Early Radio Programming


In the early years, radio stations were only on the air a few hours a day. Most cities were allocated only one frequency which had to be shared if two or more stations were licenced. Programming consisted of phonograph records (in many cases borrowed from local music stores) and live performances by local volunteer talent who were anxious for exposure. Times of broadcast were usually early evening for one to three hours and an hour or two at the noon hour. All of this was dependent on how much effort the operator of the station was willing or able to expend.

The sharing of frequencies led to some complex situations. This meant that licencees could use their own transmitter or lease the use of the transmitter of an existing station. Probably the most widely-used example of this method was The Canadian National Railways Radio Division. (See the CNR Network story in the “Networks” section).

By 1929, much progress had been made. Still, all programming was local and live. Pre-recording facilities existed neither nationally or at local stations. Time zone Network delays were yet to come. Connecting stations by telegraph lines (where available) was expensive. The CNR network operated only a few hours a week – and times were not consistent.


The government was becoming concerned about how broadcasting, then administered by the Department of Marine, should be regulated. Following the acceptance of the much debated report of the Aird Royal Commission, in 1932, Parliament passed The Canadian Radio Broadcasting Act which became effective on May 26th. The act established the Canadian Radio Broadcasting Commission (CRBC) with a mandate to create a nationwide network and regulate all broadcasting – public and private.

By this time, in Ontario and Quebec, five private stations had formed links with U.S. radio networks and were importing a number of popular programs. Expansion of this practice was frozen, with future importations (“international exchange” of sustaining programs) being included in the gradually-developing CRBC’s network programming

Forbidden by the CRBC to form constituted networks, private stations across Canada took some comfort in the developing use of “electrical transcriptions” – usually 16 inch records containing 15 minutes of programming. Lacking a Canadian source of Transcribed programs, Canadian stations had to rely on American, Australian and British imports.

J. Lyman Potts – September, 1999

The following are some of the programs of the time:

1930s & 40s

Canadian Programs

·  Forgotten Footsteps.

·  The Youngbloods of Beaver Bend.

·  Hockey Night in Canada

·  John and Judy.

·  Brave Voyage.

·  The Happy Gang (1937 – 1959).

·  Share the Wealth.

·  Leicester Square to Broadway.

·  Sweet and Low with Mart Kenney’s orchestra.

·  Stage `45 – `46, etc.

·  Wayne and Shuster.

·  Don Messer and the Islanders.

·  Burn’s Chuckwagon.

·  Rawhide.

·  Assignment.

·  Woodhouse & Hawkins.

·  Atlantic Nocturne.

·  Ford Theatre.

Newscasters – Charles Jennings, Lorne Greene, Earl Cameron.

Personalities – John Colicos, Gordon Pinsent, Alan Young, Max Ferguson, “Doc” Guy as Gentleman Jim, Stanley Maxted, Shirley Harmer, John Fisher, Bernard Braden, Austin Willis, Kate Reid, Claire Wallace, Murray Westgate, George Murray.

Musicians – Geoffrey Waddington, Percy Faith, Lucio Agostini, Johnny Burt, Howard Cable, Samuel Hersenhoren, Percy Harvey, Jean Deslauriers, John Avison.

U. S. shows imported on CBC Networks – Jack Benny, Charlie McCarthy, Bob Hope, Fred Allen, Bing Crosby, Fibber McGee & Molly, The Carnation Contented Hour, Lux Radio Theatre, Kraft Music Hall, Ozzie & Harriet, One Man’s Family, Rudy Vallee Hour, The American Album of Familiar Music, Waltz Time, Inner Sanctum, The Bob Crosby Show.

Daytime U. S. shows – The Breakfast Club, Club Matinee.

Afternoon Soap Operas – Ma Perkins, Pepper Young’s Family, Big Sister, The Road to Life, The Guiding Light, Aunt Lucy.

Private Station imports on transcriptions – The Lone Ranger, Boston Blackie, The Shadow, The Black Museum with Orson Welles, House of Peter McGregor, Pinto Pete and his Ranch Boys.