CBC English Radio Networks

The first CBC Radio Network came into being on November 2, when the Canadian Broadcasting Act (assented to by Parliament on June 2nd) was put into force – thus creating The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC).

Brief History

First Network – 1936
Trans Canada Network  – 1944
Dominion Network – 1944-1962
FM Network – 1975
Radio One, Radio Two – 1997


The first CBC Radio Network came into being on November 2, when the Canadian Broadcasting Act (assented to by Parliament on June 2nd) was put into force – thus creating The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC).

The Canadian Broadcasting Act replaced the Canadian Radio Broadcasting Act passed by Parliament on May 26, 1932, which had established the Canadian Radio Broadcasting Commission (CRBC).

The new Act gave CBC authority to operate a national radio system, and with the approval of the Governor in Council to (among other powers) establish new stations and to acquire (existing) private stations by purchase. Also, the Corporation was empowered to make regulations governing programs and commercials, including the amount of time devoted to commercial messages. The Act specifically prohibited the dramatization of political broadcasts and required the identification of the sponsors of all political programs. Networks (of radio stations) could not be operated without prior approval of the Corporation.

The CBC consisted of a Board of Governors of nine persons (all part-time members) appointed by the Governor-in-Council and chosen to give representation to the principal geographic divisions of Canada. Leonard. W. Brockington of Winnipeg was elected the CBC’s first Chairman. The Governor-in-Council approved the Board’s unanimous recommendation for the appointment of Gladstone Murray (General Manager) and Dr. Augustin Frigon (Assistant General Manager).

Defined by its chairman as the two main overall duties of the Board of Governors were: (1) to make it possible for every Canadian to hear the programs of the CBC and (2) to provide the best possible programming. Surveys revealed that Canada had excellent available talent, and that there were programs available from networks in the USA, and from England and France. However, surveys also showed that only 49% of the population was currently able to hear the CRBC programs which had been carried over networks linking government-owned and privately-owned stations. The Board adopted a policy to increase coverage to 84% of the population. This could involve the establishment of new CBC stations, acquisition of private stations or arrangements with existing private stations to carry a specified number of hours of CBC programs a week, and/or making other hours available to either the designated (“basic”) stations or to other stations in any centre served by network lines.


Following extension of wire line contracts to 16 hours a day, the CBC network began to operate daily from 8 a.m. to midnight Eastern time, with the Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and BC stations receiving programs produced in the west until midnight local time (e.g.- BC to 3.00 am Eastern time)

Prior to this, CBC had taken on approximately 44 hours of weekly programming established by the CRBC (50% of which were filled with phonorecords), assumed ownership of the stations acquired by the CRBC – its arrangements with private stations for the carrying of network programs – and the leases of the complete facilities of some private stations (notably CKGW Toronto which served as the key station for the network as CRCT – later, CBL).


Under its mandate, CBC developed a basic network of 34 private and public stations, and entered into agreements with the private station owners, whereby CBC would pay them a portion (roughly 50%) of station card rates for the carriage of sponsored network programs, in return for agreeing to reserve a designated number of hours per week for the broadcast of CBC-produced programs containing no advertising. In “going commercial”, CBC was able to import from the NBC and CBS networks in the United States, programs already popular with most Canadians who had been able to tune them in on U.S. stations – featuring such stars as Jack Benny, Charlie McCarthy, Bob Hope, Fred Allen, Bing Crosby, Fibber McGee and Molly; top-rated programs – The Carnation Contented Hour and the star-studded Hollywood Monday night CBS Lux Radio Theatre; the mid-day soap operas – Ma Perkins, Pepper Young’s Family. Big Sister, The Road of Life, The Guiding Light, etc.

The ability to receive U.S. programs from a local Canadian station rather than trying to pick them up from distant American stations proved very popular with Canadian listeners, especially those living great distances from the U.S. border, and did much to encourage extended listening to local stations.

In addition, Canadian advertisers climbed on board by sponsoring CBC and agency-produced Canadian programming like The Happy Gang, John and Judy, Brave Voyage, Share the Wealth, Hockey Night in Canada (the latter previously carried on an ad hoc network set-up by the MacLaren Advertising Agency)

This policy not only helped to create a Canadian broadcasting industry, but enabled CBC to “win-over” more Canadians from coast-to-coast to listen to programs employing Canadian actors, musicians, singers, writers, composers and other Canadian talent.

(This pattern was repeated during the formative era of television)

With all but 4 private Canadian stations limited to maximum power of 1,000 watts (exceptions were CFRB Toronto and CFCN Calgary, both “grandfathered” at 10,000 watts, and CKAC Montreal and CKLW Windsor with 5,000 watts), the CBC proceeded with its objective of increasing its owned-and-operated stations to the maximum power permitted by international agreement. CKGW Toronto was bought from Gooderam and Worts and moved to the “clear frequency” of 740 kHz with power of 50,000 watts (December 1937), and call letters changed to CBL. Coincidentally, in the same year, the Corporation built CBF in Montreal, placing it on 690 kHz – another clear channel. CBF later became the key station of the CBC French Network, embracing newly-established CBV Quebec, CBJ Chicoutimi and private stations in New Carlisle and Rimouski – supplemented by private stations in Hull, Sherbrooke and Rouyn. CBM Montreal, formerly CRCM, with 5,000 watts took over CBF’s English programming. In 1939, the Maritime provinces were given CBA in Sackville, NB on 1070 kHz, and listeners on the prairies were bestowed with CBK, strategically positoned at Watrous, Saskatchewan at 540 kHz – both 50,000-watters. CBR (later CBU) Vancouver and CBO Ottawa, were each given power increases to 5,000 watts – the international limit on their frequencies.

(In succeeding years, CBC’s Alberta coverage was beefed-up with the additions of CBX Edmonton (ultimately 50,000 on 740 kHz replacing CBX Lacombe), and CBR Calgary in 1964 with 50,000 watts on 1010 kHz. Earlier, in 1948, to improve coverage in Manitoba, CBC bought the original CKY from the Manitoba Government, dubbed it CBW and upped its power from 15,000 to 50,000 watts on 990 kHz).

However, while the private stations selected to affiliate with the CBC network were happy to acquire some of the greatest radio attractions in the world, the programming and the income of other broadcasters in two-and-three-station markets suffered. CBC affiliates had first-choice in carrying CBC sustaining (non-sponsored) programs not included in their reserved time agreement, but the CBC did offer the remainder of any they wished to carry to the non-affiliates. In Southern Ontario, where Hamilton and St. Catharines stations existed under the umbrella of CBL’s 50 kW transmitter at Hornby, CKOC, CHML and CKTB were regarded only as “supplementary stations”. If sponsors paid the extra cost, CBC would add them. Meanwhile, they were welcome to share carriage of the network’s sustaining programs. Similarly, in two-station markets across Canada, the CBC obtained extra coverage of its sustaining programs at no cost.

In its report for the fiscal year ending March 31 1938, CBC stated that assured national coverage for network programs was estimated to reach 76% of Canada’s population – up from its 1936 figure of 49%.

As CBC continued to nurture its mandate, it set-up regional networks in the five time zones across the country to cater to the special needs and interests of the area.


In the early forties, pressure developed among listeners, advertisers and stations for alternative programming. Sensing this need, and to head-off a possible campaign for a private network, CBC took the initiative to set-up a second coast-to-coast network. CBC lined-up 34 existing and soon-to-exist private stations as affiliates, but lacked a key station in Toronto where CFRB had rejected the invitation to participate. (in fact, serious consideration was given to suggestions that CBC should expropriate CFRB – instead, another solution was found). When CBC succeeded the CRBC in 1937, it had also acquired a low-powered Toronto station – CKNC – whose studio facilities it had leased for CBL and which had been founded by the Canadian National Carbon Company. It was given the call sign CRCY and subsequently became CBY. It was usually programmed separately from CBL and also carried sustaining programs (non commercial) from NBC’s Blue Network. When CBL carried sponsored programs, CBY’s programs were fed over existing lines to CKTB St Catharines and to either CKOC or CHML Hamilton.

CBC decided to turn CBY into the key station for its Dominion Network. The power would be increased to 50,000 watts and it could be engineered to share the tower and other facilities of CBL at Hornby. The frequency of 860 – a clear channel – had been previously designated for CBC’s use, and CBC moved CBY from 1010 to 860, displacing CFRB which had occupied the channel for several years. CBY became CJBC – the key station of the CBC Dominion Network – when it was formed January 1, 1944. CFPL London and CKX Brandon were deleted from the original network and became Dominion affiliates. The first sponsored program was the intellectual NBC Monday night panel show Information Please chaired by Clifton Fadiman, which, on April 15th, preceded the full compliment of programs that began in the fall. CJBC was the only CBC-owned station on the Dominion Network – all others were privately owned. To manage the new network, the Corporation hired away from CKWX Vancouver Spence Caldwell who, 17 years later, founded the CTV Network. The first CBC network became The Trans-Canada Network.

A similar problem had arisen in Montreal when the Canadian Marconi Company’s station CFCF refused CBC’s wish for it to be the Dominion affiliate. Subsequently, Arthur Dupont, then CBC’s Commercial Manager for Quebec, applied for and received a licence to establish CJAD, ostensibly to become the Dominion affiliate. However, before he could get it on the air, CFCF had a change-of-mind, and signed-up as the Dominion affiliate. Perhaps as consolation or compensation for losing the Dominion Network, CJAD was allowed to share with CKAC some programs from the U.S.A. network – CBS.


The CBC operated the two coast-to-coast English networks until 1962, when the Dominion Network was dissolved, and a single network was set-up, linking CBC-owned stations, supplemented by “sufficient” private stations to fill-in national coverage gaps by making available a fixed number of hours-per-week. Some, if not most of these stations, resisted the affiliation, but were forced to comply under the Act. In a Maritime city with two private stations, the older station politely turned-down the affiliation. The CBC then went to the second station. They, too, declined. The CBC came back to the first station and received the same answer. Subsequently, the licensee of this station was ordered to appear at a hearing before the BBG to justify “why its licence should not be cancelled”.

Eventually and gradually, the private stations were “freed” of the forced affiliations when CBC was able to fund the establishment of FM transmitters to replace them. As a consequence, CBC gained full-time program coverage in these areas.

Over the years, CBC devised various ways to bring its programs to under-served areas. One was the establishment of low-power-repeater-transmitters (LPRTs) in small communities served by Canadian National and Canadian Pacific telegraph lines which carried the network across Canada. In some instances (as in Thunder Bay) they built a conventional AM station. In 1949, after Newfoundland joined Confederation, the network was extended to include the four publicly owned stations of the Broadcasting Federation of Newfoundland.


CBC’s reliance on telegraph and telephone companies to physically achieve national network coverage began to fade in 1972 with the launching of the Anik Satellite and the renting of 3 channels to serve radio and television.


CBC adopted a policy of not accepting advertising on its radio networks – a change that could be facilitated without significant financial revenue loss, as commercial program sponsors had long-before departed for television.

The CBC French FM Network opened.


The English FM Network began operation.

With the licensing of FM stations in 1960, to strengthen its AM network program coverage, the CBC began to use FM repeaters connected to CBC studios in major centres. In 1970 a review of the CBC’s services recommended that to reach target audiences, CBC Radio be aligned into distinctive networks in French and English. The focus of the senior networks would be on news and light entertainment, whereas the new networks of FM stations as they appeared would offer specialized programming of a more serious nature.

As FM receivers flooded the country, with listeners showing a preference for the medium, CBC, in many key locations, began to replace its AM transmitters with FM transmitters that provided steady and better reception, and at the same time surrendered many formerly-prized frequencies. Retained, were AM 50-kW transmitters in some areas (such as the prairies) where available FM frequencies were lacking to assure duplication of the vast existing coverage.


Margaret Lyons became Managing Director, Radio, for the CBC English Services Division.


The CBC FM Networks began 24 hour-a-day operation.


The CBC gave its four radio networks new identification. The English Information Radio Network (the survivor of the first network) was dubbed Radio One.

CRTC approved CBC’s application to switch its Toronto and Montreal stations from AM to FM.


On May 26, the CRTC approved the application by the CBC for a licence to carry on transitional digital radio undertaking. The transmitter for CBL-FM would be installed on the CN Tower and employ the EUREKA-147 digital audio broadcasting system. The frequency would be 1461.536 MHz with effective isotropic radiated power of 5084 watts.

On November 19, the CBC was granted a licence for a transitional digital radio undertaking to serve Montréal. The transmitter would be installed at the Mont Royal tower and employ the EUREKA-147 digital audio broadcasting system. CBF-FM would operate on frequency 1458,048 MHz with effective isotropic radiated power of 11,724 watts.


At 12:01am on August 15th, the CBC and Radio-Canada locked out their 5500 employees. Months of negotiations had failed to achieve agreement between the Corporation and the Canadian Media Guild on the key matter of the Corporation’s wish to significantly increase the number of contract employees to replace staff as attrition occurred. When the membership tentatively ratified a new Agreement in the first week of October, it appeared that the Corporation had fallen far short of what it had hoped to achieve.


On March 19th, CBC radio launched new program schedules for both Radio One and Radio Two. Radio Two was broadened to become “a Canadian music service for adults that captures more of the musical diversity of our country”, while Radio One largely rejuggled its existing schedule, while adding a new morning and afternoon Arts magazine program.


In March, CBC Radio announced plans for yet another transformation for Radio Two, to take effect on September 2nd. Classical music in daytime hours would be significantly reduced, there would be fewer and shorter newscasts, and the goal was to “increase exposure of musicians and composers, other than classical and jazz, which previously received little airtime on private radio.”

Hubert T. Lacroix succeeded Robert Rabinowich as President of the CBC.


In August, it was reported that CBC Radio 2 was reaching 2.1 million people a week, with Radio One attracting 4.3 million listeners per week.

Because of a total lack of interest in digital radio by all parties involved, the CBC advised the CRTC that it proposed to cease operation of its Montreal and Toronto digital radio transmitters. On June 15, at the Corporation’s request, the Commission revoked the broadcasting licence issued to the CBC for these transmitters.


In August, it was reported that CBC Radio 2 was reaching 2.1 million people a week, with Radio One attracting 4.3 million listeners per week.

Because of a total lack of interest in digital radio by all parties involved, the CBC advised the CRTC that it proposed to cease operation of its Montreal and Toronto digital radio transmitters. On June 15, at the Corporation’s request, the Commission revoked the broadcasting licence issued to the CBC for these transmitters.


On March 1, the Radioplayer streaming app launched in Canada and featured more than 400 Canadian radio stations, including CBC and Radio-Canada.

The CBC’s FM stereo radio network changed its name from CBC Radio Two to CBC Music. See also attached article from Broadcast Dialogue.


It was announced in February that Jennifer McGuire, general manager and editor-in-chief of CBC News, would be stepping down. She had been in the role since 2009 and oversaw the integration of the television, radio and digital news operations. McGuire started her career with CBC Radio in Ottawa as an associate producer. She later held producer roles at CBC Newsworld, and served as executive producer of CBC Radio.