CBN-AM, Radio One, St. John’s

Canadian Broadcasting Corp.

CBN-AM199764010,000Canadian Broadcasting Corp.
CBN-AM194964010,000Canadian Broadcasting Corp.
VONF-AM193261010,000Dominion Broadcasting Co. (Avalon Telephone Co.) Joseph Butler & Bill Galgay


Walter B. Williams and Joseph Butler started VONF on November 14, for the Dominion Broadcasting Co. (a subsidiary of the Avalon Telephone Co.).


In September, VOGY and VONF were amalgamated into one station, VONF. For the record, VOGY began operations September 12, 1932. 


A new 10,000 watt station at St. John’s was being built by the Canadian Marconi Co. of Montreal. The station would have the latest design and provide Newfoundland with a broadcasting service operated by a commission similar to that of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.


Canadian Marconi delivered and was installing the new 10,000 watt transmitter for VONF, under construction at Mount Pearl, for operation on 640 kHz. (Output power would be 12,500 watts) 

On March 13, the Commission of Government took the Dominion Broadcasting Co. into its own Broadcasting Corporation of Newfoundland. The flagship station was VONF St. John’s, operating with 10,000 watts of power on a frequency of 640 kHz. Studios and offices were in the Newfoundland Hotel. VONF’s operating schedule: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. weekdays, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. Sundays. On the same date, the stations began taking Canadian Broadcasting Corporation sustaining programs via landlines from Montreal to a beam transmitter at Drummondville, QC. It was hoped that commercial U.S. networks being piped into Canada on the CBC network would be extended to cover Newfoundland. 


Under the Havana Treaty, VONF was assigned 640 kHz, a clear channel occupied by KFI Los Angeles. It was agreed that the secondary service of VONF would be afforded protection as a Class I-B station throughout Newfoundland in accordance with the standards of the Treaty, except the United States reserved the right to the maximum use of the channel for a Class I-A station on the Pacific coast of the U.S.A. (KFI). 


W.F. Galgay was manager and G.D. Halley was commercial manager.


The Broadcasting Corporation of Newfoundland owned and operated three stations at this time: VONF St. John’s, VOWN Corner Brook and VORG Gander. BCN’s regular domestic schedule had the stations on the air between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. and from 6:00 to 10:00 p.m. The corporation delivered news at regular intervals for 20 hours a day. VONF’s Competitor was VOCM, operated by Joseph Butler. VOCM was non-network and operated largely on local business from St. John’s merchants and industries. BCN was more active in the national advertising field. 


Newfoundland joined Canadian confederation as the country’s tenth province. Stations of the Newfoundland Broadcasting Corp. had their call letters changed April 1 when the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. took over operation of the stations as a supplementary group to the Atlantic region of the Trans-Canada network. VONF St. John’s was now CBN, VORG Gander was now CBG, VOWN Corner Brook was now CBY, and a new 1,000 watt outlet – CBT – was added to the group at the end of the month. CBN St. John’s broadcast on a frequency of 640 kHz and had a power of 10,000 watts. 

Commercial network programs started on the Newfoundland group on April 1 with the Toronto Symphony Concert. Other network programs now carried on the Newfoundland stations: Arthur Godfrey Talent Scouts, NHL Hockey, Lux Radio Theatre, Canadian Cavalcade, and the following Monday-Friday programs: Breakfast Club, Big Sister, Life Can Be Beautiful, Ma Perkins, Pepper Young’s Family, and Right to Happiness, and Laura Limited and Aunt Lucy.

William F. Galgay, former general manager of the Newfoundland Broadcasting Corp. was appointed regional representative for the CBC in Newfoundland. He became program director and announcer at VOCM in 1925. In 1930, Galgay joined RCA Victor in St. John’s and then later moved on to Northern Electric. After serving as manager of Newfoundland’s Dominion Broadcasting Co. from 1932 to 1939, he was named general manager of the Broadcasting Corp. of Newfoundland, which operated stations in St. John’s, Gander and Corner Brook, until the recent transfer to the CBC.

“The Barrelman” moved from CBN (VONF) to VOCM as of June 24. The program was originated by the Hon. J.R. Smallwood (premier) twelve years earlier.


The CBC had ordered new Gates transmitters from Marconi for CBN, CBY, CBI, CBV and CBO.


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On March 1 a freezing rain storm hit St. John’s and toppled some of the antenna towers for both CBN and VOCM, knocking them off the air. CJON was the only commercial station left but it transmitted an intermittent signal and could only be heard on battery operated radios because hydro was knocked out across the city. CJON-TV and its repeater, CJOX-TV Argentia were also off the air.


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The Trans-Canada and Dominion networks were consolidated into a single CBC radio service. Until now, CBN had operated as a Trans-Canada station.


CBC Radio added an all-night service in June.


CBC Radio’s all-night service, started in 1963, came to an end on March 1. When the service started it was primarily intended as a national information and warning system to be used in emergencies. Even though the service had now ended, the CBC said it would maintain a stand-by procedure through the night and broadcasts would begin immediately in the event of an emergency.

The CBC received approval to operate a rebroadcast transmitter for CBN at St. Anthony – using a frequency of 600 kHz and a power of 10,000 watts. The signal would reach across the Strait of Belle Isle to settlements on the Labrador coast. 

On October 18, the CBC was authorized to establish a transmitter at Marystown. It would operate from studios in Marystown and St. John’s. LPRT CBND at Flowers Cove received approval to change frequency from 600 kHz to 920 kHz. Power would remain 40 watts. 


Late in 1982, CBN 640 was knocked off the air due to vandalism at the transmitter site. CBN-AM took over the 106.9 MHz frequency used by CBN-FM until the AM antenna site was restored in early 1983.


On March 11, the CRTC approved the application to amend the licence for CKZN St. John’s by increasing the power of the shortwave transmitter from 300 watts to 1,000 watts. The CBC indicated that the increase would improve service in remote areas of Labrador.


CBC Radio added overnight programming to its schedule on May 1, with “CBC Radio Overnight”. The programming started out on certain CBC stations and was expanded to all of its stations by September. The program aired between 1:00 and 6:00 a.m. (local time) and offered reports from public broadcasters in 25 countries, with Canadian news on the hour. The program service was provided by the World Radio Network in London, England.


The CBC Radio network (CBC Radio) was renamed “CBC Radio One” on September 1.


As of 2001, CBN operated the following transmitters: CBNL-FM Clarenville, CBNM-FM Marystown, CBNR-FM Ramea, CBNS-FM St. Albans, CBNO-FM Swift Current, and CBNQ-FM Trepassey. CBN broadcasts approximately 46 hours 30 minutes of local programming each week from St. John’s.


On February 2, the CRTC approved the application by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation to amend the licence for CBN St. John’s, in order to operate a transmitter in Placentia to broadcast the programming of Radio One. The new transmitter would operate at 94.1 MHz (channel 231B1) with an average effective radiated power of 1,763 watts.


On March 29, CBN was given permission to add a transmitter at Fermeuse, operating on 104.3 MHz with an average effective radiated power of 1,040 watts.
On April 20, CBN was authorized to add a transmitter at St. Vincent’s, operating on 92.1 MHz with effective radiated poweer of 1,940 watts.


On May 12 the CRTC renewed CBN’s licence. The renewal included the following rebroadcast transmitters: CBNL-FM Clarenville, CBNM-FM Marystown, CBNO-FM Swift Current, CBNQ-FM Trepassey, CBNR-FM Ramea, CBNS-FM St. Alban’s, CBNV-FM Placentia, CBNX-FM St. Vincent’s and CBNU-FM Fermeuse.


On August 9, the CRTC administratively renewed the licence of CBN (and its transmitters) to August 31, 2011.


On August 25, the CRTC administratively renewed the licence for CBN and its transmitters to March 1, 2013.

Jeff Gilhooly, host of CBC St. John’s morning show for the last decade, did his last program July 29. Anthony Germain succeeded Gilhooly.

Marc Riddell, formerly of CBC Ottawa, was the new Managing Editor at CBC St. John’s. He succeeded Janice Stein who moved to CBC Yellowknife. Riddell was the developer and Executive Producer of Power & Politics.


On February 22, the CRTC administratively renewed the licences for CBN St. John’s and Labrador and its transmitters to August 31, 2013.

On May 28, the CRTC renewed the licence of CBN St. John’s and its transmitters CBNL-FM Clarenville, CBNM-FM Marystown, CBNO-FM Swift Current, CBNQ-FM Trepassey, CBNR-FM Ramea, CBNS-FM St. Alban’s, CBNU-FM Fermeuse, CBNV-FM Placentia and CBNX-FM St. Vincent’s, for a five year term to August 31, 2018.


On August 1, the CRTC approved the CBC’s application to add a transmitter in St. John’s to rebroadcast CBN-AM. The transmitter would operate on 88.5 MHz with an effective radiated power of 3,612 watts (non-directional) with EHAAT of 221.0 metres. The CBC indicated the new transmitter would improve the quality of its Radio One signal in St. John’s and surrounding areas.

On October 28, CBC Radio One St. John’s celebrated its move to the FM dial. CBC said there were no plans to cease simulcasting on 640 AM.


John Calver, 72, died October 30. He started his journalism career in the 1960s with CBC Radio in St. John’s, moving on to newsrooms in Calgary and Saskatchewan. He returned to St. John’s as the national reporter for CBC Newfoundland and Labrador in the 1980s and then moved back to west to be executive producer of CBC Saskatchewan.


Glenn Payette signed off from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador in June. Payette retired after reporting for CBC for more than 34 years.

The story continues elsewhere…
Effective September 1st 2019, we will only be adding new material to these station histories in exceptional circumstances. Our intent to chronicle the early days of these radio and television stations has been achieved, and many new sources and technologies, from the CRTC website to Wikipedia, and others, are now regularly providing new information in these areas.

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