offering subjects that included English, French, History, Music and Drama, directed by Jerry Redmond Performers were often drawn from the Halifax Theatre Arts Guild, and J Frank Willis and his brother Austin were among the actors who participated. The programming was not curriculum oriented, but was intended to supplement what the teachers were doing in class.
Educational broadcasts on radio began in B.C. in 1940, following the Carnegie Foundation’s donation to the B.C. Department of Education of a $5000 grant to study the use of broadcasting in rural education. This resulted in the creation of a School Broadcasting department, under the direction of Kenneth Caple, to create radio programming suitable for Grades 1 through 8. The CBC provided the studios and crews, while the D of E handled the creative elements, including the scripts and the performers. Printed schedules and teachers’ aids were distributed to supplement the broadcasts. Five hours of programming were produced each week, on subjects that included music, science, and history. The service later expanded to offer programming to western provinces as far east as Winnipeg.
The history of educational radio in Ontario is the history of CJRT-FM. It began operating in 1949 as a part of the Announcing and Radio Production course at the newly established Ryerson Institute of Technology in Toronto (now Ryerson University). But the station was licensed also as an educational service to schools and the general public. Ryerson held the licence up to 1972, and CJRT was funded as a special budget item within the framework of the general university budget.
In Quebec, as early as 1945 the government recognized the need to use electronic communications to serve its provincial purposes. On March 2 1945 a bill concerning radio broadcasting was introduced to the legislature. Because of federal jurisdiction over broadcasting this would have created a serious dispute. However, nothing happened between 1945 and 1968.
The CBC began broadcasting formal educational radio programs in 1942, under the guidance of a national advisory council on school broadcasts. These were instructional programs tied directly to provincial curricula. All were produced in co-operation with educational authorities in the various provinces, in order to reflect the constitutional position regarding the division of powers between the federal and provincial governments.
1950s and 1960s
At the request of the advisory council, experimental educational television broadcasts began in 1954. Five provinces were involved with the CBC (Nova Scotia, Quebec, Ontario, Saskatchewan, and Alberta). These television broadcasts, as with radio, were designed to be used by students and teachers in the classroom, and were instructional or formal educational programs, tied directly to provincial curricula.
In Ontario, the Metropolitan Educational Association (META) was formed in Toronto in 1959. Its objective was to use television broadcasting to serve the educational needs of the Toronto area, which it did through the purchase of time on local stations. By 1960 formal university courses began to appear, initially offered via CBLT in Toronto (French) and CHCH in Hamilton (Biology). As well as general interest informal educational program series such as Two For Physics and The Nature of Things, CBC television presented on the English network approximately sixty half hours each year for in-school use. As well, the CTV television network presented a yearly series of half-hour programs, called University of the Air, broadcast each week day morning from mid-September to mid-June. And during the early 1960s closed circuit television began to be used to connect origination studios to classrooms and laboratories within university campuses.
In the spring of 1961 META requested that the federal broadcasting regulator, then the Board of Broadcast Governors, reserve Channel 19 in Toronto for educational purposes. This was approved. In May of 1965 the Ontario Minister of Education announced the establishment of an educational television section within the Curriculum Branch of his Ministry. Its objective was to co-ordinate plans for educational television. In March of 1966 the Department of Education applied to the BBG for a licence for an educational television station. The BBG replied that it would hear the application on condition that the federal government approve the granting of a licence to a provincial government. The federal government refused. However, a compromise was worked out and in November 1969 an agreement was reached between the CBC and the Ontario government that allowed the CBC to apply to the new regulatory agency, the CRTC, for a broadcasting licence on behalf of the Ontario Department of Education.
Although the present form of Tele-Quebec dates from 1979, it began in 1968 as L’Office de la radio de Quebec. In the beginning Radio-Quebec was not a broadcaster at all but an audio-visual production house making audio-visual materials for government departments and agencies. In late 1969 its mandate was expanded from production to distribution of its materials by the most appropriate means.
In Alberta, CARET (the Calgary and Regional Educational Television Association) was incorporated in 1967 and utilized closed-circuit channels from the Instructional Television Fixed Service Band to transmit programs to 25 Calgary locations. MEETA (the Metropolitan Edmonton Educational Television Association) was also incorporated in 1967. In 1968 MEETA applied for Canada’s first ETV broadcasting licence. The application, for channel 11, was based on a desire to serve the whole community with open-circuit broadcasting. A compromise was reached in 1969 and a license granted to the CBC to broadcast French-language programming, and a schedule of programs from MEETA.
Memorial University in Newfoundland has been an active centre in the Atlantic region since the 1960s in the production and distribution of educational television programs. Its Educational Television Centre has produced programs for closed-circuit use on campus, for outside use via the university’s continuing education division, and has pioneered in using television for distance education and teleconferencing. Since the early 1960s Nova Scotia’s Department of Education was involved in providing educational television programs to teachers and students in classrooms throughout the province. Production facilities were owned by the CBC and, beginning in 1974, by the Department of Education, have been used for the production of these programs. Video tapes were delivered to cable operations in the province and teachers scheduled them for their own convenient classroom use. To a lesser extent, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick have also used video tape and film to provide educational programs in classrooms.
During this period there was a great deal of interest and activity in the development of a national educational television service. With the Broadcasting Act of 1968, the Board of Broadcast Governors (BBG) was replaced by the Canadian Radio-Television Commission (CRTC). Very quickly the Commission became involved in the issue of educational broadcasting. In March of that year the Secretary of State introduced Bill C-179 for the establishment of the Canadian Educational Broadcasting Agency. This agency was to hold licences, operate educational broadcasting facilities, and negotiate with provincial authorities for their use. The provincial authorities were to have responsibility for production and programming with the federal authorities retaining responsibility for the transmission facilities. In November of 1969, under pressure from the provinces, the bill was withdrawn. But it was especially the situation in Quebec that killed the bill. A provincial election was held in March 1969. The new Premier introduced the Quebec Broadcasting Bureau Act. In effect, this bill served to update an unused 1945 Act that constituted Radio-Quebec. The powers conferred on the Bureau under the Act, which passed in October 1969, were broader than those proposed in the federal Bill C-179. The withdrawal of the federal bill effectively ended this phase of the movement for a national educational television service.
While educational television was developing in both Ontario and Alberta through the purchase of time on existing broadcasting stations, both federal and provincial officials foresaw the need for a full channel. Encouraged by Quebec’s initiative in moving to establish a provincially owned and operated service, Ontario and Alberta pressured the federal government to change its policy of not issuing broadcasting licenses to provincial governments or their agents. A resolution to this impasse was not found until 1972, but an interim agreement was reached whereby educational television facilities were provided under a special agreement with the CBC, and provincial educational communications authorities provided the programming. In addition, as broadcasting receiving undertakings (mainly cable services) were brought under the regulatory power of the CRTC, they were obliged to make at least one channel available for educational programming. These two items were spelled out in federal Order-in-Council 1970-496 to the CRTC, as was the agreed upon definition of educational programming, which allowed provincial educational television to develop successfully in the 1970s.
This was the decade that saw the development and the success of provincial educational television, highlighted certainly by TVOntario and Radio-Quebec.
On January 30 1970 the CRTC approved the licence to the CBC to act as an agent for the ETV branch of the Ontario Ministry of Education. With this approval, Channel 19 was to become the first UHF channel in Canada. Bill C-43, the Act to establish the Ontario Educational Communications Authority (OECA) was introduced to the provincial legislature in March 1970 and passed in June. A provincial Authority, for the purpose of carrying out educational broadcasting, was a precedent in Canada and set the pattern for provincial educational broadcasting. It reflected the constitutional delegation of powers between the federal and provincial governments; the CBC was to build and operate a transmitter while the OECA was to be in charge of programming within the agreed upon definition, as elucidated in federal Order-in-Council 1970-496 to the CRTC. Channel 19, CICA in Toronto, began broadcasting on September 27 1970.
While the full definition of educational programming seemed somewhat long-winded, its genius was to place the definition, and what makes the programming distinctly different from that broadcast on the conventional television services, in the context within which the programming was presented, rather than the nature or format of the programs themselves. And it was the programming taken as a whole, within the whole context of the service, that made it educational. This allowed the educational television services to use any format, any type of program, since the authorities decided what the context should be. This, in turn, allowed provincial educational television to break out of a boring, lecture-format ghetto and develop entertaining and competitive broadcast schedules. This brought great criticism and opposition from many conventional broadcasters who wanted educational television to be boring and not competitive, especially around the use of movies, but the right of the provincial authorities to decide what was educational, within the definition, was always upheld by the CRTC.
In 1972 a landmark step was taken that allowed the OECA to apply for a broadcasting licence on its own behalf. By virtue of the federal Order-in-Council (PC1972-1569) certain exceptions were allowed in the new class of broadcast licences. While “Agents of Her Majesty in right of province” could still not hold a licence, an “independent corporation” could. A provincial Order-in-Council (OC2314/73) in 1973 officially identified the OECA as the “provincial authority” for the purpose of the Direction to the CRTC contained in the federal Order-in-Council.
The OECA was a Crown corporation that reported to the provincial legislature through a Minster. Policy was made by the independent Board of Directors appointed by the Lieutenant Governor-in-Council but there was no direct government involvement in policy or programming decisions. Distribution of programs on video tape and their utilization in classrooms across the province was always a major service of the OECA. In April of 1973 the first VIPS (Video Program Service) catalogue was published. Over the years, with the development of new electronic technologies the OECA became involved in multi-media production, marketing and utilization. Since its inception, a foremost objective of the Authority was to extend the TVOntario service to all parts of the province. The first extension of service was in 1973. Other areas followed, via VHF transmitters when they were available, UHF when they were not. Packages of programs sent to cable systems were also used.
The TVOntario broadcast service, from 1973 on, became a popular and valuable broadcasting service in the province. With a mix of British drama, classic movies, excellent documentaries and intelligent talk shows, as well as the best children’s programs available anywhere, TVO became over the years a greatly appreciated public broadcasting service for a substantial number of Ontario citizens. French-language programming was always an important, if comparatively small, part of the TVO broadcast schedule. The interest in such programming by the Franco-Ontario community led to the licensing and operation of a separate service, TFO, during the 1980s. Although the OECA allowed program sponsorship, or underwriting, with appropriate credits, neither the English nor the French services carried advertising. Funding came from yearly government grants, some specific funding, program underwriting, on-air solicitation campaigns and the sale of programs.
CJRT-FM went through a more difficult evolution during the 1970s. In 1972 the Ministry of Colleges and Universities changed the nature of its funding to Ryerson, and made no allowance for the radio station. The result was an announcement in March 1973 that CJRT would cease operations on June 1. This began a flurry of political activity to save the station. On December 3 1973 the Premier announced that the government had decided to establish CJRT-FM as a separate and independent corporation. The CJRT-FM Inc. Corporation was formed in November 1974. It was a private, non-profit corporation with no share capital. It had its own, independent, Board of Directors.
The Board was responsible for fund-raising, which could be done via on-air solicitation, program underwriting, donations, or other means. However, unlike the OECA, there were no yearly government grants. It was licensed by the CRTC as a non-commercial, educational station, in the “Classical-Fine Arts” music format. While it did provide some university-level courses through its Open College, its program schedule consisted mostly of classical and jazz music, with some news and commentary, and other talk programs.
Radio-Quebec (later Tele-Quebec) described itself as l’autre television, the alternative television. This was meant to distinguish it from the other television services available in Quebec, but also to distinguish it from the other provincial educational broadcasting services in Canada. While it adhered to the concept of educational programming in a general sense, it did not feel the need to be bound by any federally imposed definition, or to clutter up its programming objectives with much of any type of context. While it saw itself as educational in the broadest sense, education was seen as part of culture, and so its major objective was to reflect, to participate in, and to influence the culture of Quebec.
By 1972 the service began to distribute a schedule of television programs directly into cable facilities in Montreal, Quebec City, and later Hull. In 1975 two UHF television stations were established in Montreal and Quebec City. A third was established in western Quebec in 1977. This expanded over the years, with the use of satellite distribution to transmitters and direct to cable throughout the province.
The mandate of Tele-Quebec, or more formally the Societé de radio-television du Quebec (SRTQ), was to reflect the culture of Quebec in all of the province’s regional aspects. Its major directions were defined by a Board of Directors appointed by the Lieutenant Governor-in-Council. From the beginning of its broadcasting service in the mid-1970s Tele-Quebec had developed its own version of educational television broadcasting. There was hardly any interaction with the provincial educational community and a general disinterest in official definitions of educational programming. The service was very much in the business of making and buying popular programs that compete for audiences. It offered a full range of program formats, without contextualization. Like the other provincial educational broadcasters, Tele-Quebec was constantly in search of revenue. In this it was been comparatively successful. Like the others, it received a substantial yearly grant from the provincial government and like the others it pursued corporate sponsorships. However, unlike the others, it was allowed to sell advertising, up to eight minutes per hour. (ACCESS in Alberta began advertising after 1995).
In December 1972 an announcement was made that the Alberta government would set up an Alberta Educational Communications Corporation. CKUA‘s radio license would be transferred from the university to the Corporation. In addition, the Corporation would take over two local educational television experimental projects that had been established earlier, MEETA and CARET. It was established as an independent statutory corporation with its own Board of Directors, appointed by the Lieutenant Governor-in-Council, in 1973. The Act that established the Corporation was patterned after the one enacted in Ontario in 1970. However, whereas the Ontario Education Communications Act created only one organization (the OECA), the Alberta legislation created two; an “independent” corporation, the Alberta Educational Communications Corporation (ACCESS Alberta), and a provincial Authority. The Corporation was to report to the government through the Authority. This turned out to be an unsatisfactory arrangement, which was not resolved until 1982 with the creation of a single organization. Both the television service and CKUA radio were funded by the provincial government and reported to the legislature through a designated Minister. Once television broadcasting was added, both radio and television augmented the government grants by on-air solicitation campaigns and corporate underwriting.
ACCESS Network radio, CKUA, originated from Edmonton, and broadcast province-wide through a single AM and 14 FM transmitters. Only about twelve percent of its programming was formal education, broadcast in association with schools and universities. Overall, the service provided a unique eclectic mix of music, as well as news and community oriented programs that made it a valued mix in the radio services available in Alberta. In the beginning of the ACCESS Network television service, either using daytime purchased from local commercial broadcasters or the time allocated on the French-language CBC station, programs were mainly formally educational, meant for classroom utilization. To complement these, ACCESS acted as purchasing agent and distributor of audio-visual material for the formal education sector.
In 1974 the government of Saskatchewan created, by statute, the Saskatchewan Educational Communications Corporation, known as SaskMedia. It extended the audio-visual library and distribution service of the Ministry of Education. This corporation never involved itself in broadcasting and never applied for a licence. This situation changed in 1982.
This decade brought ever increasing success and audience acceptance for the provincial educational television services in both Ontario and Quebec. Their coverage increased rapidly with the evolution of signal distribution via satellite to low power transmitters and to cable. The Ontario Educational Communications Authority launched its French network service, TFO.
In January 1985 ACCESS Network television began a twelve-hour-per-day service of both formal and informal educational programming delivered via satellite to cable companies throughout the province. The hours-per-day and the distribution expanded and two VHF transmitters were added, one in Edmonton and one in Calgary, to reach those household that did not have cable. The ACCESS television program schedule was very similar to other English language provincial services in Canada, as well as the PBS network in the United States, and consisted of a mix of high quality children’s programming, still some schools programming, and in the evenings a reasonably popular mix of British dramas, good documentaries, classic movies and talk.
Both the educational radio services in Alberta and Ontario, CKUA and CJRT-FM, established loyal audiences with an eclectic mix of classical music, jazz and talk. While CKUA continued to enjoy government funding, CJRT did not, and so was given the opportunity to sell four minutes of advertising per hour, as well as using its other sources of revenue generation.
The prospects for educational television started off badly in Saskatchewan in the 1980s. In 1982 a new government put tape distribution back into the hands of the Ministry of Education. However, the situation picked up after this, and educational television was established. A project that began in the fall of 1984 involved the University of Regina in the delivery of credit courses to five centres in southern Saskatchewan. This formal instruction service to small communities was expanded in succeeding years and became part of the service offered by a new agency, Saskatchewan Communications Network (SCN), incorporated in the late 1980s. SCN offers two educational television services; the formal, closed-circuit, post-secondary courses from the University of Regina, described above and a more traditional educational broadcasting service for the general public. The broadcasting service was licensed by the CRTC and contained the familiar mix of children’s programs during the day, with British drama, classic movies, foreign and Canadian documentaries, and talk during the prime time evening hours.
In B.C. the Knowledge Network of the West Communications Authority (KNOW) was established in May 1980 by a Cabinet Minute under the Societies Act of British Columbia. It was incorporated as a non-profit society. There was no reference made to the federal government or to the CRTC, although the Authority designation was used to ensure cable carriage and to protect against contingencies. There was not, nor was there until well into the 1980s, any licence requested, or granted by any federal agency, for the educational television service. No transmitters were used. Distribution was by satellite to cable. The Knowledge Network was the public television service of the Authority and was governed by the Authority’s Board of Directors. The Authority was accountable to the provincial government through the Minister of Universities, Science and Communications. The role of the Knowledge Network was to be part of the institutional or formal education system of the province and everything it did had to be complementary to the rest of the system. Essentially, the programming mandate for the network was vested in the institutions. All programs, with the exception of family and children, had to be sponsored, i.e. developed and supported, by an educational institution and/or government ministry. For this reason, much of the network’s programming was of limited interest to the general public.
Plans for educational television heated up in Atlantic Canada in the 1980s. In October 1980 the CRTC called for applications for the extension of services to remote and underserved communities. The commercial television service, the Atlantic Television Network (ATV) filed an application for ATV-2, which was to be an alternative service providing satellite to cable television programming to the Atlantic region, unscrambled and commercially supported. One distinctive feature of this service was to be four hours each weekday of educational programming. This was licensed in February 1981 and began service in 1983. While the hours were reduced over the years, this was an enduring provider of adult, post-secondary learning opportunities, and was the only educational broadcasting originating in the region.
There was very little activity in Manitoba in any decade around the development of provincial educational television. The province always saw the CBC as providing the public broadcasting service, including what was described by provincial educational broadcasting services in other provinces as informal or general interest educational programming. Like the other provinces, its Department of Education co-operated with the CBC in providing schools programming, and it distributed learning materials to the schools. The CRTC, for some years, reserved a VHF frequency in Winnipeg in case the province wanted to use it for educational broadcasting, but that was never done. Some tentative steps were taken in the mid-1980s by the Department of Education to use some day times offered by a Winnipeg commercial television broadcaster, but this never developed.
This was a decade of relatively steady growth for educational television in the two largest provinces, Ontario and Quebec. Direct-to-home satellite (DTH) made both the services available to virtually the entire populations, and extended the services throughout the country. This was true also of the other provincial educational television services, ACCESS, the Knowledge Network and SCN. While both TVOntario and Tele-Quebec faced some cutbacks in government support, this did not notably impede their broadcasting services. Revenues continued to be earned from the various other sources. In Ontario, there was some considerable talk and speculation that the government would sell TVO and possibly TFO, but this never materialized.
The situation for the educational television service in British Columbia began to change for the better in the 1990s when the Open Learning Agency of British Columbia was formed, with segments dedicated to open college, open university, open school, and general lifelong learning. All the new electronic systems were used to deliver this learning at a distance throughout the province. The Knowledge Network became one part of the Open Learning Agency, and while maintaining a connection to and involvement with the formal courses delivered by the Agency, it began to pay more attention to reaching the general public of lifelong learners. The result of this was the evolution of a traditional educational television broadcasting schedule, with children’s programming during the day and a mix of British drama, classic movies, documentary and talk programs during the evening.
The broadcasting services of the Saskatchewan Communications Network (SCN) were launched in May 1991. They were distributed via cable with no over-the-air transmissions. The schedule was similar to that of TVO and the Knowledge Network of British Columbia. And, like these two other services, a priority for SCN was to help fund and broadcast locally produced documentary programs that reflected the regional character and priorities of the province. Funding came from yearly government grants supplemented by on-air solicitation campaigns and some program underwriting.
In Atlantic Canada the educational services provided by the ATV-2 network continued to serve learners in all four provinces. Various universities in Atlantic Canada continued to produce formal credit connected courses for broadcast on this service.
It was in Alberta where the situation around provincial educational television and radio changed dramatically in the early 1990s, when the government undertook a re-evaluation of all government-funded activities in the province. As a result, in 1993, it announced that it would not provide funding for ACCESS beyond 1994. The Board of Directors was charged with finding an alternative means of financing the television and radio services or closing them down. At the same time, September 1993, an application had been made to the CTRC by an Ontario company for a new national educational television specialty service to be called Canadian Learning Television (CLT).
In the process of building partnerships with educational institutions and organizations across the country, CLT’s principals met with the ACCESS Board and in early 1994 were invited to make a proposal to purchase, privatize and thereby save the ACCESS television service. Other plans were being developed for CKUA radio. A new private sector Alberta company, Learning and Skills Television of Alberta (LTA), with the same ownership as CLT, was established in 1994 to do this. Negotiations involving government officials and the Chair of the ACCESS Board resulted in formal contracts being signed in November 1994. An application was filed with the CRTC that same month for authority to acquire the assets and privatize ACCESS television and for a broadcasting license to operate it as a private sector provincial educational television broadcasting service.
Following a public hearing in April 1995, LTA was granted a full seven-year license, and introduced the new ACCESS television in September. It included a fresh programming vision and business model; a new, modern and more youthful look and style, with a broader range of popular programming; tighter budget controls; revenues generated through the sale of broadcast air time to the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Advanced Education, limited advertising in half of the broadcast day, program sponsorship and the sale of educational products and services. Its schedule featured non-commercial pre-school programming during the morning, a mix of non-commercial ministry programs along with ACCESS’s own programs during the day, and a popular mix of U.S. produced contemporary drama and movies, reality documentary programs, as well as traditional documentaries and magazine shows during the evening.
This was a ground breaking and policy-setting decision by the Commission. It was the first time in Canadian broadcasting history that a public television broadcaster had been privatized. And it was the first time that a private sector company was designated as the provincial Authority and educational broadcaster for the purposes of the Broadcasting Act.
Around the same time that ACCESS television was sold to LTA and licensed by the CRTC, CKUA radio was given a transition grant by the government and established as an independent non-profit corporation with its own Board of Directors. The station was awarded a new licence under this new management structure. This allowed the station to sell advertising and have program sponsorship as well as to continue with the on-air solicitation of financial support from its listeners. However, the station was unable to secure sufficient revenues and when the transition grant ended it went off the air.
This caused great concern on the part of a limited but very dedicated and vocal segment of the Alberta population, who loved the station and the history of the station. This led very quickly to the station returning to the air under a new Board and management structure, existing on the direct support of its listeners, with additional advertising and sponsorship revenues. While it still carried some formal post-secondary educational programs, its schedule consisted mostly of music and talk.
The opportunity for a national educational television service was resurrected during the 1990s. By the early part of this decade specialty television was undergoing rapid expansion, both in terms of the importation of U.S. services and the licensing of new Canadian ones. Development work for a Canadian national educational television specialty service began in 1991 and resulted in a formal application to the CRTC in September 1993 by a private sector company with CHUM Limited as the majority shareholder for Canadian Learning Television (CLT). It was to be an adult-oriented educational service emphasizing lifelong learning.
The application included the participation of two of the provincial educational broadcasters, TVOntario and the Knowledge Network of British Columbia. A hearing was held in the winter of 1994 for CLT and a wide range of other specialty services, none of them educational. Even though there were no competing applications CLT was not successful. A negative intervention, based on the old issue of provincial jurisdiction over education, from Tele-Quebec plus the opposition from several provincial teachers’ unions that were opposed to the private sector getting into education, and some other licensing issues, doomed this national television application.
CLT re-applied in 1996, this time without the participation of any of the provincial educational broadcasters; indeed, with their covert as well as overt opposition. The reason for the opposition was that in the interim period, during the fall of 1994 and 1995, as described earlier in the section on Alberta, the CLT ownership group, now via a new company called Learning and Skills Television of Alberta (LTA), had purchased and privatized the provincial educational television service ACCESS Network. LTA was now applying for CLT. The provincial Authorities united in their opposition to privatization and to the licensing of this national service. Also, the Alberta situation added to the fears of the teachers’ unions who again apposed the application. Tele-Quebec, this time joined formally by SCN, wrote negative interventions and appeared at the CRTC hearing in opposition to the licensing of CLT, on the same old basis of provincial jurisdiction over education.
This time, however, they were not able to convince the CRTC and a license was granted to CLT. The two provinces appealed to the federal cabinet to overturn the decision, but failed since CLT was an adult service supporting continuing lifelong learning, with no programming directly to schools.
Canadian Learning Television, Canada’s first national educational television broadcaster, a specialty television service distributed via satellite to cable and via DTH, was licensed in 1996 and launched in September 1999. This was Canada’s first national educational television service. It was financed like all other specialty services by a combination of cable subscriber fees and commercial advertising. CLT worked co-operatively with universities and colleges across the country, and with the provincial educational broadcasters.
The new century saw all the provincial educational television services, the two radio services, and the national educational television service doing well. Like the situation in Ontario during the 1990s, during the first few years of the new century, there was talk and speculation that the Knowledge Network of British Columbia might be sold and privatized, and a fear on the part of some others that if this were to happen that this privatization might spread.
However, this did not happen and although the government of British Columbia did discontinue the operation of the Open Learning Agency it renewed its commitment to support the Knowledge Network. The publicly funded provincial educational television broadcaster, with the one private-sector provincial educational broadcaster, and the private-sector national educational broadcaster worked co-operatively on specific projects and met together regularly as part of the Agency for Tele-Education in Canada (ATEC).
In 2001, CJRT-FM Toronto switched to an all-jazz format, and rebranded itself as JAZZ.FM 91.1. Classical music, folk, world music and stories and music for children were all dropped from the schedule, and by 2003 Open College programs were no longer being carried. The station introduced several jazz educational programs aimed both at students of school age and adults with more than a passing interest in the music.
Access Media Group (Learning and Skills Television of Alberta Inc.), which owned ACCESS Alberta, Canadian Learning Television (CLT), purchased Magic Lantern, Canada’s largest educational multi media distribution company, and established its own educational distribution company, Distribution Access.
In 2005 the minority shareholders in Access Media Group sold their shares to CHUM Ltd., which was the majority shareholder. In June 2007, CHUM was sold to CTVglobemedia, along with all the assets of Access Media Group. ACCESS Alberta became part of the A Channel group of stations, renamed in 2011 as CTV2.
Canadian Learning Television (CLT) was sold to Corus and became, first, VIVA, and then OWN (Oprah Winfrey Network). On August 7, 2009, Distribution Access announced that a group led by former executives of Access Media Group and senior management of Distribution Access had acquired ownership of CLT from CTV. The new Board of Directors included Dr. Ron Keast, previously the President and CEO of Access Media Group, as Chairman.
In that month it was announced that the Province of Manitoba was considering following the lead of other provinces in launching an educational public broadcasting network. To that end, the government had committed $15,000 toward a study to determine the feasibility of such a project. On Screen Manitoba, a non-profit association that had represented Manitoba’s screen-based media industry since 1987, would be partnering in the project and leading the study. The study was completed, but as late as August 2011 it had not yet been published.
In March 2010, the Saskatchewan Government proposed to close down SCN’s operations, with some educational programming being transferred to Sasktel. By December of that year, the CFTC had approved the purchase of SCN by Bluepoint Investments, and permitted the sale of commercial advertising. The new service would be similar to that of Access Alberta, featuring a combination of educational and entertainment programming.
TVO celebrated 40 years of service to Ontario in 2010. As part of the celebrations, Ontario’s public educational media organization, announced plans for a free, online Public Archive set to launch later in the fall. “We’ll be unlocking some of TVO’s best educational content from the last 40 years and making it available for free in our new public archive. This includes rare interviews, Ontario stories and kids content that stands the test of time,” said CEO Lisa de Wilde.
British Columbia’s Knowledge Network was rebranded as simply Knowledge in 2008, and as the new decade began, the network was continuing to reach an estimated 1.5 million viewers in B.C. with what had become a 24-hour program service.
In July 2011 Distribution Access applied to the CRTC for a new national educational television specialty service, to be called Academy.
Written in 2005 by Dr. Ron Keast
Updated in 2011 by Ron Keast and Pip Wedge
This paper was originally written in 2005 by Dr. Ronald Keast. Much of the information was taken from a study done by him for the Federal Task Force On Broadcasting Policy in January 1986. All formal references are available in that study, The Role Of The Provinces In Public Broadcasting; contract no. 36100-5-0378.
Dr. Keast has over forty years experience in television broadcasting and education in Canada. After early years as a television writer, director and producer, he served as General Manager of programming at the Ontario provincial educational television service, TVOntario, Chair of the School of Radio and Television Arts at Ryerson University in Toronto, and then, from 1987 to 2005, President and Chief Executive Officer of, first, the national multi-faith and multi-cultural television channel, Vision TV, (1987/1994), and then of Access Media Group (1994/2005), a television and multi-media learning company that owned and operated three national and one regional television specialty channels – Canadian Learning Television (CLT), BookTelevision, Court TV Canada, ACCESS Alberta – and an educational multi-media distribution company.
Dr. Keast earned his B.A., M.A, and in 1974 his Ph.D. from the Department of Religion at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. The subject of his doctoral thesis and subsequent published work was The Effects of the Technique and Technology of Communications on Religion in the West.
Following his retirement as President and CEO of Access Media Group in 2005, Dr. Keast became engaged in research and writing about science, philosophy and religion. This resulted in the 2009 publication of his book, Dancing in the Dark, The “Waltz in Wonder” of Quantum Metaphysics (www.dancinginthedark.ca).
In 2008, he was appointed Chairman of the Advisory Board of CARP – A New Vision of Aging for Canada (www.carp.ca). In 2009, he became a shareholder and Chairman of the Board of Canada’s largest educational multi-media distribution company, Distribution Access (www.distributionaccess.com).