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BriefsReportTable of ContentReport IndexRoyal Commission on National Development in the Arts, Letters and SciencesRoyal Commission on National Development in the Arts, Letters and SciencesRoyal Commission on National Development in the Arts, Letters and Sciences

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1. We were given the grave responsibility of making recommendations on the principles upon which the policy of Canada should be based in the field of television, this new and unpredictable force in our society. Our recommendations, however, as well as the evidence we bring forward in support of them, can be short and simple. They follow from the fact that the considerations leading us to recommend the continuation of a national system of radio broadcasting seem to us to dictate much more strongly and urgently a similar system in television. Television, like radio, is akin to a monopoly, but its much more limited channels give added importance to a system of co-ordination and control. Like radio it is a valuable instrument of national unity, of education, and of entertainment; how much more valuable it is difficult to say at present, but it promises to be a more popular as well as a more persuasive medium.

2. The position of private stations in Canadian television broadcasting requires special consideration. In radio broadcasting Canada has achieved maximum coverage for national programmes at minimum cost by using some commercial programmes, and by co-ordinating private stations within the national system under the control of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. We think the same principles of national control should be applied to television broadcasting but with certain special precautions. It seems apparent that the most difficult problem of television in Canada will be to provide programmes in our remote and thinly populated areas; and television advertising will raise difficult questions. Even in radio broadcasting the programmes of all private stations are likely to suffer from excessive control by the advertising sponsor. Only to a limited degree can the private station operator determine the character of his own programmes. Because of greater capital investment and greater operating costs the unfortunate tendencies of radio broadcasting will be intensified in television. The pressure on uncontrolled private television operators to become mere channels for American commercial material will be almost irresistible. In radio broadcasting, Canada experimented with a purely commercial system before changing to a national system. Such an experiment with the more costly and powerful television would be dangerous. Once television were established in commercial


north-south channels it would be almost impossible to make the expensive changes necessary to link the country by national programmes on east-west lines of communication. Canadians will welcome good American programmes in television as they now do in radio, but as we have been informed, they do not want them at the cost of a Canadian national system, provided that the C.B.C. can make attractive programmes available in the not too distant future. It seems desirable to use appropriate American television programmes, and to make suitable agreements with Canadian private stations. These arrangements, however, should follow and should depend on the organization of a national system of television production and control.

3. It has been stated in Part I that many Canadians believe that in view of the high costs of television, and since it is in a stage of rapid transition as a technique and of experiment as an art, Canada would do well for the next few years to move very slowly, if at all. As has happened so often, however, our neighbour has set the pace. Some 25,000 Canadians now own television receiving sets and the number will no doubt increase very rapidly here just as it has in the United States. It seems necessary, therefore, in our interests, to provide Canadian television programmes with national coverage as soon as possible.


4. The interim policy of the Canadian government now leaves the Board of Governors of the C.B.C. in control of television broadcasting, authorizes it to open a production centre in Toronto and another in Montreal, to advise the licensing of one private station in any city or area of Canada, and to extend coverage by all practicable means as soon as possible.

5. The principles which underlie this general policy are well calculated to serve the needs and interests of the Canadian people. We do not propose to make detailed recommendations on the policy of development which it is the duty of the Board of Governors with its special knowledge and experience to determine. We understand that the Board is proceeding with the plans laid down in the interim policy announced in March, 1949, and that coverage will be extended as rapidly as possible both through the C.B.C.'s own transmitting stations and by kinescope recordings provided to private stations which may come into being and serve as national outlets. We are, however, much concerned with three matters. One is that television development should not be precipitate, but should be carefully planned to avoid costly experiments which our country can scarcely afford. The second matter is related to the first. In the national interest, the Board of Governors should not yield to pressure to advise


the licensing of any commercial station before it is ready with national programmes which all stations may carry. Finally, we also urge, that since this continent is predominantly English-speaking, such programmes in the French language be produced as will meet the needs and interests of French-speaking Canadians.

We therefore recommend:
a.That direction and control of television broadcasting in Canada continue to be vested in the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
b.That the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation proceed with plans for the production of television programmes in French and English and for national coverage by kinescope recordings or by any other practicable means.
c.That no private television broadcasting stations be licensed until the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation has available national television programmes and that all private stations be required to serve as outlets for national programmes.
d.That recommendations previously made in connection with radio broadcasting, and numbered a., c., d., e., f., g., h., and p., apply to television broadcasting.


6. We have said something in Part I of the cost of television coverage. As with radio, costs in Canada for coverage will certainly be unusually high, because of the size of the country and our limited population. Programme costs will also be very high, again for the same reasons. Television, like radio broadcasting, must be in two languages and must appeal to various interests.

7. In the United States the profits of commercial radio have helped to pay the large initial losses of television. Canada's national radio, as we have seen, shows no profits, and is indeed operating at a loss. If licence fees are charged, they may reasonably be higher for television than for radio. The Board of Governors of the C.B.C. suggests ten dollars a year. But licence fees cannot be charged until Canadian programmes are being received; this will involve heavy capital expenditure for equipment as well as the initial programme costs. Under the interim policy, the Government provided a loan of $4,000,000 for the first year. The Board of Governors of the C.B.C. had asked for a loan of $5,500,000. We attach the utmost importance to the establishment of a minimum national service as soon as possible. We do not think that the national system


should be imperilled by any proposal that television be supported by commercial revenues alone. Nor do we think that radio programmes should be impoverished for the sake of the new development.

We therefore recommend:
e.That the finances of the radio and television broadcasting systems of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation be kept separate.
f.That the capital costs of the national television broadcasting system be provided from public money by parliamentary grants.
g.That the costs of the national television broadcasting system for programmes and current needs be provided by licence fees on television receiving sets at rates recommended by the Board of Governors of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and approved by Parliament, by commercial revenues, and by such statutory grants as may be necessary.


8. We do not propose to make recommendations on television programmes except in a general way. It has been suggested that television may eventually supersede radio; if this should happen, most of what we have said of radio programmes will apply to television. Again, television may develop and come to concentrate on its more immediately popular capacities such as variety shows, and sports and news actualities, leaving more serious programmes to radio and films. For such television programmes it will be essential to ensure the maintenance of good taste and a suitable and adequate use of Canadian material and Canadian talent. Finally, as many serious observers have suggested, there may and indeed should emerge from television's combined limitations and advantages an entirely new art essentially distinct from both radio and films. We do not think it useful to speculate on these various possibilities; but if a new art is to develop, it seems to us apparent that television producers must have the greatest freedom for experiment in their work and the most favourable working conditions possible.

9. We do, however, consider it essential that the Board of Governors exercise the greatest care to control excessive commercialism and other possible abuses both in its own programmes and in the programmes of private stations. The element of control necessary and now exercised by governments and by producers in radio and in the cinema will be far more important and far more difficult to achieve in the persuasive and subtle medium of television. We think it important also that, as with radio,


the Board of Governors of the C.B.C. endeavour at once to import the best programmes from abroad, while developing so far as possible Canadian talent in Canadian programmes.1

We therefore recommend:
h.That the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation exercise a strict control over all television stations in Canada in order to avoid excessive commercialism and to encourage Canadian content and the use of Canadian talent.
i.That the whole subject of television broadcasting in Canada be reconsidered by an independent investigating body not later than three years after the commencement of regular Canadian television broadcasting.

10. There is one additional point which should be noticed but upon which we do not propose to make recommendations. Since television programmes are costly and since national television networks in Canada cannot be expected for some time, it seems probable that extensive use will be made of films in television programmes. We understand that in the United States films occupy about twenty-five per cent of all television broadcasting time, and that this percentage will no doubt increase. It therefore seems apparent to us that in the interests of economy, and in accordance with the implications of accepted broadcasting and film policies in Canada, there must be close co-operation between the National Film Board and the C.B.C. in the production of films and in their diffusion by television. The National Film Board could not possibly produce all the films or even all the sorts of films which the C.B.C. will probably require, even if it were desirable for the Film Board to do so; and it would be regrettable if the Film Board were to become merely or principally a supplier of films for television purposes. But the Film Board can and should act as principal adviser to the C.B.C. on film matters, including their production by private commercial producers and their procurement from abroad, and the C.B.C. in turn, through the use of a proper proportion of National Film Board films, will no doubt be able to extend very greatly the effectiveness of the Film Board's work and Canadian appreciation of it. We can also readily believe that in the broadcasting and filming of events of national importance, whether in politics, the arts or in Canadian life generally, there will be many opportunities for close collaboration between these two important governmental agencies.

* From: Canada. Royal Commission on National Development in the Arts, Letters, and Sciences. Report. Ottawa : King's Printer, 1951. By permission of the Privy Council Office.

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