History of the Societe-Radio-Canada (SRC) Networks
The Parliament of Canada authorized Radio-Canada to borrow $4.5 million in order to create a television service in Montreal and in Toronto, TV stations that were to be operational by September 1951.
In May, the Massey-Lévesque Commission recommended, among other items, that the administration of the national broadcasting system continue to be under the jurisdiction of one single organization accountable to Parliament and that the CBC be this organization, as it was then constituted. No private stations were to be licensed as a network without the permission of the CBC.
On June 13, the Mayor of Montreal, Camilien Houde, turned the first sod to mark the start of the construction of an antenna on Mount Royal. The Marconi Company lent two cameras to Radio-Canada for the purposes of manpower training.
The Liberal Government introduced and passed a bill to modify the Canadian Broadcasting Act, covering most of the recommendations of the Massey-Lévesque Commission. The bill also provided the CBC with an annual subsidy of $6.25 million over the following five years.
On July 18, the first televised coverage of a baseball game was broadcast via the cameras set up in the De Lorimier Stadium by Radio-Canada. Television arrived in Canada with the official broadcasting launch of CBFT Montreal (bilingual service) on September 6, in the presence of Mayor Camilien Houde, Cardinal Paul Émile Léger, the Minister of National Revenue, J. J. McCann, and the Chairman of the Board of Governors, Davidson Dunton.
The first program broadcast on the evening of this television inauguration in Montreal was called “Club d’un soir". CBLT Toronto (English language service) began on September 8.
At the time, CBFT had some 300 employees. The budget for the first year of operations was about $8 million. At the beginning, the station broadcast 23 hours of programming per week, split up between the two languages; however, French language programming predominated.
On June 2, the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II was broadcast by CBC/SRC on film that had been flown in instalments from London to Goose Bay by three successive RAF Canberra aircraft, on to Montreal by Canadian CF100s, and thence by helicopter to from the CBC/SRC building. The NBC and ABC networks took the Canadian feed, as their own films had not yet arrived in New York.
In April 1953, CBFT-TV became exclusively French. Thanks to a microwave relay system built between Montreal and Toronto, English programming was henceforth broadcast on a CBMT-TV Montreal’s English language station, which started broadcasting on January 10th.
CBC/SRC was the host broadcaster of the Commonwealth Games in Vancouver.
On June 25, CBOFT Ottawa joined the SRC TV network.CKRS-TV Jonquière was launched, thus becoming the third privately owned French language SRC affiliate.
In December, the Royal Commission on Broadcasting, presided over by Robert Fowler, was created to examine the financing of CBC/SRC.
On June 21, CFCL-TV Timmins became an affiliate of the two CBC/SRC networks (French and English). French language programs were broadcast in the morning. This broadcast sharing system between the two networks would last for 30 years.
CKRN-TV Rouyn Noranda became the sixth French language station affiliated to the Radio-Canada network.
On November 10, the Government of John Diefenbaker adopted a new Broadcasting Act that created the Board of Broadcast Governors (BBG) to replace CBC/SRC as regulators of the Canadian broadcasting industry.
J. Alphonse Ouimet was appointed President of CBC/SRC (1958-1967).
In December, Radio-Canada producers in Montreal went on strike to support their demands for the right to belong to a Union and to bargain collectively. Senior Radio-Canada management refused to recognize their right under the pretext that the producers played a role as managers, and the dispute festered for three long months filled with acrimony. Management finally ended up yielding to the strikers.
On October 17, CHAU-TV Carleton opened its doors and thus became the 8th French language Radio-Canada network affiliate.
Special news coverage of the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway by queen Elizabeth II, Prime Minister John Diefenbaker and US President Dwight D. Eisenhower.
R. L. Dunsmore was appointed Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Société Radio-Canada (1959-1963).
On Sunday, November 11, the French language radio and television networks of Radio-Canada broadcast a political debate in the Province of Quebec for the very first time. It lasted one and a half hours and pitted Jean Lesage, leader of the Quebec Liberal Party and Premier of the Province of Quebec, against Daniel Johnson (father), the leader of the Opposition and of the Union nationale. The moderator was Raymond Charrette and the announcer Jean-Paul Nolet. The guest journalists were Paul Sauriol from the newspaper Le Devoir, Gérard Pelletier from La Presse, Bill Bantey from The Gazette, Jean V. Dufresne from MacLean’s magazine, as well as Lucien Langlois and Clément Brown from Montreal-Matin.
On September 1, colour television arrived in Canada.
On December 31, the celebration of the Centennial of Canadian Confederation was broadcast live on radio and TV.
Official opening of the International Broadcasting Centre, which would be operated by CBC/SRC during the 1967 Montreal World’s Fair.
On February 1, George F. Davidson was appointed President of CBC/SRC (1968-1972). Laurent Picard was appointed Vice-President.
On March 7, the Liberal Government of Lester B. Pearson adopted a new Broadcasting Act and confirmed CBC’s mandate as a national broadcaster. It also created the Canadian Radio-Television Commission (CRTC), to be responsible for the broadcasting regulations and issuing of licences, including Cable TV and which also replaced the BBG.
On April 1, Pierre Juneau was appointed Chairman of the Canadian Radio-Television Commission (CRTC).
The Radio-Canada French network was broadcasting about 15 hours of colour programming per week.
First televised debate between political party leaders in Canada; a CBC/SRC/CTV co-production.
The CRTC called for both public and private television programming to have 60% Canadian content.
The Anik I satellite was launched. CBC/SRC leased three channels for radio and television distribution.
Coverage of the Canada-Russia hockey series was carried by SRC.
Laurent A. Picard was appointed President of CBC/SRC (1972-1975).
Official opening of La Maison de Radio-Canada in Montreal, in the presence of Prime Minister Pierre-Elliott Trudeau.
On February 14, the Secretary of State, Hugh Faulkner, unveiled the Accelerated Coverage Plan, designed to make the radio and television services of CBC/SRC, in English or French, or both, available to all Canadian communities with a population of 500 or more inhabitants.
Radio-Canada was the host broadcaster of the Montreal Summer Olympics.
CBC/SRC set up facilities for broadcasting the proceedings of the House of Commons, at the request of the Speaker of the House.
On February 15, an agreement was signed to reassign frequencies between Radio-Canada and Télévision de la Baie des Chaleurs inc. (CHAU-TV – Carleton) in order to expand access to the full service offered by the Société Radio-Canada, Radio-Québec and TVA to the entire Gaspésie and northern New-Brunswick.
Start-up of the CANCOM network that was licensed to distribute television signals by satellite to remote areas across the country.
Pierre Juneau was appointed President of CBC/SRC (1982-1989).
A commemorative postage stamp was issued to mark the 50th anniversary of the CBC.
Gérard Veilleux was appointed President and General Manager of the CBC/SRC (1989-1993).
Patrick Watson was appointed President elect of the Board of Directors of CBC/SRC (1989-1991).
Guylaine Saucier became Chairman of the Board of Directors of CBC/SRC (1995-2000).
Perrin Beatty was appointed President and General Manager of CBC/SRC (1995-1999).
The SRC network won 15 Gémeaux Awards for its in-house productions and co-productions. Amongst the latter, 4 et demi…, Christiane Charette en direct, La facture, Bêtes pas bêtes and L’Écuyer are worthy of note.
The series Omertà received an award from Telefilm Canada for the best Canadian French language production.
Two stories presented on Le Point were also honoured. “Troc Made in Quebec", produced by Louise Lemelin and Hélène Pichette, were awarded the Prix Judith-Jasmin and the Prix d’investigation at the 12th Festival international du Scoop et du Journalisme.
Another story done by Claude-Jean Harel and Frédéric Zalac, “Les pensionnats autochtones", won amongst other honours, an award from the Office des communications sociales and another prize from the Canadian Ethnic Journalists’ and Writers’ Club.
The International Olympic Committee awarded CBC/SRC, in partnership with NetStar, the distribution rights for the next five Olympic Games.
The House of Commons decided not to adopt Bill C-44, which stipulated that the appointment of CBC/SRC’s directors was to be done by Order-in-Council, on a good behaviour basis. This decision reassured Canadians about the non-interference approach to CBC/SRC’s programming.
The French Television network won 47 Gémeaux awards given out by the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television, 16 of which went to in-house productions. Amongst the latter Christiane Charette en direct, La facture, La vie d'artiste, 4 et demi..., Découverte and Charles Dutoit et Jeanne d'Arc à Tokyo were notable. Le Téléjournal was awarded a Gémeaux for the best news program, as was État de choc for the best news special. The sports department also received two Gémeaux awards for its coverage of the Nagano Olympic Games. Amongst the co-productions honoured by the Academy, were: Omertà II: La loi du silence, which earned eight Gémeaux, including the people’s choice award, Sous le signe du lion, which garnered six, L'Ombre de l'épervier, five, and Un gars, une fille, four.
Shot during the Nagano Winter Olympics, the program Harmonie, produced by Michel F. Gélinas, received four awards at Japan's 42nd Film and Video Competition, namely the Gold, the Minister of Foreign Affairs prize, the Asahi Evening prize and the Japan Times prize.
The program La boîte à lunch, for young viewers, was honoured with four awards, including the International Youth Award, in Germany, and the Award of Merit (pre-school) given out by the Alliance for Children and Television.
Robert Rabinovitch was appointed President and General Manager of CBC/SRC (1999 to date).
In August, the Federal Cabinet sent a request to the CRTC asking it to examine the relevance of creating a national French language arts and culture specialty television service.
In February 2000, the CRTC invited licence applications for a French language specialty service whose programming would be focused on the arts. Radio-Canada and partners Télé-Québec, BCE Media inc., Sept ARTE and Équipe Spectra submitted a new application in this regard. The application was finally approved on September 14.
90% of the programming broadcast by the SRC French network was Canadian-made. 92% per cent of the listenership hours devoted to SRC was being tuned in to Canadian-made programming.
The lockout began after 15 months of unsuccessful negotiations. The labour dispute was essentially triggered by the Corporation’s desire to obtain more flexibility in its use of contract employees. The lockout deprived the French network of its regular news reports from other provinces, mainly from Ottawa, and foreign news reporters shared with the CBC English Network.
On October 11, after a 88.4% majority vote, employees started returning to work after accepting a new collective agreement which limited the number of contract employees that Radio-Canada/CDC could use.
The daily TV drama series Virginie, broadcast on Radio-Canada beginning in 1996, beat the record for the most episodes (1221) for a dramatic series ever shown on French TV.
More than 1,500,000 visitors went to the Radio-Canada.ca Web site every month.
In 2006, Radio-Canada stopped broadcasting La soirée du hockey for TV viewers outside of Québec, when RDS became the exclusive francophone broadcaster of NHL games. Radio-Canada was airing the latter up until then, even though it had lost the rights to these broadcasts in the Province of Quebec as of 2004.
The program Tout le monde en parle was attracting an average audience of 1.7 million TV viewers during the fall-winter season, representing a 50% audience share.
L'auberge du chien noir was attracting an average of more than one million TV viewers every week, namely, a 28% audience share.
La facture, L'épicerie and Découverte were the most popular public affairs programs at the time reaching sizeable prime time audiences, with their respective averages of 692,000, 658,000 and 600,000 TV viewers.
Hubert T. Lacroix took over on November 5, 2007, for a five-year mandate. He took up his post on January 1, 2008.
Prior to joining CBC/Radio-Canada, Mr. Lacroix was special counsel at the Montreal law offices of Stikeman Elliott, a legal firm specializing in business law, with a national and international reputation. Prior to that, he had been Chairman of the Board of the Société Télémédia and sat on various other Boards of Directors of different companies in this group.
As of September 2007, CBC/Radio-Canada became subject to the federal Access to Information Act. Certain protective provisions allowed the Corporation to comply with the Act while still preserving in the journalistic, creative and programming areas, the fundamental independence of a broadcaster. More specifically, section 68.1 of the Access to Information Act stipulated that: “This Act does not apply to any information that is under the control of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation that relates to its journalistic, creative or programming activities, other than information that relates to its general administration.”
In the fall 2007, the Radio-Canada radio network had a 20% audience share of francophone listeners who listen to French radio stations.
At the end of February 2008, the Committee published its report, entitled CBC/Radio-Canada: Defining Distinctiveness in the Changing Media Landscape, in which it affirmed the value and relevance of a national public broadcaster. The Committee made 47 recommendations on how to strengthen the contributions made by the national public broadcaster to Canadian culture and democracy. One of the key recommendations proposed the establishment of an official process during which, every seven years, the Government would precisely define the mandate of CBC/Radio Canada.
In 2008, the Corporation made history with its coverage of the Beijing Olympic Games. Canadians, for the first time in history, could watch live coverage of the competitions on their computer screens. Thanks to a partnership with Bell, Bell Mobility subscribers were able to receive streaming video and take advantage of flat rate packages on demand to watch the highlights of Radio-Canada's Game's coverage all day long.
Since being subject to the Federal Access to Information Act, on September 1, 2007, CBC/Radio-Canada received more than 500 requests dealing with a wide range of subjects, which was far greater than what was anticipated.
In 2007–2008, Radio-Canada Radio's audience numbers were the best they had been since 1984, both in terms of market share, number of listeners and listening time vis-à-vis all the networks (BBM).
In 2007–2008, Radio-Canada Television's audience share during prime time remained steady at 20.1% compared to 19.6% in 2006–2007.
Radio-Canada maintained its position as the network that broadcast major cultural events, with its broadcasts of the Gala des Olivier (average of 1.6 million TV viewers), the Prix Gémeaux (average of 937,000 TV viewers), the ADISQ gala, for the 29th consecutive year (average of 1.1 million TV viewers), and the Jutra (average of 655,000 TV viewers).
Amongst all the new shows in 2007–2008, two drama series were particularly well received by the general public: Les Boys, with an average audience share of 37%, and Les Lavigueur, la vraie histoire, with nearly two million TV viewers for each of its six episodes, and an audience share of nearly 50%.
Radio-Canada also commissioned digital high definition (HD) transmitters in Montreal, Quebec City and Ottawa.
Two TV studios were also converted to HD production in Montreal.
Once again, in 2009, Radio-Canada was amongst the 15 most admired companies in the Province of Quebec.
Radio-Canada was now broadcasting its content on 15 different platforms, including several that were accessible all around the world.
During the 2009-2010 season, seven Radio-Canada TV programs were attracting an average of more than one million TV viewers per week, including Tout le monde en parle, Les Boys, L’auberge du chien noir, Les Parent, Providence, Trauma and Mirador.
Radio-Canada TV maintained its market share during prime time with a 19.9% audience share.
In 2009, Radio-Canada also contributed to the financing and production of 16 Quebec films.
However, with the difficult economic situation, the Corporation had to deal with considerable budget constraints and manage the numerous challenges that arose as a result. In fact, on March 25, 2009, the Government of Canada reduced the funds allocated to CBC/Radio-Canada by $171 million.
2009 was also the year that the national public broadcaster underwent a transformation: as its radio and television divisions had established an Internet presence, it became a supplier of integrated content, which simultaneously operated television, radio and the Web.
Radio-Canada also was awarded a new broadcasting licence for EXPLORA, a speciality channel devoted to health, science, nature and the environment.
Following the disaffiliation of a number of stations belonging to Cogeco, Radio-Canada decided to open and operate its own regional multimedia stations (television, radio and Internet) to provide services to the Centre-du-Québec and the Eastern Townships, Trois-Rivières, in March 2010, and the Saguenay, in August.
On March 31, 2010, Radio-Canada had 3,800 employees.
The Web site Espace.mu was launched in June 2011. It enabled listeners to listen on-line to seven different music genres (song/pop, jazz, world, classical, rock, hip-hop and country/folk).
Radio-Canada was the official broadcaster of the 2011 FIFA Woman's World Cup of soccer, airing the 32 games on its network, as well as on its Web site.
The RDI news service boasted some 11 million subscribers, while the ARTV service counted 2.1 million.
Canadian content on Radio-Canada TV represented 85% of what aired over the entire broadcasting day and 82% during prime time (Monday-Sunday, 19:00-23:00). Programming expenditures for Radio-Canada's Canadian production represented 93% of its programming budget, while these same programming expenditures represented some 80% of the total budget.
Radio-Canada began replacing the incandescent lighting used in its television productions by the more energy-efficient LED lighting, in order to reduce its environmental footprint.
Written by Yvon Chouinard – 2004
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