Canadian Radio-Television Commission

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The Canadian Radio-Television Commission came into being as a result of federal government legislation enacted in 1967 and coming into force in 1968.[1] It was the culmination of more than 30 years of wrangling amongst radio and television broadcasters, their stakeholders, and politicians, and it has since become the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission.

Many committees and commissions had been struck by Canada's Parliament since 1928 to address the issues of radio, and eventually television, broadcasting.[2] During the period 1936 to 1958 the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation was both the national broadcaster and regulator of other broadcasting undertakings. Being both a broadcaster and regulator was seen as a conflict of interest and the Board of Broadcast Governors was created to oversee the regulatory side of the broadcasting industry. Even the BBG had problems with political gerrymandering and, eventually, in 1965, the Fowler Committee[3] was struck to see if anything could be done to remove political clout from the regulatory process. Fowler noted in his report that the Broadcasting Act of 1958 gave only five words of instruction to the CBC as to its mission. The CBC was charged with "operating a national broadcasting service" and, Fowler continues, "this is all the guidance given to those charged with the responsibility for administering the public broadcasting agency. If this interpretation has failed to conform to the wishes of Parliament, it is clear where the responsibility rests."

The final document prior to the creation of the CRTC was the White Paper produced by the Standing Committee on Broadcasting, Films, and Assistance to the Arts and released in March 1967. The paper made several points. First, there were problems with the regulatory structure. The powers of the BBG were ill-defined and the role of the CBC was unclear. Second, the Committee rejected the Fowler proposal that the CBC and the BBG be reconstituted as one board.

Finally, the Paper made an explicit mention that the "Canadian broadcasting system, comprising public and private sectors, must be regarded as a single system which should be regulated and controlled by a single independent authority." This was in direct contradiction to the thoughts of Alphonse Ouimet who, in particular, had been urging for years that the Government give "de jure" recognition to the fact that Canada had a dual system of broadcasting and also in contradiction to Dr. Stewart, who felt that the regulator was to be formally acknowledged as the regulator of the private sector only.[4]

This contradiction of thoughts was a repetition of the contradictions incurred in the development of broadcasting policy over the forty years from 1928 to 1968. The government's first broadcast venture, the Canadian Radio Broadcasting Corporation, was created by a Conservative government; dismantled by a successor Liberal government and replaced with a much stronger and more effective operating body, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. The first separate regulatory body, the Board of Broadcast Governors, was created by a Conservative government; dismantled by a successor Liberal government and replaced with a much stronger and more effective regulatory body, the Canadian Radio-Television Commission.


  1. ^ 1968 Canadian Radio and Television Commission. Bill C-163 receives first reading October 17, 1967, is passed into law on March 7, 1968 and is proclaimed April 1, 1968. The new Act is entitled "An Act to implement a broadcasting policy for Canada" and establishes the CRTC as an independent body separate from the CBC and the government. The first Chairman was Pierre Juneau, after whom the Juno Awards are named.
  2. ^
    • 1928 Aird Commission, created by Order in Council P.C. 2108, December 6 to "enquire into the radio broadcasting situation throughout Canada and to advise as to the future administration, management, control and finance thereof".
    • 1930 Aird Report, February 24. Recommended the "establishment and operation of stations by a Government-owned and financed company".
    • 1932 Parliamentary committee established (March 2) to consider the report of the Aird Commission and report upon the most satisfactory method of implementing its recommendations. The committee tables its report on May 9 and recommends the creation of a Commission responsible for "the establishment of [a] trans-Canada chain [of] broadcasting" with commissioners and assistant commissioners in the Provinces.
    • 1932 The Canadian Radio Broadcasting Act, 22-23 Geo. V, c. 51, May 24, 1932; establishes Canadian Radio Broadcasting Commission (CRBC). Powers of licensing and associated revenues remained with the Minister of Marine as was recommended by the Aird Report.
    • 1936 CRBC recommends the 1932 act be repealed and replaced by a crown corporation, modelled on the British BBC, and with additional regulatory powers.
    • 1936 The Canadian Broadcasting Act, 1 Edw. VIII, c. 24, June 23, 1936; establishes the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
    • 1949 Massey Commission (Royal Commission on National Development in the Arts, Letters, and Sciences). Reviews the impact of television on the CBC.
    • 1951 Massey Report is tabled June 1, and recommends "that no private television broadcasting stations be licensed until the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation has available national television programmes".
    • 1955 Fowler Commission is established on December 2 to carry out the recommendation of the Massey Commission "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 programming".
    • 1957 Fowler Report recommends the establishment of a regulatory agency (the Board of Broadcast Governors) to monitor the activities of radio and television broadcasting in partnership with the CBC. The report also recommends that a single channel television network be continued until the BBG has "formulated a set of regulations specifically applicable to the performance and programme content of second television stations not affiliated with the national television network."
    • 1958 Broadcasting Act, 7 Eliz. II, c. 42, September 6, 1958. Establishes the Board of Broadcast Governors.
    • 1963 Glassco Commission. The Royal Commission on Government Organization: appointed September, 1960. Performed a brief three month review of the CBC from September to November, 1961. Although Glassco understood that the CBC was hamstrung by lack of policy direction from the government, his report was more concerned with analyzing the internal structure of the CBC. The report did not seem to make a deep impression on Parliament.
  3. ^ 1966 Fowler Committee. Secretary of State Maurice Lamontagne appoints Robert Fowler, who had headed the 1955-57 Royal commission, to the chair of an advisory committee on broadcasting. The other two members are Marc Lalonde, then in private practice as a lawyer in Montreal, and Ernie Steel, the Under-Secretary of State. Fowler lays the blame for dissastisfaction with broadcasting squarely in lap of Parliament and recommends returning to the pre-1958 one-board system. He envisages a policy-oriented body not directly involved in public-sector programming.
  4. ^ Interviews by the author with Pierre Juneau and Harry Boyle, October and November, 1993