Canadian Radio to be Nationalized

As these events unfolded, the question of national policy on broadcasting continued to be the subject of debate. Several influential nationalists were promoting the creation of a publicly-funded radio network that would block the self-declared U.S. Manifest Destiny in radio. Some Canadians, especially in border cities who could hear U. S. stations night and day, were upset and concerned about its blatant commercialism.

The formation of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters (CAB) in 1928 was partially a response to the threat of radio nationalization. While many of the CAB’s original members — which included CNR Radio — were supportive of proposals to prevent a wholescale duplication of the U.S. system, a select few were becoming more and more uneasy about the CNR system itself. Proponents of nationalization often pointed to Thornton’s radio department as an easy means of converting the airwaves completely to public hands. As the battle lines were drawn, Thornton regretfully announced that his organization would have to withdraw from the CAB. So did several other private broadcasters who had a close working relationship with the CNR, such as The Toronto Star’s CFCA.

Responding to this growing debate, Mackenzie King had established a Royal Commission on December 6, 1928, “to examine into the Broadcasting situation in the Dominion of Canada and to make recommendations to the Government as to future administration, management, control and financing thereof.” Chaired by Sir John Aird, president of the Bank of Commerce, the commission examined the CNR Radio System and the broadcasting networks in the U.S., Britain, Ireland, Germany, France and Belgium as it tried to draft a workable blueprint for the restructuring of Canadian radio.

While the Royal Commission worked through 1929, CNR Radio continued to expand in that last year of prosperity. CN Telegraph’s progressive extension of its broadcast program facilities allowed for the creation of several regional networks. Additional CNR Radio phantom licences were granted, and the CN network programming was now able to be delivered to private radio stations in Quebec City, London and Red Deer. Toronto area coverage was greatly enhanced by using CFRB’s high-powered transmitter with the phantom call sign CNRX.