The Radio Broadcast that Fulfilled the Promise

This system of wire transmission made possible what is probably CNR Radio’s most noteworthy broadcast. To celebrate the 60th anniversary of Confederation, a massive Diamond Jubilee celebration was staged on Ottawa’s Parliament Hill on July 1, 1927. In what would be its first coast-to-coast transmission, CNR Radio carried the celebration in a three-part broadcast to 23 stations in Canada, NBC stations in the U.S. and, via the Marconi “high speed beam” shortwave service, to the BBC for rebroadcast in Britain and Europe. It was estimated that more than five million listeners heard the broadcast.

Much of the success of this broadcast was due to the capability of CN Telegraphs to provide radio program transmission facilities as far west as Winnipeg. Within two years, the system would be extended to Vancouver, and (in the east) to Halifax, enabling CNR Radio to broadcast on a regular network basis to the entire country.

Beatty was stung by the acclaim that was heaped on the CNR for this broadcast. Ironically, his telegraph department and the local telephone companies had supplied some of the circuits needed to complete the feed to certain stations across the country. Not a single word of praise fell on the CPR. Too late, Beatty realized his lack of appreciation for the use and future of radio and announced that his company would meet the CNR competition head-on – the CPR would duplicate and surpass CN’s radio coverage with eleven high-powered owned-and-operated transmitters.

In applications dated January 17, 1930, the CPR applied for seven 50 kW transmitters to be located to serve Vancouver, Edmonton, Regina, Winnipeg, Toronto, Montreal, and either Halifax or Saint John. 15 kW transmitters were proposed for Fort William, Sudbury, Quebec City and Prince Albert. However, on April 2nd, eight of the applications were withdrawn “until a decision was made by Parliament” (on the future of radio). However, three applications were left standing for stations in Toronto, Montreal and Winnipeg but, apparently, never re-surfaced.

On the same date, Canadian Pacific was issued a license for a “phantom” station (CHRY – later changed to CPRY) which would be based in studios in the new Royal York Hotel in Toronto and which would lease time for its programs from CKGW or CFRB.

There was talk at the time that CP was negotiating with NBC and CBS to extend their programming across Canada. CKGW and CFRB had already entered into an affiliation agreement to carry selected NBC and CBS programs.