CBC is regarded as one of the most prominent and influential cultural institutions in Canada. After establishing itself as a platform dedicated to producing and delivering Canadian content from coast to coast, CBC has maintained itself as a protector of Canadian culture, artistry, and values. Their broadcasts and programs are a huge part of our country’s history and future, binding together our citizens through a sense of community and belonging. CBC/Radio-Canada’s commitment to inclusivity is demonstrated through the extensive reach of their broadcasting, offering programming in both of Canada’s official languages (French and English) as well as many native languages for the country’s listeners in the North and closed captioning for the deaf. Through their fierce ethical and moral compass, CBC-Radio/Canada has acted as an adhesive for our nation’s citizens and their diverse backgrounds and beliefs, guiding us through the tumultuous and politically wrought decades of the nineteenth century including wars, the Great Depression, and various other transformative social climates. CBC Radio/Canada was not always the cultural force it is today; its success story is one of epic proportions and humble beginnings.
With Canada’s national culture just in its infancy in the early decades of the nineteenth century and therefore vulnerable to the already well established and booming American culture industry, the Canadian government stepped in, establishing a royal commission to advise the future of broadcasting in Canada in 1928. Under Royal Commission on Radio Broadcasting’s recommendations for a nationally owned company to regulate and protect Canadian content and the emerging and delicate culture that generated it, the Canadian Radio Broadcasting Commission was established. The CRBC encountered many challenges, which can be generalized by a lack of organization and underfunding.
In 1936, the new Canadian Broadcasting Act brought the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC)/Radio-Canada into the world. CBC was better prepared for the demands of delivering national news and content to such a large and diverse region. The CBC absorbed all rights and responsibilities of the CRBC, and they also presided over sixteen privately owned affiliate stations. The following years were spent fighting for adequate infrastructure to allow greater access to Canadians, securing new transmitters in major cities to combat interruptions from American stations as well as greater reach to Northern communities.
CBC/Radio-Canada quickly developed a reputation for integrity, authenticity, and neutrality.
As the crown corporation took its first steps, it launched various informative programs, but it really found its groove in the 40s, when their news division emerged. Also during this decade, Canada put the world’s first national domestic satellite into orbit in 1962, making waves in history and allowing their programs to be aired in the Canadian North—for the very first time. During this time, Canadian regulatory authorities began establishing quotas and rules for Canadian broadcasters, putting in place the 60% Canadian Content requirement.
This period of productivity was followed by the decade of the television, which brought uncertainty to CBC. Mounting pressure to compete with an American entertainment industry that had already introduced television to their public, the Canadian government was concerned about the costliness of the new medium as well as the rapid pace with which the technology seemed to be evolving. After only a brief pause, funds to support televised programming were allocated through an excise tax on television sets purchased. Television’s popularity took off at record pace, but CBC was well prepared, trailing in second place to America in live television programming. CBC hosted the first telecast of the opening of parliament in 1955 followed by a wealth of other political event coverage. During Expo ’67 in Montreal, CBC/Radio-Canada took on the role of host broadcaster, doing the same for the Pan Am Games in Winnipeg that same year. The following year, they co-produced the country’s first political debate with CTV.
Of course, the allocation of resources to televised programming came at the expense of radio programming. Radio listeners dropped dramatically and its content teetered into the category of obsolescence. It was clear that a serious shift in priorities was necessary to secure the longevity of the station, and in the late 70’s, CBC did just that. After an extensive radio study, CBC devised substantial changes in their program scheduling and created new segments that helped re-insert themselves into relevance. However, this was a precarious task as well, because this meant an increasing reliance on American content and programming, often leaving the corporation vulnerable to accusations of failing to meet its Canadian content mandate of 60%. Globalization and the increasing availability of alternative content once again put Canadian cultural material in jeopardy, but CBC eventually found their balance, securing an exclusively Canadian prime-time schedule by 1996 and boasting 99% Canadian content on its radio programming in present day, cementing their commitment to the production and distribution of Canadian culture.
The enduring and increasing prevalence of digital media has forced CBC to become an agent of change and resilience, allowing them to adapt in whatever way necessary to ensure their content is available to Canadians whenever and wherever they need it. Their commitment to identifying and celebrating Canadian storytellers and fostering the development of these voices has been a driving force in our cultural economy; they are strong supporters of indigenous communities and are active agents in improving quality of life to impoverished youth and other marginalized groups.
CBC has been and continues to be a staple in the Canadian cultural industry; their various platforms are crucial instruments in establishing, maintaining, and celebrating Canadian voices, from music and literature to politics and current events. CBC has steadfastly promoted values central to the collective national consciousness, and, incidentally, have been instrumental in shaping those values.
We, as Canadians, are lucky to have such a colourful institution to deliver the information and art we rely on as members of the workforce, as parents, as friends, as Canadian citizens, and as humans. We are proud to offer merchandise that celebrates one of Canada’s primary cultural generators, especially considering the impact their support for the creative community has had on Canadian businesses and artistic endeavours. Envy is proud to offer these Tee-shirts in celebration of CBC/Radio- Canada and all their contributions to our country.