Radio Stations Affiliated with U.S. Radio Networks

1920’s – 1930’s – 1940’s

One at the most hotly discussed issues prior to the passage of the Canadian Radio Broadcasting Act in May, 1932, was the visualized threat of the Americanization of Canadian Radio. Even as the Parliamentary Committee was debating the Bill, five Canadian Stations had begun broadcasting programs from two U.S. networks, and advocates of a publicly-owned Canadian system foresaw these networks spreading across Canada. The five stations were being described as “affiliates”, and the objectors pressed the Government not only to block any expansion, but even to eliminate existing ties.

In Toronto, on April 29, 1929, CFRB carried its first program from the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS), having previously made an exclusive arrangement with CBS for a coverage area that took in Toronto, Hamilton and environs. A similar arrangement was made by the Gooderham and Worts station (CKGW) with the National Broadcasting Company (NBC). NBC operated two networks, identified as the “NBC Red Network” and the “NBC Blue Network”.

Later, when the CRBC leased CKGW’s transmitter and the station became CRCT, it entered into an “affiliation” agreement with NBC. Some of NBC’s commercial programs had been carried by CKGW and the CRBC found it prudent and profitable to continue with them. CRBC didn’t extend these programs to its network, but it had access to NBC sustaining programs (non-commercial).

In Montreal, the Marconi station (CFCF) had similar access to NBC programs, as did CKAC (owned by La Presse) with CBS.

In Windsor, CKOK (later to become CKLW) entered into a contract with CBS covering Windsor/Detroit. At the time CKOK went on the air in 1931, CBS had no Detroit outlet, but later struck an affiliation agreement with WJR Detroit. CKOK (CKLW) then switched to the Mutual Network.

At this point, the Government put a hold on further U.S. network affiliations. pending the adoption of a firm policy.

In Calgary, the founder of CFCN couldn’t wait for the day when he could bring to Alberta listeners some of the American programs that they had difficulty picking up from U.S. stations – even with roof-top aerials. He set up his own radio receiver and began to re-broadcast (among others) the most popular American program of the times “Amos ‘n Andy”. Old-timers claimed that he occasionally replaced the U. S. commercials with local ads. However, reception of the distant stations was inconsistent, suffering from fading and interference. Further, and more to the point, the authorities ordered him to cease and desist.

When, in 1936, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation succeeded the CRBC as controller of all radio, it published a book of regulations made pursuant to the 1936 Canadian Broadcasting Act, which included the rules governing relationships with foreign radio stations and networks. Section 17 was likely inspired by the Calgary misdemeanor. Apart from situations in Canada and the USA, it would also apply to broadcasts from the BBC in England.

17. No station shall “pick up” and rebroadcast any program unless permission in writing has first been obtained from the Corporation.

But Section 19. not only dealt with the broadcasting of a program carried by wire lines from a foreign station, but also the connection by wire of two or more Canadian stations who wished to broadcast a Canadian program at the same time,

19. Unless permission in writing is first obtained from the Corporation

(a) no station shall continue to be a part or shall form a part of a chain or network originating from outside of Canada;

(b) no chain or network of two or more stations shall continue to be operated within Canada or shall be set up or operated in Canada;

(c) no station shall continue to be or become an outlet for any station, chain or network existing or originating outside of Canada

(d) no station shall continue to be or become an associate station of or with any station, chain or network existing or originating outside of Canada.

However, the CBC decided to “grandfather” the connections that four of the private stations had established with American networks, but they were advised that in the future, before they proposed to carry a program from an American network, they would have to apply to the CBC two weeks in advance for permission. The four stations included CFRB, CFCF, CKAC and CKLW. The CBC continued the connections that the CRBC established with NBC, and programs from the NBC Red and NBC Blue networks were selected for carriage on the CBC coast-to-coast network or locally in Toronto on CBL and CBY (the latter formerly CKNC/CRCY).

Private stations across Canada who were fortunate to become “basic station” affiliates of the CBC’s original network, for the first time began to receive popular commercial programs that originated with NBC and CBS, among them, programs starring Jack Benny, Charlie McCarthy, Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, Fibber McGee & Molly (all NBC) and Al Jolson and Fred Allen: dramas like Big Town (with Edward G. Robinson) and The LUX Radio Theatre (CBS), as well as several daytime soap operas from NBC and CBS.

CBS programs on the CBC Network could not be carried by CBL Toronto or CBM Montreal because of CFRB‘s and CKAC‘s exclusive contracts with the U.S. networks, an annoyance that CBC officials “mentioned” from time to time.

Also unhappy were the private stations who received no American commercial programs directly or indirectly from any network and, as a result were suffering poor ratings and were deprived of the commercial revenue that comes with carrying top-rated shows.

Private broadcasters appealed to the CBC for permission to form a second network that could carry some of the U.S. programs not imported by the CBC, but were rejected.

The 1940s

The CBC decided to operate a second network itself, which they did in 1944 when they lined up 33 non-affiliated private stations across Canada. The key station was the CBC’s second station in Toronto – CJBC (formerly CBY, but by then with 50,000 watts of power). Like the original network (which was named “The Trans-Canada Network”), the newly-formed Dominion Network provided a mix of Canadian – produced programs, and commercial programs from NBC and CBS.

Arthur Dupont, a senior executive with the Corporation, left his position at the CBC in 1945 to establish CJAD as the second English language station in Montreal, with the understanding that it would become the Montreal affiliate for the Dominion Network. He ended up with permission from the CBC to share CBS network programs with CKAC. CFCF, which had originally turned down the CBC’s offer for Dominion affiliation, apparently had a late change-of-heart, leaving Dupont without the network support he felt he needed. Meanwhile, CKAC, basically a French-language station, was wishing to extend its hours of French programming, and the arrangement fitted in with its plans. The switch was made to CJAD. In Vancouver. where Seattle stations with four U.S. network affiliations dominated local ratings in the early 40s, CKWX (unlike Toronto and Montreal stations) was unable to obtain any American network programs, even via Canadian sources. To “balance” the market, the CBC gave ‘WX approval to carry programs from the Mutual Network. For a relatively short period of time, Toronto’s CKEY (formerly CKCL) owned by Jack Kent Cooke, also had a Mutual connection. However. these exceptions were the last of their kind given by the CBC.

With the sharing of the CBC’s import of the best that American radio had to offer, most of the private stations seemed somewhat satisfied with the concession, and enjoyed the benefit for almost two decades … until the early 50s.

Television was fast developing in the USA, and international advertisers were canceling their shows on network radio and switching to the new medium.

When Television arrived in Canada in 1952, many of the popular U. S. radio network programs had either switched to television or had been cancelled

The once-coveted American radio network connections held little attraction for Canadian stations. Radio switched to news, talk and music*.

*See Evolution of Radio Formats

J. Lyman Potts – 2003