The Development of Canadian Sports Broadcasting 1920-78

Richard P. Cavanagh (Canadian Conference of the Arts)

Abstract: The emergence of sport as a staple of Canadian broadcasting has a lengthy and complex history, variously involving agents of private capital and the state. Both professional and amateur sport have been targeted for reasons which differ according to their respective ideological and economic bases.

Résumé: Le développement du sport, en tant qu'élément central de la radiodiffusion au Canada, procède d'une histoire longue et complexe qui implique à la fois le capital privé et l'État. Le sport professionnel et le sport amateur ont tous deux été ciblés pour des raisons différentes qui correspondent à leurs fondements idéologiques et économiques respectifs.


Near the dawn of North American television's romance with international sporting events, former Commissioner of Sport for France (and current International Olympic Committee member) Maurice Herzog, noted that "Amateur sport is a means of building character. Professional sport is a spectacle. It is a way for a crowd of individuals to express themselves" (CBC, Annual Report 1962-63, p. 34). Stated in a discussion with broadcasting representatives, his comment works as a contemporary reminder of the ideological character of sport, and that (while it is difficult to delineate them now) Canadian amateur and professional sport were decidedly separate spheres of activity for many decades. The implicit contradiction evident in the 1990s is that elite-level "amateur" athletics are considered among the most "spectacular" of any modern sporting event, given the high profile afforded profitable international games by powerful media organizations.

This paper endeavours to thematically map the socio-historical roots of what is now a multi-billion dollar enterprise. Key issues touched on in this historical development include: the emergence of sports broadcasting as a staple of Canadian programming, wherein both professional and amateur sport structures played crucial roles; private capital and political structures as factors in the emergence of sports broadcasting systems; and the combined economic, political, and ideological forces which shaped Canadian sports broadcasting over 50 years of development.

The Emergence of Sports Media in Canada

Private entrepreneurial interests were active in promoting sport well before the formation of the National Hockey League in 1917. Wages or winnings for circuit boxers and wrestlers, baseball players and scullers, and for running/horse races, became common during the 1870s and 1880s (Metcalfe, 1987, pp. 159-163; Redmond, 1985, p. 345). As Metcalfe suggests, it was from the ranks of commercial sport, supported by the telegraph and press of the latter half of the 19th Century, where individual athletes emerged as nationally publicized heroes (1987, p. 174), e.g., the professional sculler Ned Hanlan, whose exploits and "value" to Canada were widely reported and debated in newspaper accounts (Wise & Fisher, 1974, pp. 104-105; Brown, 1980; Metcalfe, 1987, p. 178).

As Howell & Howell (1969, p. 148) point out, "...after the turn of the century, newspapers rapidly expanded their coverage of sporting events...[and] better photographic equipment" permitted the embellishment of stories. According to Wise & Fisher (1974, p. 306), in the period prior to World War I, crowds would gather outside newspaper offices to receive telegraphed reports of hockey scores, and W. A. Hewitt (Foster Hewitt's father) helped develop an outdoor "scoreboard" so people in Toronto could keep abreast of World Series scores.

The relationship between the press and the popularity of hockey lead directly to the initial broadcast/sport interaction, radio transmissions of professional hockey. Radio in Canada was initially an enterprise generated by private capital without much intervention by the state. By 1922 when radio stations were operating on a wider scale, almost all were owned by radio equipment manufacturers/suppliers or by newspaper companies (Peers, 1969, pp. 4-6). For example, CFCA in Toronto was owned by the Star Printing and Publishing Company (publisher of the Toronto Star), and broadcast the final period of a hockey game between North Toronto and Midland from the Toronto Mutual Street Arena on February 8, 1923 (Wise & Fisher, 1974, p. 301; Troyer, 1980, p. 68). Foster Hewitt, who worked for the Star and later owned CFCA, used a telephone and telegraph to broadcast part of a game on CFCA, March 22, 1923. Although the transmission capacity of stations such as those of the CNR network was low, 50-500 watts with poor reception, hockey proved nonetheless popular with advertisers (such as Beehive Corn Syrup) by the late 1920s, given the expanded market created through the simultaneous availability of newspaper space and radio air time. This signalled the continuation of a commodification process which shaped the bond between the broadcasting industry and organized sport.

While the early years of radio and commercial sponsorship focused on professional hockey, non-professional athletics were attached to political structures, through small provincial/federal state grants to the 1920, 1924, and 1928 Canadian Olympic and international hockey teams. In addition, internationally successful athletes such as Percy Williams and Ethel Catherwood were heralded in the press as national heroes (West, 1973; Broom & Baka, 1979, p. 15; Cosentino & Leyshon, 1975, pp. 25-30; Howell & Howell, 1969, pp. 267-270). Canada was also emerging as an international power in hockey, initiated by the victory of the amateur Winnipeg Falcons at the 1920 Antwerp Olympic Games.

The separate resource bases of commercial and amateur sport proved to be a profound point of difference. While privately based professional sport drew attention on the basis of on-going league competition and the "home team," amateur-level sport existed on much more tenuous ground. Success or failure in professional or league sport was fleeting in terms of schedules which brought teams together time and again, but "high" achievement in amateur sport carried more national implications, since victory was wrought at the expense of the rest of the civilized world. In other words, the underlying unifier of athletic achievement, front page stories, and radio reports of victory were those achievements in themselves, which occurred in a unique capacity of international competition. In terms of profitability, respective economic, and ideological criteria differentiated the categories of professional and amateur sport to an even greater extent.

Sporting events proved to be a programming and revenue staple for private radio. By 1931, General Motors had entered into a five-year contract to sponsor National Hockey League games, beginning in Toronto and Montreal and expanding to 33 stations by 1934 (Weir, 1965, p. 85; MacNeil & Wolfe, 1980, pp. 84, 91; General Motors Hockey Broadcast News, May 1934, p. 1). Western Canadian Professional Hockey League games were sponsored by Imperial Tobacco on CJAC, owned by the Southam family's Edmonton Journal (MacNeil & Wolfe, 1980, p. 92; Prang, 1965, p. 16). Even though the CRBC began broadcasting Saturday Night Hockey in 1932, private stations were able to retain corporate sponsorship or attract new advertising to their hockey programs. When General Motors' contract expired in 1935, Imperial Oil signed on and remained the major sponsor of hockey broadcasts on private and public radio until 1976 (including the "Put a Tiger in Your Tank" era). Although private broadcasters considered the advent of the CRBC's "civil service" programming to be an encroachment on private interests and a signal to the end of "popular" (read U.S.) programming not initially carried by the CRBC, the advent of public radio catered to a perceived desire for programming variety (Weir, 1965, pp. 186-191). In addition, corporate advertising interests found their way onto CRBC's growing list of special events programming, e.g., Imperial Tobacco's ads during reports from 1934 British Empire Games (1965, p. 196).

The intensity of the ideological relations among broadcasting, the state, and sport was illustrated during the 1936 Parliamentary Committee hearings on the direction of broadcasting in Canada, where it was argued that more trans-Canada network programming was desirable over and above Saturday Night General Motors Hockey (House of Commons Special Committee on Radio Broadcasting, Proceedings, 1936). When the CRBC was renamed the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation through the 1936 Broadcasting Act, it began to accept a limited number of sponsored U.S. programs, subject to the provision that "goods advertised were made or distributed by companies in Canada." Apart from Imperial Tobacco musical broadcasts on Sunday afternoons and Imperial Oil's sponsorship of hockey broadcasts, few Canadian programs had secured sponsors of any kind (House of Commons, Debates, February 8, 1938, p. 247; Peers, 1969, p. 229). If radio broadcasting supported by the state was to reach diverse regions of the country, then sports programming, notably the cultural commonality of hockey, would ostensibly meet this goal.

Once the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation was in operation as a national, state-funded broadcasting service, its coverage of sport was generally limited to events of "national or international prominence," such as hockey, the English Derby (from the BBC), the World Series (NBC), and the Harmsworth speedboat races (CBC, Annual Report 1933-34, p. 16). By 1940, with two national networks (the Trans-Canada and Dominion) and an overseas service in operation, coverage was extended to the Davis Cup (BBC), Dominion Lacrosse Championships, and the Henley Regatta. In addition, much of CBC's programming was carried by many of the 72 existing, and often more powerful, private radio stations. Broadcast sport was cited as entertainment for troops in Britain during World War II, with NHL games, boxing, football, and regattas recorded, transported, and re-broadcast by the BBC (Weir, 1965, pp. 236, 239; CBC, Annual Reports 1938-39 to 1942-43).

By 1949-50, CBC English-language radio devoted over 380 hours of programming to sport (about 2.5% of total spoken programming), now including Canadian Open Golf and boxing from Madison Square Garden in New York. This figure rose to 516 hours in 1950-51 (4%) when Canadian Sports Round-Up and CBC Sports Page debuted (CBC, Annual Reports 1949-50, 1950-51). By the time television began in Canada, sports programming on state-subsidized radio had increased to 615 hours per year, with coverage of Olympic trials in track and rowing, and of the Helsinki Games themselves, actually attended by a CBC reporter (CBC, Annual Report 1952-53).

Despite the provisions made to cover amateur athletics by CBC radio, broadcast sport had developed a decidedly commercial/professional slant, due in part to the slow development of an organized system of Canadian amateur sport and in part to the profitable popularity of pro sport for advertising interests. In fact, the most popular professional sports like NHL games and Big Four Football were favoured for broadcast, followed by American boxing and baseball, which had established Canadian audiences. Broadcasts of athletics reminiscent of a declining British tradition, such as rowing and horse racing, were also included on the schedule. Thus the key rationale for sports programming on radio was informed by that which guided other categories of programming: a policy of diversity which would conceivably contribute to the sometimes contradictory process of establishing a public/national service catering to a range of Canadian tastes while maintaining audiences. However, as Canadian-based television was introduced, tension and conflict escalated among the many players involved in its progression and transformation. Changes in the world of sport and moments in the development of television broadcasting clashed at crucial junctures in the 1950s and 1960s, and the implications of this intersection were profound for organized competitive sport and broadcasting alike.

Television and Sport: 1952-66

By the late 1940s, pressures to establish a Canadian-based system of television were mounting from several sources. First, there was the "inevitable" encroachment of a more developed U.S. television industry into Canada through the availability of border station signals, echoing the situation of radio in the 1920s. Second, applications to the Ministry of Revenue for private television licences were emanating from foreign sources such as Famous Players (U.S.) and Marconi Company (Britain). And third, efforts by radio/television equipment manufacturers to establish stations were steadily increasing (Peers, 1979, pp. 10-11). As of 1950, 30,000 television sets had been sold in Canada, and over 100,000 were sold by the time two Canadian stations went on the air in September 1952. In other words, the true advent of television in Canada stemmed from uncontrolled signals received from U.S. stations, which devoted significant air time to sports programming: "In October 1948, Buffalo and Detroit were linked by coaxial cable with other midwest cities --just in time for World Series baseball. In Toronto, people flocked to see the only barroom television set, at the Horseshoe Tavern, on Queen near the corner of Spadina" (Peers, 1979, p. 15).

The cultural concerns and British tradition emphasized by the Massey Commission were reinforced and legitimated by televisual coverage of the 1953 coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, and the 1954 British Empire and Commonwealth Games held in Vancouver (see below). In 1953 alone, 560,000 television sets were sold in Canada, and 60% of Canadian homes were estimated to have sets by 1956 (Peers, 1979, pp. 44-45; Weir, 1965, p. 261). The costs of domestic production were beginning to climb, however, bringing Canadian-based programming on the CBC down to 50% in 1956, from 67% in 1954; an increased number of American productions were purchased by the network for prime time (weekday evening) schedules (CBC, Annual Reports 1953-54 to 1956-57).

Faced with increasing costs and declining Canadian content on the national network, the Fowler Commission (Royal Commission on Broadcasting) offered a series of recommendations which embraced the ideology of previous reports. Fowler emphasized broadcasting's role in fostering "national identity, education and enlightenment," but suggested the CBC seek increased revenue from commercial sources. The Commission further recommended the establishment of the Bureau of Broadcast Governors as a separate regulatory body charged with ensuring that minimum levels of Canadian content were maintained and so-called "second stations" would not simply become American affiliates (Fowler Commission, Report, 1957, pp. 75-76; Weir, 1965, pp. 312-313). A new Broadcasting Act in 1958 created the BBG to ensure "the efficient operation of a national broadcasting system and the provision of a... comprehensive broadcasting service of a high standard that is basically Canadian in content and character" (Broadcasting Act, 1958, Section 10). The issue of U.S. encroachment was thus confronted with state action which would ostensibly secure the "Canadian" in Canadian television, as the BBG would regulate licensing of private stations and monitor compliance with the established minimum of 55% Canadian content. As it turned out, broadcast sport supported content levels while providing a forum for corporate and political messages.

Interestingly, the CBC's production of television sport was not characterized by what readily "fit in" to schedules and budgets. Rather, production decisions were guided by three related factors. First, there was burgeoning interest in international-level sport in the 1950s, marked particularly by fervoured accounts of the drive to break the four-minute barrier in the mile run, a feat considered the ultimate of high performance. Second, a more complex and widespread system of state-directed amateur sport was emerging by the end of the decade. And third, political and ideological emphasis on state-controlled broadcasting as a bearer of nationalism and promoter of unity was broadening the role which sport could play as a bearer of dominant messages. As the organization and internationalism of sport developed, it became harmoniously aligned with favourable sentiments of national unity and international prestige.

The possibilities for sport as spectacle and dramatic television of international sport surfaced during the 1954 British Empire and Commonwealth Games from Vancouver. The Games were anticipated internationally for the "Dream Mile" race which involved the top three or four male runners of the time, and represented the first attempt at large-scale coverage by the CBC.

Organizing the production involved exploring new territory for television in general: world rights to the Games (whereby CBC would provide film footage for overseas broadcasters) were negotiated with the Commonwealth Games Association in January 1954 and an American network's microwave system linking Vancouver to Eastern Canada via Seattle and Buffalo was leased. The production staff numbered an unheard-of 140 people. The opening and closing ceremonies and Saturday events were broadcast live, while taped one-hour packages were flown to Toronto for a national broadcast every day (CBC, Annual Report 1954-55; 1954 British Empire and Commonwealth Games, Broadcast, August 7, 1954). No major Games would be complete without a corporate connection: the production was sponsored, with commercials, by Northern Electric, a leading manufacturer of radio, television, and household appliance equipment.

The 1954 Commonwealths included what became known as the "Miracle Mile" involving two sub-four minute achievements in one race, by Great Britain's Roger Bannister and John Landy (a Canadian runner, Richard Ferguson, finished the race in third place), filmed by one camera and sparingly described by a single commentator. The Games in general, and the mile race especially, embodied the dramatic entertainment possibilities represented by international-level sport for an audience with access to television, and provided a highly visible showcase for elite-calibre athletes.

If televised production of the Games was instrumental in establishing a closer relationship between broadcasting and sport, Canadian performances at the Games pointed, in a very public way, to the slow progression of Canadian amateur sport development. Together with defeats of Canadian teams in international hockey (by the Soviet Union) and so-called "poor performances" in other world-level competitions, the 1954 Games contributed to the "receptive atmosphere for the federal government during its deliberations...about providing financial support for amateur sport" (Macintosh et al., 1987, p. 14).

The movement toward a stronger bonding between the Canadian state and amateur sport has been thoroughly documented (see Hallett, 1981; Cavanagh, 1985; Macintosh et al., 1987), but two factors which contributed to the elaboration of sports broadcasting can be noted. First, Canadian athletes won only a single silver medal at the Rome Olympics in 1960, there for all the world to see in the internationally televised production. Together with a strong lobby by the Canadian Sports Advisory Council and strong words from the Duke of Endinburgh about the fitness level of Canadians, this Canadian performance led to the enactment of the Fitness and Amateur Sport Act in 1961 (Galasso, 1973; A Proposed Sports Policy for Canadians, 1981). The Act served as a legislative guarantee of the state's continuing fiscal involvment in sport. Second, the rationale governing the development of a sport system emphasized mass participation, where a healthy and fit population would generate better athletes, obviating the requirement for a system geared to elite development. However, the emerging logic of television sport demanded that high performance amateur athletics be made available for production, since these events ideally embodied drama alongside achievement. Given the location of amateur sport on the political agenda, would the public network assume a role in promoting publicly supported sport, somehow incorporating a message of mass participation? The answer to this is chronicled by the emergence of private competition in the television industry, and in the conflicts which arose in its wake.

With a broadcast regulator and Canadian content guidelines legislated through the 1958 Broadcasting Act, the BBG granted broadcast licences to a number of business interests with financial holdings in media industries. These included the owner of the Toronto Telegram, John H. Bassett, Canadian Marconi of Montreal (which received an exemption from the foreign ownership clause of the new Broadcasting Act), CJCH radio in Halifax, CFCN radio in Calgary, CKY radio in Winnipeg, and former CBC executive Ernest Bushnell in Ottawa (Peers, 1979, pp. 230-232). Importantly, a variety of connections existed between the new private licensees and franchise ownership in the Canadian Football League (CFL). Bassett was part (later full) owner of the Toronto Argonauts, CKY President Ralph Misener was part owner of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, and Ernest Bushnell sat on the Board of Directors of the Ottawa Rough Riders. These executive interlocks are worth noting, as by 1960, telecasts of professional league sport were extremely popular with audiences. The 1959 Grey Cup drew five million viewers; only the final game of the Stanley Cup playoffs had a larger audience. The CBC paid $325,000 to the CFL for the broadcast rights to the 1960 season (Peers, 1979, p. 237; CBC, Annual Reports 1958-59, 1959-60). With ownership interests in both the CFL and media outlets which might carry game telecasts, the applicants were clearly aware of the possible fruits a television/sport connection would bear.

The licensees argued as a group that in order to adhere to program standards and Canadian content regulations set by the BBG, they would need to form a co-operative network. In turn, the BBG issued a single licence to Spencer Caldwell, former manager of CBC Radio's Dominion Network, to form a second television system. But some form of consistent program scheduling was required to solidify the new network, draw advertising, attract audiences, and generate income. John Bassett purchased the 1961 and 1962 television rights to Eastern CFL games and to the Grey Cup game each season by doubling the CBC's offer to the League to $750,000. He then signed an agreement with Caldwell to establish the CTV network in October 1961. Anchored by the football rights contract, the network began its operation with eight affiliates, three of which (Toronto, Ottawa, and Montreal, all with CFL teams) were linked by microwave. Out of 8.5 hours of programming per week by CTV, roughly one-half was comprised of Canadian sport.

Seeking to generate more revenue from control of CFL broadcasts, CTV offered game telecasts to the CBC, contingent that the Corporation would carry CTV sponsors' advertising; the CBC declined. But Bassett, lacking a microwave link to Western Canada, managed to sell the rights to the Grey Cup games for 1961 and 1962 to the CBC. To settle a nasty confrontation between the two networks over coverage and sponsorship of the 1962 Grey Cup, the BBG adjudicated the matter, and the CBC acquiesced in agreeing to carry five commercial announcements from CTV sponsors (Weir, 1965, pp. 360-362; Peers, 1979, pp. 255-257). This began a practice where the CBC, Radio-Canada, and CTV shared the broadcast of the CFL's championship game, underlining its role as a cultural event of national proportion.

The formation of CTV, and early competition between public and private interests which pivoted on professional sport coverage, held important consequences for increasing the networks' reliance on importing programming from the United States and developing commercial sponsorship for revenue. By the early 1960s, both networks were producing more sports programming for Saturday and Sunday afternoons, facilitating the construction of weekend audiences. However, apart from football and hockey telecasts, the CBC was more inclined to produce amateur-level events, including a 52-week series called World of Sport (which covered international events that included Canadian participants), Canadian college athletics, track and field meets, world-level skiing, and hockey, and the occasional imported American sports production or documentary. CTV, on the other hand, scheduled less expensive imported productions alone, such as the American Broadcasting Company (ABC)'s Wide World of Sports. It would be oversimplifying a complex period to suggest that the public television network assumed broadcast control over public sport, leaving entrepreneurial sport to broadcast entrepreneurs, since both networks dabbled in sports variety in the years prior to major-scale production. But historical evidence suggests that respective resource bases, accompanying political pressures, and diverse ideological principles directed the two networks to distinct areas of sport production.

In terms of revenue accumulation, the viability of sport as an advertising vehicle was clear by the mid-1960s, and the member-owners of CTV were quick to realize its potential. Much of CBC's non-professional sports programming, on the other hand, was produced and scheduled for weekend afternoon viewing, without commercial sponsorship. Instead, "public service" announcements promoting health and charitable causes such as the Red Cross, UNICEF, the United Way, cystic fibrosis, YMCAs, and industrial safety were carried. (See for example, CBC productions of Kaleidosport, 1968-69.) The CBC was formally limited in its commercial advertising during daytime programming, and provided public service announcements as an alternative, an action which did not contradict the network's service mandate. Left unanswered was whether corporate advertisers would ever be interested in non-professional sport, whose much lower public profile would conceivably hamper the creation and maintenance of audiences.

In fact, a lack of commercial sponsorship for televised non-professional sports events had two important effects. First, it supported the ideological illusion of the "amateur," where athletic motivation is supposedly derived from a love for competition or achievement, and the motivating drive for its televisual presentation is to showcase athletes striving to meet provincial, national or international standards. But a primary emphasis must be placed squarely on a highly pervasive ideology of political nationalism as well. The impact of the CBC and state-supported sport in solidifying the place of national unity and international prestige on the political agenda cannot be overstated. This was evident during the CBC's 1969 Canada Games broadcast from Halifax, a telecast replete with references to regional/provincial participation and the Canadian nation-state as "strong and unified" (CBC Broadcast, Canada Games, August 22, 1969). Clearly, CBC broadcasts of Canadian amateur events corresponded with its mandate to promote "national unity" (see also the Broadcasting Act of 1968). An absence of commercial sponsorship thus differentiated the non-professional sphere of sport from the professional sphere, by reproducing the respective meanings of each: relying on its classic definition and practice, amateur sport would not be tied to commercial interests, while pro sport was a sui generis commercial enterprise. A Molson advertisment during a CFL game followed the logical pattern of commodified sport, but such commodification would contradict the code of amateurism itself.

The differing levels of sponsorship were also reflective of how the respective sport systems operated. While professional leagues and franchises benefited from the negotiation of a television rights contract with a particular network, amateur sport organizations had look elsewhere for funding as long as events were presented televisually without accompanying commercial support. Despite the heralded success of Nancy Greene in the 1968 Winter Olympics, and growing revelations of sponsorships available "under the table" to elite European athletes, private sponsorship was neither solicited nor voluntarily coming forth on a wide scale in support of Canadian athletics, at a time when competition was becoming more internationally widespread and related operational costs were rising steadily (Task Force Report on Sport 1969). Indeed, the Canadian federal state became the major benefactor of high performance athletics, spending approximately $3.1 million on sport in 1967-68, while publicly maintaining a goal of mass participation (Fitness and Amateur Sport, Annual Report 1967-68). In carrying the fiscal responsibility for the amateur sport system, the state was ideally positioned to ideologically identify sport as a national cause. The 1970 decision by officials at Fitness and Amateur Sport to develop and maintain a system of high performance athletics, and the 1971 decision by the International Olympic Committee to award the 1976 Summer Olympic Games to Montreal, further appropriated the broadcasting/sport relation beneath an expanding umbrella of political and corporate control.

Establishing Modern Sports Broadcasting: 1968-78

By the mid-1960s, the broadcasting industry was undergoing rapid technological change, from colour, cable, and satellite availability to slow-motion replays in production. As of 1965, the CBC's English network was available to 92% of the population, and CTV could reach 71% (Fowler Committee, Report, 1967, p. 53). A series of reports and debates resulted in the Broadcasting Act of 1968, which placed broadcasting and its development under the regulatory control of the Canadian Radio-Television Commission (CRTC), the BBG's successor.

Within the technological and programming changes which increased the availability and popularity of television to even greater levels, televised sport was finding a broader home. To augment existing sponsorship arrangements of pro sport, CBC telecasts of Saturday night hockey were now carried from the opening face-off instead of one hour into the game and coverage of Canadian professional football commenced in August instead of September. The expansion of American professional baseball to Montreal in 1969 generated significant attention from the CBC and Radio-Canada. In terms of international high performance athletics, however, there was little to cheer about, and less inclination to provide coverage, with continued Canadian defeats in international hockey and other events.

The need to "package" and present amateur sport as a product was more explicitly defined by a 1969 report commissioned by the Fitness and Amateur Sport Directorate from P. S. Ross and Partners, a Montreal consulting firm. As Gruneau notes, the arguments presented in this influential report denote "...the penetration of commodified conceptions of sport interweaving, through the state, with more traditional amateur conceptions" (1983, p. 193, f. 137). The government ordered Task Force on Sport and P. S. Ross Reports (the latter of which had criticized government and the sport community for its overall failure to establish visionary national objectives for international performance) premised the first formal policy paper on sport from the federal state, A Proposed Sports Policy for Canadians (1970).

Importantly, while the ideological overtones of this White Paper emphasized the ever-present need for mass participation in sport and recreation, virtually every suggested program and related funding was directed toward the development of an effective elite-level system (Cavanagh, 1985; Macintosh et al., 1984, pp. 62-65). The rapid expansion of broadcasting and close ties of sport to the state became fully aligned in 1971, when the International Olympic Committee selected Montreal as the site of the 1976 Summer Games. This prompted the Canadian networks, especially the host broadcaster CBC, to plan a massive-scale production, and directed Fitness and Amateur Sport/NSO programs toward guaranteeing international-calibre performances by Canadian athletes. Following the announcement, there was a sudden increased interest in high performance sport from private capital, particularly from the brewing industry. Although involved in a "natural market relationship" through broadcast sponsorship of pro sport (or franchise ownership) in varying degrees since the 1930s, such as Molson's national sponsorship of Hockey Night in Canada, the Labatt contract with the CFL, and Carling-O'Keefe's sponsorship of the Expos' telecasts, the breweries had paid little attention to non-professional athletics until its profit potential, fuelled in part by broadcast rights contracts, emerged in the 1970s (Gruneau, 1983, p. 123; Redmond, 1985, pp. 345-349).

Beyond sponsorship arrangements with broadcasters, some movement in capital's alignment with sport was occurring. The O'Keefe Sports Foundation ultimately provided $3 million toward NSO coaching development prior to the Montreal Games. While Molson was secured as a major television sponsor of the Games themselves, Labatt began a program to sponsor collegiate-level athletics through the Canadian Interuniversity Athletic Union (CIAU) (long considered an undeveloped source of athletic talent) (Maclean's, May 17, 1976; Canadian Magazine, January 29, 1977; Coaching Association of Canada Bulletin, June 6, 1974, p. 14; Redmond, 1985, pp. 346-347). More directly related to the Olympic program was the formation of the Olympic Trust by the Canadian Olympic Association, a fund-raising arm comprised of powerful Canadian business leaders, who lobbied corporations in support of the Olympic movement. The spectacle of achievement, and accumulation, was in full swing.

In preparation for the 1976 Games, funding for sport increased from $6 million in 1971-72 (with approximately 66% directed to elite programs) to $17 million in 1975-76 (with 75% directed to elite sport) (Fitness and Amateur Sport, Annual Reports 1971-72 to 1975-76). Fitness and Amateur Sport established an overall performance goal for the Canadian team through its "Game Plan '76" policy: to improve Canada's final standing at the Games to 10th place overall, a major jump from 21st place at the 1972 Games in Munich (Macintosh et al., 1987, p. 83; Cavanagh, 1985; see also Kidd, 1988). The CBC also began preparing for the 1976 Games in 1971, increasing its technical capacity and extending coverage of non-professional events, while raising overall commercial revenues for programming. Total sports-related programming increased from 7.4% in 1970-71 to 8.2% in 1973-74 to 13% in 1975-76 (just prior to the Montreal Games) (CBC, Annual Reports 1970-71 to 1975-76). At the same time, commercial revenues increased from $29.3 million in 1970-71 to $71.2 million in 1975-76, and commercial sponsorship of weekend afternoon sports programming began to take shape. The joint-network Olympics Radio and Television Organization (ORTO) was formed in 1973 to work with the Comiteé des Jeux Olympiques (COJO) in determining budgets, sponsorship arrangements, and extent of national/international coverage. Technically, the Games were to involve 20 mobile units, 92 cameras, 28 VTRs (videotape replay machines), 15 slow-motion VTRs, 16 graphics generators, and 1800 workers, on a budget of $18 million (CBC, Annual Report 1975-76).

The 1976 Summer Olympic Games in Montreal solidified the basis and direction of state-based high performance sport, corporation arrangements and licensing for major events, and televisual scope and style for non-professional athletics. When the Games had been completed, the Canadian team had fulfilled the performance objective by placing 10th in the overall points standings, without winning a gold medal. Drawing on resources from the ORTO pool, the CBC spent approximately $21 million on the Games' broadcast (recovering about 60% from COJO), using 28 mobiles, 152 cameras, 126 VTRs, 35 film cameras, 359 colour and 599 black and white monitors, 12 studios, 27 character generators, auto cameras for cycling and marathon events, with 2,260 personnel (CBC, Annual Report 1976-77). The Games were also instrumental in boosting CBC sports presentations to 15% (623 hours) of overall programming, and in elevating commercial revenue to $82 million in 1976-77.

The trend toward state-based sport and technically complex television productions of events continued with the 1978 Commonwealth Games in Edmonton. Again, a performance goal was established during the planning and preparation stage of the Games (and, significantly for the decade to come, attained during the course of competition): first place overall (Toward a National Policy on Amateur Sport [Green Paper on Sport], 1977, p. 20). The CBC, as host broadcaster "providing pictures for the world," attempted its most complex production using only "its own resources and manpower," drawing an audience of 11 million for parts of the Games. Commercial revenues had increased in 1978-79 to $108 million, of which $506,000 came from Commonwealth Games-related advertising (CBC, Annual Report 1977-78, 1978-79).


The historical etching of the broadcast/sport relation, underscored by the formal exercise of power, continues to the 1990s. To echo the comment of Maurice Herzog, the production of high performance athletics embodies a process which has its roots in the cyclical spectacle of major international games (see Cavanagh, 1989). The logic of their production is tied to a set of historical moments, where major forces which directed the separate arrangments of sport and broadcasting ultimately guided their interconnection. In a substantive sense, if "success" was found within Canadian high performance sport policies and programs, these achievements were articulated and reproduced through CBC productions of events involving elite athletes. Clearly, increasing attention to Canadian amateur sport assisted the CBC in its overall level of Canadian programming, in fulfilling its mandate as national service broadcaster, and in generating significant levels of commercial sponsorship and audience interest.

In a more conceptual sense, by 1980, a broad and complex set of relationships involving political, economic, and cultural interests variously concerned with national unity, international prestige, financial profit, athletic achievement, were in place after several decades of dramatic change. Crucial theoretical issues revolving around the production of televised sport and the reproduction of structured interests of power must be pursued further, including the concrete realization of vested interests, the recreation of divisions based on class and gender, and the politics of consensus which underscore these relations.


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