Invoking Public Support for Public Broadcasting: The Aird Commission Revisited

Mike Gasher (Concordia University)

Abstract: This paper tests the Aird Commission's claims to speak on behalf of the Canadian public in its landmark 1929 report against the public interventions on file in the National Archives of Canada. Its specific claims concerned radio's educational component, wavelength allotment, advertising, Canadian content, and state ownership. The paper reveals the extent to which the public interventions were inconclusive on the specific question of radio's nationalization. The paper argues that the Aird commissioners used the public hearings to legitimize their own commitment to a national, publicly owned broadcast system by depicting public opinion in its final report as consensual when in fact there was considerable division among interveners.

Résumé: Cet article évalue les réclamations de la commission Aird (à savoir qu'elle représentait le public canadien dans son Rapport marquant de 1929) en comparant celles-ci aux interventions publiques classées dans les Archives nationales du Canada. Les réclamations spécifiques du Rapport portaient sur le rôle éducatif de la radio, l'allocation des ondes, la publicité, le contenu canadien, et la propriété d'état. Cet article révèle le degré auquel les interventions publiques étaient peu concluantes sur la question spécifique de la nationalisation de la radio. L'article maintient que les commissionnaires du Rapport Aird ont utilisé les audiences publiques pour légitimer leur propre attachement à un système de radiodiffusion national appartenant à l'état en décrivant l'opinion publique comme étant unanime, quand en réalité il y avait des divisions considérables parmi les intervenants.


Contemporary research depicts the process of cultural policy formation as one of contest, negotiation, and power. One of the contestants in this process is the public. Policy formation in Canada includes considerable opportunity for public input, and this has been a point of pride, particularly in the broadcasting sector. Rowland Lorimer & Jean McNulty note: "More than any other country, Canada has encouraged participation from industry representatives and the general public in the development of broadcasting policy" (1996, p. 168). Marc Raboy writes: "Dans le domaine de la radiodiffusion, la tradition de débat public -- qui se veut ouvert et accessible à tous -- distingue le Canada de la plupart des pays occidentaux. Bien sûr, d'autres pays utilisent ce mécanisme, mais aucun ne le fait de façon aussi systématique que le Canada" (1995a, p. 15). Yet, Raboy cautions, we should not be naïve about the democratic complexion of the broadcast policy process: "En radiodiffusion, comme dans d'autres secteurs, il ne faut pas sous-estimer l'importance des démarches de nature privée que certains intervenants entreprennent pour tenter de promouvoir leurs intérêts auprès des décideurs" (p. 17).

If the public's role in policy development is widely acknowledged, what remains undertheorized is how public intervention informs the policy process, where precisely the public fits into this process of contest, negotiation, and power. This paper adds its voice to recent assessments of the relationship between public input and policy formation by testing the Aird Commission's claims to speak on behalf of the Canadian public in its landmark 1929 report against the public interventions on file in the National Archives of Canada (Canada, 1929b).

The Aird Commission (officially, the Royal Commission on Radio Broadcasting) was the first royal commission in the cultural sphere, and it is recognized as the starting point for what has become a convention of public consultation in broadcast policy development. The Aird Commission stands as an important moment in Canadian media history because it radically proposed the nationalization of what had been since its inception a medium owned and operated predominantly by local private enterprise. Not only did the Aird Report encourage Ottawa to make radio a public medium through state ownership, the commission also perceived radio as a national medium. As Raboy (1992) has noted, after the Aird Commission, broadcasting policy in Canada became national policy.

But the Aird Commission has significance beyond radio. Besides proposing the initial blueprint for Canadian broadcasting, Aird recommended, and helped to initiate, a particular pattern of cultural governance. Mary Vipond writes: "A new view of the role of the government vis-à-vis culture and the media was thereby implied. Never before had the state been assigned such control over a cultural field" (1992, p. 219).

The Aird Report is noteworthy as well for the extent to which it invoked public testimony to support the central measures it proposed, representing itself as a conduit for the public will. The Aird Report offered no hint of the wide divergence of opinion which characterized its consultation process, nor did it foreshadow the intense debate over broadcasting's structure and purpose which would ensue between the Canadian Radio League and the Canadian Association of Broadcasters from 1930 to 1932.

This paper revisits the Aird Commission in order to document the contentiousness of its public consultation process. The paper tests five claims the Aird Report made on behalf of "the public" against the original submissions on file in the National Archives of Canada (NAC).2 The claims concerned radio's educational component, wavelength allotment, advertising, Canadian content, and state ownership. The last of these claims is particularly significant because it speaks directly to the question of state governance of cultural production in Canada, because it was the most radical of Aird's proposals, and because it appears to the contemporary reader of the report to be the most contentious claim Aird made on behalf of the public.

As Vipond (1992) has argued, the exchanges between the Aird Commission and interveners during the public hearings attest to the commissioners' conviction that the nationalization of radio was in the interest of both the Canadian people and the Canadian state. Building upon that observation, this paper exposes the extent to which the public interventions were inconclusive on the question of nationalization. Most of the interveners who spoke to the Aird Commission on the ownership issue, in fact, preferred that Canadian radio remain organized on the basis of private enterprise. The paper thus argues that the Aird commissioners used the public hearings to legitimize their own commitment to the nationalization of Canadian radio by depicting public opinion in its final report as consensual when in fact there was considerable division.

Constituting the public

The question of whether public opinion matters to policy formation is both an obvious and important one in a country which has gone to considerable effort and expense in establishing task forces and royal commissions to study issues ranging from foreign investment to national cultural development. While most analysts would agree that public opinion matters, how it matters is not clear. Is public consultation merely a public relations exercise, or does it have a more determinant role to play in policy decisions?

C. E. S. Walls insists that the principal function of a royal commission "is to place before government, within its terms of reference, a cold blooded, impartial survey followed by an equitable solution to the problem submitted to it, a solution without concern as to its implications or on whose toes it may figuratively step" (1969, pp. 365-366). Governments can subsequently use royal commission findings "as a measure of the ideal, against which political judgement must determine how much of the commission recommendations can be put into effect and when" (p. 366). The consistent failure of royal commissions to live up to this standard, however, is central to the critique of this policy institution. John C. Courtney (1969) summarizes the complaints against royal commissions as follows: they are not impartial; their recommendations are not taken seriously; the process is used to relieve pressure on governments faced with controversial decisions; and they are not worth the money they cost. Yet while Courtney concedes that "governments appoint and attempt to utilize royal commissions for their own purposes" (1969, p. 211), he nevertheless believes: "When cool, sober, detached reflection on policy matters not in the public forum of day-to-day politics is required, royal commissions of inquiry serve the purpose admirably" (p. 212).

A consideration of who constitutes "the public" participating in such inquiries must be central to any analysis of this policy institution. While hearings are open to everyone wishing to participate, it is clear that they most often attract interested parties -- whether industry stakeholders, labour leaders, or organized pressure groups -- rather than disinterested citizens. Roger Bird, for example, notes:

The Aird Commission had tended to hear from the organized intellectual, social, or financial elite. By its very nature, a royal commission attracts the opinions of committed public spirits among citizens, corporations and clubs. Many not heard from by the Commission were at home, happily listening to music and comedy shows on the US stations whose signals reached them, or on Canadian stations linked by land lines or recording to the US source. (1988, p. 57)

While this recognition does not negate the importance of public consultation to policy formation, it qualifies substantially the extent to which such inquiries can be seen, after Walls, as cold-blooded and impartial surveys.

In a study of the adoption of federal royal commission and task force recommendations on the national question from 1951 to 1987, Sylvia Bashevkin insists that policy research remains inconclusive about the relationship between public opinion and policy formation. "This lacuna is particularly interesting given that commissions and task forces are frequently defended on the grounds that they provide an open, extra-parliamentary format for policy discussion -- one which is apart from the otherwise elite-dominated policy process in Canada" (1988, p. 391).

What the research has suggested, Bashevkin argues, is that public opinion may serve as both an antecedent to, and outcome of, formal public consultations. First, "a strong reservoir of public support" makes it easier for governments to implement recommendations (p. 394). Second, and conversely, clear-cut divisions in public attitudes render policy implementation more difficult. Finally, Bashevkin maintains, "policy research in Canada and elsewhere suggests that governmental action frequently coincides more closely with elite- than mass-level opinion," especially when mass-level opinion is polarized (1988, p. 394). From her particular study, Bashevkin concludes that "opinion matters depending on who expresses it": "Yes, public opinion may be important, but majority elite views are apparently more significant to the unfolding of federal policy on the national question" (p. 407).

Paul Litt (1992) and Marc Raboy (1995b) reach very different conclusions about public input into the policy process from their respective case studies of the Massey Commission (the Royal Commission on National Development in the Arts, Letters and Sciences, 1949-51) and the Broadcasting Act of 1991. In spite of the Massey Commission's boast of having heard "the voice of Canada" (Canada, 1951, p. 268), Litt depicts the commission's proceedings as exclusive to an elite group of cultural nationalists and academics. Raboy, on the other hand, maintains that the transparency of public debate on broadcasting between 1986 and 1991 allowed certain social groups to be included in the rewriting of the Broadcasting Act.

Litt argues that the Massey Commission was commandeered by Canadian cultural nationalists and interest-group politics. He writes:

Leading figures in universities, national voluntary associations, and government were behind the founding of the Massey Commission. This cultural elite created the commission to protect its interests in public broadcasting and federal cultural institutions, then prodded the commissioners, who were drawn from its ranks, towards recommending funding for the universities, cultural organizations, and research of its members. (1992, p. 4)

Litt dismisses as "hogwash" the Massey Commission's suggestion that it heard a representative sample of public opinion -- let alone "the voice of Canada" (1992, pp. 53-54).

The commission had mobilized a constituency that would generate interest in its report and maintain political pressure for government action in cultural affairs. In the process the commission itself was transformed from a stolid official investigation into something of a national crusade. The highbrows were on the march." (p. 55)

The Massey Report, nevertheless, "gave an appearance of being based on general public opinion rather than the views of interest groups in the cultural field, quoting freely from briefs and hearings to convey the impression that the commissioners were simply obedient servants of the popular will" (Litt, 1992, p. 213).

Raboy concluded from a five-year study of the process that led to the revised Broadcasting Act that "the transparency of public debate [was] essential in giving access to social groups who would otherwise have little influence on the process" (1995b, p. 457). Specifically, public input was responsible for enshrining the rights of women, ethnic groups, First Nations, and disabled persons in the new Act and for reinforcing the public-service principle of Canadian broadcasting. In this case at least, argues Raboy, the policy process was "an important site of public action":

Public consultation in broadcasting policy formation is especially important, in that private industry continues to be the most powerful player in this area. Without provision for a strong public presence in policy making, non-industry groups would have little or no influence. Public access to the policy making process is thus a crucial element in the democratization of broadcasting. (1995b, p. 475)

The studies by Bashevkin, Litt, and Raboy underline the case-specific nature of the relationship between public input and policy formation. If, in general terms, the policy process remains a site of contest, negotiation, and power, each of these contests produces a particular conjuncture of contestants exercising varying degrees of power -- such as cabinet ministers, commissioners, lobbyists, and individual members of the public -- wrestling with issues in an atmosphere which may be more or less politically charged.

The Aird Commission

The Royal Commission on Radio Broadcasting was established in December 1928, by Minister of Marine and Fisheries P. J. Arthur Cardin. Earlier, Cardin had asked ministry officials to prepare a report with recommendations for federal broadcasting policy. That report, submitted on November 15, 1928, recommended the establishment of a royal commission (Bird, 1988). Chaired by Sir John Aird, president of the Canadian Bank of Commerce, the commission's terms of reference were: "To examine into the broadcasting situation in the Dominion of Canada and to make recommendations to the Government as to the future administration, management, control and financing thereof " (Bird, 1988, p. 37). The Aird Commission held public sessions in 25 Canadian cities between April 17 and July 3, 1929 (Canada, 1929b).

The Aird Commission was not given a blank slate upon which to inscribe Canadian broadcasting policy. An agenda had been set by the departmental report Cardin received in November. Order-in-Council 2108 of December 6, 1928, which established the Aird Commission, contained excerpts from that earlier report. It referred specifically to the popularity of American radio among Canadian listeners and it proposed that the federal government combat these broadcasts with a network of high-powered Canadian stations with an increased expenditure on programming. The Order-in-Council also cited the departmental report's three proposed options for government action, which the Aird Commission adopted as its guide. Finally, the Order-in-Council cited the following from the November report:

the number of channels available for broadcasting is limited and as a consequence licences cannot be issued indefinitely. It is therefore desirable to consider the manner in which the available channels can be most effectively used in the interests of Canadian listeners and in the national interests of Canada. (Canada, 1929a, p. 2306)3

How and why the Aird Commission ultimately opted for the nationalization of Canadian radio is the result of a complex political process. Historian Mary Vipond argues that "the genesis, mandate, and personnel of the Aird commission predetermined its conclusions to an important extent" (1992, p. 213). First, Vipond points out that the Aird Commission's agenda was largely set by the Radio Branch of the Department of Marine and Fisheries when it established the terms for the royal commission in 1928. Second, she notes the biases of the Aird commissioners, and especially those of commissioner Charles Bowman, who had written a series of editorials in the Ottawa Citizen in 1927 and 1928 advocating a public-service model for Canadian broadcasting; and commission secretary Donald Manson, the chief inspector of the Radio Branch who was dissatisfied with radio's status quo. Third, Vipond remarks that before the public hearings began, the commissioners -- and John Aird especially -- were perturbed by their visit to New York, where they learned of NBC's assumption that Canada was part of its market.

Finally, Vipond notes that the social context of the late 1920s was conducive to the federal government's intervention into radio broadcasting. Nationalists in both English and French Canada had throughout the decade remarked the threat posed to Canadian identity by "the flood of American popular culture pouring over the border" (1992, p. 207). Vipond writes:

A network of Canadian lobbyists for Canadian culture had grown up over the course of the twenties, and their ideas were circulating widely by 1928. One of their great successes was the Diamond Jubilee celebration of 1927, largely orchestrated by the Association of Canadian Clubs, of which Graham Spry was secretary, which highlighted the first nation-wide radio hookup. [Prime Minister] Mackenzie King was apparently quite impressed with the power of broadcasting revealed on that occasion. Thus, although there had been very little explicit discussion of radio as a vehicle of Canadian culture prior to 1928, the sudden revelation of difficulties in the broadcasting system occurred in an environment of considerable interest in questions of national unity and cultural identity in English Canada particularly. (1992, pp. 207-208; see also Raboy, 1992, pp. 18-19, 29)

Considerable scholarship has been devoted to the Aird Commission, and while there has been limited discussion of the differences of opinion expressed during the public hearings (e.g., Peers, 1969; Raboy, 1992; Vipond, 1992), little has been made of how contentious its consultation process was. The literature which examines this period of Canadian broadcasting history, instead, centres accounts of the dispute over Canadian radio in the aftermath of the Aird Report, when the Canadian Radio League and the Canadian Association of Broadcasters crystallized the poles in the debate.

More to the point, the validity of the Aird Report's claims to speak on behalf of the Canadian public has not been thoroughly scrutinized. While the public hearings formed only a part of the Aird Commission's larger consultation process, and came only after the commissioners had visited the National Broadcasting Company in New York and the British Broadcasting Corporation in London, as well as Berlin, Paris, Lille, the Hague, Brussels, Geneva, Dublin, and Belfast (Canada, 1929b), the Aird Report employed public testimony in its report to grant its central recommendations added authority.

This paper tests each of the five claims the Aird Report attributed to the public -- regarding education, wavelength allotment, advertising, Canadian content, and state ownership -- against the public interventions on file with the National Archives of Canada. Support for each of the claims was recorded and evaluated, and disparities were noted.4 They are discussed in turn. At a second stage, how interveners chose among the three options for the governance of radio broadcasting was tallied (Appendix 1). Because interveners did not always address the question directly -- many did not address it at all -- 11 categories of responses were created. A final stage of analysis assessed interveners' responses to the ownership question based on their expressed affiliations. In other words, after quantifying the responses, the analysis attempted to qualify the voting patterns by determining who voted for which option, in recognition that most of those who addressed the commission's public hearings were interested parties (Appendix 2).

Claim one -- Education

One of the first claims the Aird commissioners made on behalf of the public was that radio broadcasting in Canada should have an educational component:

The potentialities of broadcasting as an instrument of education have been impressed upon us; education in the broad sense, not only as it is conducted in the schools and colleges, but in providing entertainment and of informing the public on questions of national interest. Many persons appearing before us have expressed the view that they would like to have an exchange of programs with the different parts of the country. (Canada, 1929b, p. 6)

This claim is generally supported by both written and oral submissions. A number of interveners underlined the educational potential of the medium, by which they meant that radio should be a medium of high culture, devoted to the cultivation of its listeners, and national education, committed to engendering among Canadians a sense of nationhood.

H. Lincke, business manager of the London Free Press -- which owned the 500-watt radio station CJGC -- told the Aird Commission at its London hearing May 14, 1929: "I am in favour of anything that will tend to educate the people in Canadian affairs. We have not enough of it now. We should try to interest the people of Canada by giving them something worth while [sic] listening to" (NAC, 1929a, Vol. 1, File 227-9-7, Vol. 1). Cardinal Raymond Rouleau, in a letter dated February 1, 1929, told Aird that because radio "exercised an extraordinary influence on the mentality of people, it should be used to enlighten them and inspire them with a taste for what is good, noble and splendid, never to lead them astray with doctrine liable to cause disorder or depression" (NAC, 1929a, Vol. 1, File 227-10-3, Vol. 1). Irvin Cooper, director of music at Montreal's West Hill and Commercial high schools, referred in his submission to the Montreal hearing on May 29, 1929, to "the wonderful possibilities of the radio with regard to educational matters":

The generation of tomorrow is now at an age where its faculty to differentiate between what is educationally good or bad must be disciplined and guided, and as the radio is practically the only recognised dispenser of music in this era, the adolecsents [sic] of today are receiving a false standard of values regarding the literature of music. (NAC, 1929a, Vol. 1, File 227-10-6, Vol. 1)

Radio could be used to "Canadianize" immigrants and train them in agricultural techniques. An unsigned memorandum from Canadian National Railways dated May 29, 1929, noted that radio had assisted the CNR in the "colonization" of Canada "by providing entertainment, information and instruction to agricultural communities and to settlers at remote points" (NAC, 1929a, Vol. 1, File 227-10-3, Vol. 1). In a statement before the Sherbrooke hearing on May 28, Sherbrooke Member of Parliament C. B. Howard told the commission:

If we are taking into Canada, 150,000 immigrants a year, I am almost in favour that in the Western Provinces that each settler be given a radio by the Government and that educational classes immediately be put on in their own langauge [sic] if necessary in order to give them instruction in farming and ordinary ideas of Canadianism, in order that they may change gradually from their own ways into Canadian ways. (NAC, 1929a, Vol. 1, File 227-10-5, Vol. 1)

Claim two -- Wavelength allotment

Noting that Canada had been assigned 6 exclusive channels and shared 11 others with the United States, the Aird Report recommended a more equitable division of the broadcast band with the Americans: "Many have expressed the feeling, with which we fully concur, that Canada's insistence upon a more equitable division of the broadcast band with the United States should not be relinquished" (Canada, 1929b, p. 11).

Here, too, there was widespread agreement from those who addressed the commission. Repeatedly, radio listeners complained of not being able to receive Canadian signals and of being bombarded with American stations. In a May 17 letter, Alex Marshall, secretary of the Canadian Manufacturers Association, told the Aird Commission: "In passing, it is somewhat curious that Canada seems to have so little of a decisive nature to say respecting the air that lies above her territory and through which all her own stations operate" (NAC, 1929a, Vol. 1, File 277-9-9, Vol. 1). Harry J. Hanwell, president of the Port Arthur (Ontario) Radio Club and a member of the Port Arthur Chamber of Commerce, wrote: "As under present conditions, we have to practically rely on reception from American stations, and are, so to sepak [sic], the broken link in the Canadian transcontinental chain" (NAC, 1929a, Vol. 1, File 227-9-5, Vol. 1).

While many listeners were more concerned with the clarity of radio reception than with the source of the signal, this issue was largely understood as one of Canadian sovereignty over Canadian air space. Here again, radio broadcasting became entwined with the politics of Canadian nationhood.

Claim three -- Advertising

The subject of advertising preoccupied the royal commission hearings as the idea of selling products over the airwaves clearly offended the commissioners, and some interveners. The Aird Report recommended the elimination of "direct advertising," by which it meant advertising messages which interrupt programs, the form of advertising we are most familiar with today: "In our survey of the situation in Canada, we heard much criticism of this class of advertising" (Canada, 1929b, p. 10). But while the Aird commissioners would have preferred no radio advertising at all, their report recommended Ottawa allow indirect advertising, "which properly handled has no very objectionable features, at the same time resulting in the collection of much revenue" (p. 10). Indirect advertising bracketed programs with sponsors' messages relegated to the periods preceding and following broadcasts.

On this subject there was considerable difference of opinion among those who addressed the commission. Those interveners who wanted radio to remain in the hands of private enterprise recognized the need for advertising to generate revenue. A. MacKenzie, general sales manager for CKNC radio in Toronto (owned by Canadian National Carbon Co. Ltd.), stated bluntly that advertising made radio possible (NAC, 1929a, Vol. 1, File 227-9-9, Vol. 1). Lieut. Keith S. Rogers, owner of Island Radio Co. (CFCY) in Charlottetown, argued that people preferred to pay for radio through advertising, rather than through licence fees or taxation: "People are better satisfied with indirect methods of taxation than they are through direct taxation" (NAC, 1929a, Vol. 1, File 227-13-5, Vol. 1).

At the same time, advertising was a boon to Canadian business. To prohibit Canadian businesses from advertising was deemed unfair, particularly when so much of the radio Canadians heard was American radio advertising competing American products. In a letter to the Aird Commission dated June 5, 1929, D. H. Barclay of Montreal described as "absurd" a situation in which Canadian companies could not advertise as American companies could. C. W. Kirby of the Border Cities Broadcasting Co. in Windsor, Ontario, insisted: "Canadian manufacturers are entitled to a bid for American business by radio" (NAC, 1929a, Vol. 1, File 227-9-6, Vol. 1). In a written submission, W. S. McKee of the Sherbrooke Board of Trade argued, "from a business standpoint it is in the best interests of our country that the programs of broadcasting stations be, to a great extent, available for the advertising of `Made in Canada' Goods [sic]" (NAC, 1929a, Vol. 1, File 227-10-5, Vol. 1). I. N. Geary, an alderman on Fort William (Ontario) city council, told the Port Arthur-Fort William hearing on May 8: "In regard to fostering Canadian trade, it would be a big incentive if we could establish larger stations across Canada and then Canadian goods could be advertised to a great extent and it would stimulate the manufacture of Canadian radio sets" (NAC, 1929a, Vol. 1, File 227-9-5, Vol. 1). Alexis Gagnon of Le Devoir (Montreal) described radio as "un puissant médium de publicité, tant pour nos produits que pour le tourisme" (NAC, 1929a, Vol. 1, File 277-10-3, Vol. 1).

Others, however, perceived radio advertising as a form of pollution. Professor J. Arthur Villeneuve of l'Écôle Polytechnique in Montreal insisted listeners must be "protected against abuses" in radio advertising. Villeneuve favoured restricting advertising to slots before and after programs (NAC, 1929a, Vol. 1, File 227-10-3, Vol. 1). U. E. Germain, chairman of the National Radio Listeners League of Canada, complained that listeners "cannot get away from" advertising. Germain argued that broadcasters had not used the same restraint as newspaper publishers with respect to advertising, and he called this a "misuse of broadcasting privileges." Germain believed advertising should be limited to "the announcement of the sponsors' [sic] name and his wares only at the beginning and at the end of the program" (NAC, 1929a, Vol. 1, File 227-10-6, Vol. 1).

Other interveners opposed any kind of advertising. W. T. Burford of the All-Canadian Congress of Labour listed seven reasons why radio broadcasting was "unsatisfactory," including the fact that radio "derives most of its support from direct or indirect advertising" (NAC, 1929a, Vol. 1, File 227-9-10, Vol. 1). G. H. Wheeler, secretary of the Sydney (Nova Scotia) Radio Club, described both direct and indirect advertising as "a distant annoyance to the average listener, when unnecessarily prolonged" (NAC, 1929a, Vol. 2, File 227-12-6, Vol. 1).

The Aird Commission's recommendation regarding advertising can be seen here as a compromise. What was considered by some to be the most objectionable form, direct advertising, was eliminated. Part of the need for direct advertising -- raising revenue -- became unnecessary when Aird recommended the nationalization of the medium. Revenues for radio's operation would come from federal tax revenues rather than from advertisers (and the customers for their products, who ultimately pay advertising's costs).

Claim four -- Canadian radio

The Aird Report claimed that Canadians were unanimous in their desire for Canadian radio. "There has ... been unanimity on one fundamental question -- Canadian radio listeners want Canadian broadcasting" (Canada, 1929b, p. 6). Noting the number of interveners who complained of not receiving the signals of Canadian stations, the report maintained: "At present the majority of programs heard are from sources outside of Canada. It has been emphasized to us that the continued reception of these has a tendency to mould the minds of young people in the home to ideals and opinions that are not Canadian" (p. 6).

For the most part, Aird was correct. The vast majority of those who addressed the royal commission wanted Canadian radio, particularly in the context of U.S. programming dominating the airwaves. In the brief discussion of the claim regarding wavelength allotment above, it was noted that a great number of interveners had complained about not being able to receive Canadian stations. But to say the interveners were unanimous on the question is simply not true.

Many, certainly, supported Aird's claims. A letter dated January 10, 1929, from J. F. Hodson of Hobbema, Alberta, claimed: "We want a Canadian system of programmes of national imporatnce [sic] nationally distributed. Of a character and quality suited to national dignity: suited to our growing national importance" (NAC, 1929c, File 227-6-3). Dr. S. G. Ritchie of the Halifax County Radio Association testified at the Halifax hearing on June 17: "We here in the Maritimes are very patriotic and our idea is that we want a system that is purely Canadian and for Canada and that will put Canadianism to the south, east, west and north" (NAC, 1929a, Vol. 2, File 227-12-5, Vol. 1). Justus Miller of the Border Chamber of Commerce told the Windsor hearing on May 13:

For all practical purposes we are shut off from the rest of Canada. That is a serious thing from all angles. We depend entirely upon American programmes and the influence is not a healthy one in some respects. We appreciate their programmes but at the same time for the information of our own people we should get Canadian programmes." (NAC, 1929a, Vol. 1, File 227-9-6, Vol. 1)

But not everyone agreed. Leo S. Kirshben, in a letter dated January 9, 1929, complained that Montreal stations might interfere with his reception of American broadcasts (NAC, 1929a, Vol. 1, File 227-10-3, Vol. 1). Lieut. Keith S. Rogers, owner of Island Radio Co. (CFCY), told the Charlottetown hearing on June 20: "I have found very little objection to the material coming over the air from the United States." He felt it was a case of radio reciprocity. "The Americans accept our programmes and we should accept their programmes too" (NAC, 1929a, Vol. 2, File 227-13-5, Vol. 1). W. H. Cross of Bolton, Ontario, in a letter dated January 7, 1929, saw little to recommend Canadian radio in its current incarnation. Writing in favour of government control of Canadian broadcasting, he stated: "Failing that, I suggest that practically all our worthless Canadian stations be closed down entirely, to enable the discriminating public to hear some of the many worthwhile programmes coming from the United States" (NAC, 1929c, File 227-9-3).

Some listeners were more blunt. An undated letter from Mrs. Frank Strickland of Hamilton stated: "I am one Canadian listener who decidedly prefers American programmes" (NAC, 1929c, File 227-9-3). A. H. K. Russell, Canadian general manager of the American Radio Relay League, told the Toronto hearing on May 17 that "the average listener is not particularly interested in the origin of his programmes as long as it is a good one and the objection that you hear from listeners is not that we cannot hear Canadian programmes, but is very often the reverse" (NAC, 1929a, Vol. 1, File 227-9-9, Vol. 1).

Claim five -- Public broadcasting

The most important recommendation the Aird Commission made was to advise Ottawa to nationalize Canadian radio. It was a radical proposal, given that radio in Canada had been run predominantly by local private enterprise since 1922, and it helped to set a precedent. Aird was an important early step in the governmentalization of the communications media and cultural production in Canada. Aird's recommendations inspired the more sweeping Massey Commission two decades later (Canada, 1951), and Aird's vision of public radio was a model for the Fowler Commission's recommendations regarding television in Canada (Canada, 1957). The Aird Report stated:

As our foremost duty, we have concentrated our attention on the broader consideration of the interests of the listening public and of the nation. From what we have learned in our investigations and studies, we are impelled to the conclusion that these interests can be adequately served only by some form of public ownership, operation and control behind which is the national power and prestige of the whole public of the Dominion of Canada. (Canada, 1929b, pp. 5-6)

More precisely, Aird recommended: "That broadcasting should be placed on a basis of public service and that the stations providing a service of this kind should be owned and operated by one national company; that provincial authorities should have full control over the programs of the station or stations in their respective areas" (Canada, 1929b, p. 12). Raboy argues: "It may not be an exaggeration to say that all subsequent debate on broadcasting in Canada has centred on one or another part of this brief phrase" (1992, p. 28).

The submissions to the Aird Commission contain little evidence of broad public support for this option. In fact, of the 176 written and oral submissions on file with the National Archives of Canada, only 34 people said they favoured government ownership and control of radio. More interveners -- 53 -- favoured the private-enterprise option. Another 80 people either declared their neutrality on this issue or did not address it (see Table 1).

Table 1
How Interveners Chose Among Governance Options
Clear supporta Soft support
Private enterprise 38 6b
Owned by federal government 13 0
Owned by provincial government 3 0
Government owned (unspecifiedc) 17 1
Status quod 9
No opinione 80
Otherf 9
Total submissions 176
Indicated clear support for this option.
Either seemed to favour private control, or opposed government ownership.
Either did not specify which level of government ownership preferred, or favoured combined federal-provincial ownership and control.
Support for the status quo was interpreted as support for the private-enterprise option.
Interveners made no clear choice among options.
See notes to Appendix 1.

National Archives of Canada, 1929a, 1929b, 1929c.

The Aird Commission had proposed three options for the ownership and control of radio broadcasting in Canada: private enterprise with a federal government subsidy; federal government ownership and control; or provincial government ownership and control (Canada, 1929b). The commission asked interveners to state their preference.

As mentioned, the largest number of respondents -- 80 -- had nothing to say on this particular matter. J. O. Thorn of Toronto, in a letter dated May 15, 1929, was mainly interested in putting a stop to the "tawdry rubbish" that passed for radio broadcasting. In a letter dated April 12, 1929, A. G. Ewens of Hamilton was primarily concerned with radio interference and proposed that "silent times" be imposed on local stations to permit the reception of more distant signals. L. C. Stervos of Toronto wrote to the commission on May 17, 1929, to complain that he could not get a radio station to produce or broadcast an opera he had composed (NAC, 1929c, File 227-9-3).

The next-largest group of respondents favoured the organization of Canadian radio on the basis of private enterprise, essentially asking the Aird Commission to leave the ownership question alone. Some interveners professed the belief that the competitive climate of private enterprise resulted in better radio. Others were concerned that government ownership meant the monopolization of the medium, or that programming would be little but state propaganda, or that taxes would rise.

J. Dupont, director of radio for the Montreal newspaper La Presse, stated in a letter dated May 29, 1929: "Le [sic] radio étant entreprise privée subit l'effet de la competition et cela a pour résultat de provoquer une rivalité constante qui se manifeste dans la qualité des programmes" (NAC, 1929a, Vol. 1, File 227-10-3, Vol. 1). Writing on behalf of the Fort William (Ontario) Radio Club, Fort William City Council, and Fort William Board of Trade, C. S. Taylor favoured the private enterprise option: "Under this system of operation, the element of competition will be preserved, which, in our opinion is an important factor in maintaining the quality of programs" (NAC, 1929a, Vol. 1, File 227-9-5, Vol. 1). W. S. Campbell, manager of the Commercial Intelligence Division of the Canadian Manufacturers' Association, wrote to the Toronto hearing on May 17: "We have a strong conviction that the best interests of the nation will be promoted by leaving Broadcasting in the hands of private enterprise where competition will be the stimulant by which National Broadcasting will continue to improve" (NAC, 1929a, Vol. 1, File 227-9-9, Vol. 1). At the Montreal hearing, U. E. Germain, chairman of the National Radio Listeners League of Canada, insisted: "Competition is the life of business and so it should be in radio ..." (NAC, 1929a, Vol. 1, File 227-10-6, Vol. 1).

This belief in the advantages to radio of private enterprise competition was particularly attractive given the fear of government monopoly. C. H. Langford of the Langford Radio Co. told the London hearing on May 14: "We believe that private enterprise is better. This might be taken from the point that if it is Government it is a monopoly in effect as to the type of programme which they might put out and that comes to another point -- competition is an excellent thing whether the stations be small or large, and with the Government in complete control there is no competition" (NAC, 1929a, Vol. 1, File 227-9-7, Vol. 1).

Harry J. Hanwell, president of the Port Arthur (Ontario) Radio Club and a member of the Port Arthur Chamber of Commerce, expressed his concern that state control of radio would mean private stations "would be compelled to receive Government programs" (NAC, 1929a, Vol. 1, File 227-9-5, Vol. 1). Llewellyn Lloyd, president of the Hamilton Radio Club, wrote to the commission: "I certainly think that the moment you stifle private enterprise and the thing [sic] from a given centre, then you are going to restrict it to the vision and outlook of the men who are going to control it" (NAC, 1929a, Vol. 1, File 227-9-8, Vol. 1). J. Dupont, director of radio for La Presse, was more explicit: "L'étatisation du radio [sic] aurait pour résultat le reproche d'ingérence politique, du propagande gouvernementale; plaçerait l'annonceur canadien dans un état d'infériorité vis-à-vis l'annonceur américain, dont les émissions sont captées au Canada" (NAC, 1929a, Vol. 1, File 227-10-3, Vol. 1).

Finally, private enterprise would relieve Canadians of an added tax burden. R. J. Sprott, owner of CKMO in Vancouver, wrote that private ownership "would remove from the government the necessity of operating at an enormous expense to the taxpayer a chain of stations which would be undesirable on account of the very fact that they were governmental" (NAC, 1929b, File 14-2-1). J. Y. Wesley, writing on behalf of Wesley Electric and Radio Supply Co. and the Border Cities Radio Dealers Association, informed the Windsor hearing on May 13: "We are not in favour of Government own [sic] stations due to taxation up-keep whereas we would appreciate a local station providing same was of quality equal [sic] to the American stations" (NAC, 1929a, Vol. 1, File 227-9-5, Vol. 1).

Clearly, there was considerable opposition to the nationalization of radio on the basis of: a preference for the competition interveners felt only private enterprise could provide; a fear of government monopoly; a fear of state propaganda; and resistance to paying for radio through taxation. The last word on the subject of ownership is reserved for Ralph W. Ashcroft, owner and director of Trans-Canada Broadcasting Co. and manager of CKGW in Toronto: "Radio is no more a public utility than is a newspaper, a theatre, or a church, and it is not a relevant object for Government ownership and operation" (NAC, 1929c, File 227-9-3).

Qualifying the interventions

As Roger Bird (1988) has noted, royal commission hearings tend to attract interventions from partisans and members of the intellectual, social, and financial elite. Given the evidence, outlined above, that the Aird Commission heard considerable criticism of the public broadcasting option, the profiles of those who wrote to and appeared before the Aird Commission merit scrutiny.

Raboy has briefly summarized the interventions as yielding three types of responses: "organizations involved in broadcasting or other private business activities called for maintaining the values of private enterprise; educators and nationalists called for a public service approach; and French-Canadian groups called for recognizing their special cultural needs" (1992, p. 24). Generally speaking, Raboy's summation holds. But the interventions can be broken down more precisely into 13 categories, ranging from radio broadcasters with an obvious, material interest in the private-enterprise option to those who presented themselves as individuals independent of any interest group (see Table 2). For the purposes of this analysis, some interveners were categorized more than once because they represented more than one organization (see Appendix 2).

Table 2
Interveners' Institutional Affiliations
l1 n1 n1 n.
Category Interventionsa Privateb Publicc
Radio broadcasters 24 22 2
Independents 17 9 8
Radio clubs 12 11 1
Other business (not related to radio) 10 4 6
Community service groups 8 5 3
Radio-related institutions 7 6 1
Municipal politicians 4 2 2
Educational institutions 4 1 3
Labour organizations 4 0 4
Religious groups 2 1 1
Newspapers (unaffiliated with broadcasters) 2 0 2
Performing artists 1 0 1
Government institutions 1 1 0
Some interveners represented more than one organization, and thus were categorized two or three times.
Favoured private enterprise or the status quo.
Favoured some form of government ownership and control.

National Archives of Canada, 1929a, 1929b, 1929c.

The largest single group of interveners to speak to the ownership question before the Aird Commission were radio broadcasters. Not surprisingly, 22 of the 24 broadcasters represented before the commission favoured private ownership and control of radio broadcasting in Canada. This option was also heavily endorsed by radio clubs (11 of 12 interventions) and by those businesses closely related to radio broadcasting, such as manufacturers and retailers of radio and electrical products (6 of 7 interventions).

Support for some form of government ownership and control of radio was far more diffuse. Those groups which sided most heavily with the public-radio option -- educators, labour organizations, and newspapers unaffiliated with radio stations -- accounted for just 10 interventions.

Interveners which were categorized as independents, businesses not directly connected to radio, community service organizations, municipal politicians, and religious groups were divided on the ownership question. For example, the second-largest category of interveners were the 17 independents, 9 of which favoured private enterprise and 8 of which advocated some form of public ownership. Curiously, businesses unaffiliated with the radio industry preferred public ownership by a margin of 6 to 4, while community service organizations favoured the private-enterprise option by a 5-to-3 margin. Municipal politicians (2 to 2) and religious groups (1 to 1) were evenly divided.


The Aird Commission, as Canada's first royal commission in the cultural domain, played an important role in establishing a tradition of public consultation in cultural policy development. By staging open hearings in 25 Canadian cities, the Aird Commission invited Canadian citizens to participate in the process of recommending to Ottawa a revised radio broadcasting system, and many accepted the invitation by appearing before the commissioners or by writing letters. The public has frequently been invited to participate in policy discussions since that time.

But in gauging the precise role of the public in a process characterized by contest, negotiation, and power, two factors must be considered. First, because public hearings tend to attract interested parties and specialists, they constitute a very particular "public" which can in no way be regarded as representative of the general population. Second, public hearings are simply one part of a larger consultation process which commonly includes private meetings with interested parties, intergovernmental consultations, and specially commissioned studies. Policy development remains a political process and, for that reason, not all the recommendations heard will be equally palatable to the government in power.

There is considerable evidence to suggest that the Aird Commission's path in recommending the nationalization of Canadian radio was largely preordained. There is also considerable evidence to suggest that, before the public hearings began, the Aird commissioners had come to favour a national, publicly owned radio broadcasting system for Canada.

As this paper has outlined, taken together, the public interventions neither strongly endorsed nor strongly rejected the nationalization of Canadian radio. While the Aird Report suggests the commission found consensus among Canadians on its central recommendations, the record indicates there was in fact marked division among interveners on the question of radio's ownership structure. Of those who chose among the ownership options presented by the Aird Commission, most favoured private enterprise. This division only came to light upon publication of the Aird Report, which precipitated a polarized debate between the Canadian Radio League and the Canadian Association of Broadcasters.

This paper concludes that while there is little evidence to suggest the public hearings swayed the Aird commissioners one way or the other, the public consultation process allowed the commissioners to legitimize their central recommendations by making selective reference to public opinion in their final report. The case of the Aird Commission reveals that the ingredients of contest, negotiation, and power which infuse cultural policy formation also infuse public hearings. This study endorses the case-specific view of the relationship between public input and policy formation, and points to the need for constant critical assessment of the role of "the public" in public policy development.

Appendix 1
How Interveners Chose Among Ownership Options
l1 l1 l.
Hearing Intervener Ownership preference
Charlottetown Doull no opinion
Gesner clear private enterprise
Holman no opinion
Lea no opinion
Lepage no opinion
Mollison no opinion
Rogers clear private enterprise
Yeo no opinion
Chicoutimi Joron no opinion
L'Heureux no opinion
Madier no opinion
Tremblay no opinion
Viau clear government
Correspondence Bird no opinion
(British Columbia) Blangsted clear federal
Burgess no opinion
Cowan othera
Crowther no opinion
DeGrey no opinion
Diggon clear private enterprise
Goodwin no opinion
Hawkins clear federal
Kelowna Radio Association clear private enterprise
Keyes no opinion
King no opinion
McDougall no opinion
Paulson clear private enterprise
Pitman clear federal
Sweeney no opinion
Correspondence Allen no opinion
(miscellaneous) Andrews clear federal
Ashcroft clear private enterprise
Association canadienne-
française de l'Alberta no opinion
Barlen no opinion
Belcher no opinion
Benson no opinion
Bland no opinion
Bowmanville Radio Club clear private enterprise
Burlingham no opinion
Coats soft private enterprise
Cole no opinion
Combs clear private enterprise
Cottrell no opinion
Craig no opinion
Crowe clear government
Daigneault clear federal
Dorland no opinion
Draper clear federal
Ewart no opinion
Ewens no opinion
Fidler otherb
Fox status quo
Galbraith no opinion
George status quo
Griggs no opinion
Grimshaw no opinion
Harris status quo
Higgins clear private enterprise
Hodson no opinion
Howells clear private enterprise
Hubert soft private enterprise
Huestis clear government
Hunt clear federal
Jackson, B. no opinion
LaFleche clear federal
Lowry clear private enterprise
MacBrien clear private enterprise
MacKenzie, A. F. clear government
MacKenzie, Alex status quo
McHardy no opinion
Mitchell clear provincial
Peters no opinion
Proctor clear government
Radford clear private enterprise
Redmonds soft private enterprise
Riepert no opinion
Ritchie no opinion
Roberts clear federal
Roy clear government
Servos no opinion
Stirrett no opinion
Stoke status quo
Strickland no opinion
Tatham clear private enterprise
Thorn no opinion
Thomas no opinion
Watt status quo
Watts no opinion
Westbank clear private enterprise
Western Ontario Better
Radio Club clear private enterprise
Whitmore clear governmentc
Willson status quo
Correspondence Anonymous clear private enterprise
(Quebec) Barclay otherd
Beattie no opinion
Buckley clear government
Canadian National Railway no opinion
Catto no opinion
Dupont clear private enterprise
Home no opinion
Kirshben no opinion
Larivière status quo
Leger no opinion
L'Esperance no opinion
MacKay no opinion
Rouleau no opinion
Sherrington clear federal
Thompson et al. othere
Villeneuve no opinion
Fredericton Brown no opinion
Kierstead clear private enterprise
Neill clear private enterprise
Halifax Johnson clear government
Joy no opinion
Patterson no opinion
Ritchie, G. E. otherf
Ritchie, Dr. S. G. no opinion
Hamilton Kerr clear government
Lees no opinion
Lloyd soft private enterprise
Mullis no opinion
Slack otherg
London Crawford clear government
Langford clear private enterprise
Lincke clear private enterprise
Montreal Cooper clear federal
Durnford no opinion
Dussault no opinion
Gagnon soft government
Germain clear private enterprise
Hayes no opinion
Ottawa Burford clear government
Henwig no opinion
McIntyre clear government
McIsaac clear federal
Port Arthur/ Fort William Anderson clear government
Geary clear private enterprise
Hanwell otherh
Richens no opinion
Smalley no opinion
Taylor clear private enterprise
Teskey no opinion
Quebec City Dechene clear provincial
Fontaine clear private enterprise
Thivierge clear private enterprise
Vandry clear private enterprise
Saint John Munro soft private enterprise
Vaughan clear private enterprise
Sherbrooke Howard otheri
McKee clear government
Tétrault no opinion
Sydney Burrows no opinion
Campbell status quo
Ingraham no opinion
Nathanson clear private enterprise
Nola no opinion
Wheeler clear private enterprise
Young clear private enterprise
Toronto Campbell clear private enterprise
Clark no opinion
Cross clear government
Jenkins no opinion
MacKenzie, A. clear private enterprise
Marshall clear private enterprise
Moore no opinion
Russell soft private enterprise
Vancouver Chandler clear private enterprise
Lucas no opinion
Sprott otherj
Thornbury no opinion
Windsor Graybiel clear government
Jackson clear provincial
Kirby clear private enterprise
Miller no opinion
Wesley clear private enterprise
Winter clear federal
Lieut.-Col. J. DeB. Cowan of Crawford, BC, wrote to the commission on February 1, 1929, complaining of poor radio reception. The rest of the letter is illegible (NAC, 1929c, File 227-5-3).
Rev. Canon A. J. Fidler of Toronto wrote to the commission on May 17, 1929, but the letter is illegible (NAC, 1929c, File 227-9-3).
In a letter dated March 27, 1929, J. H. Ramsay, honourary secretary-treasurer of the Professional Institute of the Civil Service of Canada submitted a report to the Aird Commission which had been prepared by the institute's first vice-president, R. D. Whitmore. Whitmore himself later wrote to the commission. Only the latter of these submissions is included in this survey (NAC, 1929c, File 227-9-3).
In a letter to the commission dated June 5, 1929, D. H. Barclay of Montreal proposed a combination of private enterprise and federal government sponsorship (NAC, 1929a, Vol. 1, File 227-10-1, Vol. 1).
J. H. Thompson, G. A. Wallace, and W. C. Adams of the Engineering Institute of Canada sent 3,460 questionnaires to their corporate membership, seeking responses to the ownership question. Of the 347 responses they reported to the Aird Commission, 206 members favoured private enterprise, 96 favoured federal government ownership and control, 29 favoured provincial governance, and 16 preferred some combination of private and public ownership and control (NAC, 1929a, Vol. 1, File 227-10-1, Vol. 1).
G. E. Ritchie spoke to the Halifax hearing on June 17, 1929, in favour of combined public and private governance (NAC, 1929a, Vol. 2, File 227-12-5, Vol. 1).
The testimony of H. Slack of Wentworth Radio Co. (CKOC) during the Hamilton hearing May 15, 1929, was contradictory on the ownership question. Slack favoured the status quo, but also a combination of government ownership and private enterprise (NAC, 1929a, Vol. 1, File 227-9-8, Vol. 1).
Harry J. Hanwell, president of the Port Arthur Radio Club and a member of the Port Arthur Chamber of Commerce, told the Port Arthur-Fort William hearing on May 8, 1929, that the radio club and chamber of commerce had inserted a radio questionnaire in the Port Arthur News-Chronicle on April 27, 1929. While Hanwell's summary to the commission and the 28 questionnaires submitted with his intervention do not correspond, they nevertheless indicate a majority preference for federal government ownership and control of radio (NAC, 1929a, Vol. 1, File 227-9-5, Vol. 1).
Member of Parliament C. B. Howard told the Sherbrooke hearing on May 28, 1929, that the people of Quebec are, "generally speaking, not in favour of public ownership." Howard, nevertheless, spoke in favour of government control (NAC, 1929a, Vol. 1, File 227-10-5, Vol. 1).
R. J. Sprott, owner of CKMO radio in Vancouver, proposed a radio system comprised of privately owned stations supplied with programming from the government. "This would remove from the government the necessity of operating at an enormous expense to the taxpayer a chain of stations which would be undesirable on account of the very fact that they were governmental" (NAC, 1929b, File 14-2-1, Part I).

National Archives of Canada, 1929a, 1929b, 1929c.
Appendix 2
Affiliation of Interveners
l1 s1 s
l1 l1 l.
Intervener Affiliation Categorization
(i) Clear private enterprise
Anonymous "a local listener in" independenta
Ashcroft owner-director, CKGW broadcasterb
Bowmanville Bowmanville Radio Club radio club
Campbell manager, commercial intelligence,
Canadian Manufacturers' Association other businessc
Chandler owner, CJOR broadcaster
Combs Prest-O-Lite Batter Co. Ltd. radio relatedd
Diggon Kiwanis Club (Victoria), community service,
Diggon's Stationery other business
Dupont directeur du radio, La Presse (CKAC) broadcaster
Fontaine owner, CHRC broadcaster
Geary alderman, Fort William City Council politiciane
Germain past president, Montreal and District
Radio Club radio club
Gesner CHCK broadcaster
Higgins radio station owner-operator broadcaster
Howells broadcast manager, CKCL broadcaster
Kierstead Fredericton Rotary Club community service
Kirby Border Cities Broadcasting Co. broadcaster
Langford Langford Radio Company (seeking broadcaster,
radio licence) radio related
Lincke business manager, London Free Press
(CJGC), Canadian Association
of Broadcasters broadcaster
Lowry commissioner, Manitoba Telephone government,f
System broadcaster
MacBrien president, Aviation League of Canada community service
MacKenzie, A. general sales manager, CKWC, broadcaster,
Radio Manufacturers' Association radio related
Marshall secretary, Canadian Manufacturers'
Association other business
Nathanson owner, CJCB broadcaster
Neill none independent
Paulson manager, Sparks Co., CKWX broadcaster
Radford none independent
Rogers owner, CFCY broadcaster
Secretary Kelowna Radio Association radio club
Secretary Western Ontario Better Radio Club, CFCO radio club,
Tatham Kiwanis Club (Edmonton) community service
Taylor Fort William Radio Club, Fort William radio club,
City Council, Fort William politician,
Board of Trade other business
Thivierge director, CKCI (Le Soleil ) broadcaster
Vandry owner, CKCV, radio dealer broadcaster,
radio related
Vaughan Vaughan Electric Company radio related
Wesley Wesley Electric and Radio Supply,
Border Cities Radio Dealers radio related
Westbank none independent
Wheeler secretary, Sydney Radio Club radio club
Young president, Sydney Radio Club radio club
(ii) Soft private enterprise
Coats broadcast manager, CJRM broadcaster
Hubert none independent
Lloyd president, radio club radio club
Munro owner, CFBO broadcaster
Redmonds none independent
Russell general manager, American Radio
Relay League radio club
(iii) Status quo
Campbell secretary, Sydney Ministerial Association religious group
Fox president, University of Western Ontario, education,
program on CJGC broadcaster
George Canadian Red Cross community service
Harris none independent
Larivière president, Radio Club of Quebec radio club
MacKenzie, Alex Canadian Association of Broadcasters broadcaster
Stoke none independent
Watt Orangeville Radio Club radio club
Willson none independent
(iv) Clear federal government
Andrews none independent
Blangsted none independent
Cooper musician performing artist
Daigneault Association d'education des canadiennes-
français du Manitoba education
Draper Trades and Labour Congress labour
Hart none independent
Hawkins Victoria Radio Club radio club
LaFleche Canadian Legion community service
McIsaac Canadian Legion community service
Pittman Pittman's Music Store other business
Roberts none independent
Sherrington Grand Lodge, Knights of Pythias community service
Winter city of Windsor politician
(v) Clear provincial government
Dechene none independent
Jackson mayor of Windsor politician
Mitchell none independent
(vi) Clear government
Anderson Sons of England Benefit Society other business
Buckley Jas. Buckley Co. (machinery
manufacturer) other business
Burford All-Canadian Congress of Labour labour
Crawford Crawford Piano Company other business
Cross none independent
Crowe radio retailer, former owner CJCJ radio related
Graybiel Border Cities Star (seeking
broadcast licence) broadcaster
Huestis Lord's Day Alliance of Canada religious group
Johnson none independent
Kerr Hamilton Spectator newspaperg
MacKenzie, A. F. Royal Society of Canada education
McIntyre musical director, CNRO broadcaster
McKee Sherbrooke Board of Trade other business
Proctor Canadian Postmasters' Association labour
Roy Conference of Canadian Universities education
Viau secretary, Chicoutimi Chamber
of Commerce other business
Whitmore Professional Institute of the
Civil Service of Canada labour
(vii) Soft government
Gagnon Le Devoir newspaper
Independent denotes individuals who expressed no connection to any organization.
Broadcaster denotes direct interest in radio broadcasting.
Other business denotes commercial interests not directly related to radio.
Radio related denotes manufacturers and retailers of radios and electrical appliances.
Politician denotes members of municipal governments.
Government denotes provincial or federal government agency.
Newspaper denotes publications unaffiliated with radio stations.

National Archives of Canada, 1929a, 1929b, 1929c; Corpus Almanac of Canada, Who's Who in Canada (1928-29); The Canadian Almanac and Legal and Court Directory (1929); Directory of Associations (1996); Associations Canada (1996-97); Canadian Encyclopedia (1984, 1988, 1995); Encyclopedia Canadiana (1972); Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada; Canadian Postmasters' Association; Canadian Aviation Historical Society.


I would like to thank Rowland Lorimer, David Skinner, and the anonymous reviewers for their comments on this paper, and I would like to acknowledge the financial support of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada's doctoral fellowship program. An earlier version of this paper was presented to the annual conference of the Canadian Communication Association on June 3, 1996, in St. Catharines, ON.
Regrettably, the National Archives of Canada files concerning the 1929 Royal Commission on Radio Broadcasting are incomplete. While the files contain the oral and written submissions from the hearings held in Ontario eastward, most of the submissions from western Canada -- the first half of the commission's tour -- are missing.
Vipond notes: "For the first time in an official document, the notion was inserted that radio broadcasting should not just provide a service for individual Canadians as listeners but that it should also function in the national interest. Once that assumption was made, the conclusion that broadcasting would no longer remain the sole domain of commercial concerns was nearly inescapable" (1992, pp. 212-213).
As Vipond and Raboy maintain, the vocabulary used during the Aird Commission's hearings was often imprecise. Vipond writes: "Often words such as `national broadcasting policy,' `national system,' `government control,' and even `public broadcasting' were used imprecisely. None of these terms necessarily meant government ownership and operation of Canada's broadcasting stations, much less a government monopoly. To some, they suggested only a better regulatory system and possibly more emphasis on broadcasting as a public service (for example, through some government-sponsored programming)" (1992, p. 205). Raboy adds that this imprecision informed Quebec's response to Aird: "The notion of `public' broadcasting that emerged was diversely interpreted. In official circles, where `public' and `national' were interchangeable, public broadcasting was baldly presented as the solution to the problem broadcasting posed to the dominant conception of Canada. Seen this way, the opponents of that conception in Quebec could hardly do otherwise than oppose public broadcasting as well" (1992, p. 20).


Bashevkin, Sylvia. (1988, Fall). Does public opinion matter? The adoption of federal royal commission and task force recommendations on the national question, 1951-1987. Canadian Public Administration, 31(1), 390-407.

Bird, Roger (Ed.). (1988). Documents of Canadian broadcasting. Ottawa: Carleton University Press.

Canada. (1929a, January 19). Order-in-Council 2108. The Canada Gazette, p. 2306.

Canada. (1929b). Report of the Royal Commission on Radio Broadcasting. Ottawa: F. A. Acland.

Canada. (1951). Report of the Royal Commission on National Development in the Arts, Letters and Sciences 1949-1951. Ottawa: Edmond Cloutier.

Canada. (1957). Report of the Royal Commission on Broadcasting. Ottawa: Edmond Cloutier.

Courtney, John C. (1969, Summer). In defence of royal commissions. Canadian Public Administration, 12(2), 198-212.

Litt, Paul. (1992). The muses, the masses, and the Massey Commission. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Lorimer, Rowland, & McNulty, Jean. (1996). Mass communication in Canada. Toronto: Oxford University Press.

National Archives of Canada (NAC). (1929a). Files of the Royal Commission on Public Broadcasting, Public Records Section, RG 33/14, Vols. 1-5.

National Archives of Canada (NAC). (1929b). Files of the Royal Commission on Public Broadcasting, Public Records Section, RG 41, Vol. 303.

National Archives of Canada (NAC). (1929c). Files of the Royal Commission on Public Broadcasting, Public Records Section, RG 42, Vol. 1077.

Peers, Frank W. (1969). The politics of Canadian broadcasting 1920-1951. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Raboy, Marc. (1992). Missed opportunities: The story of Canada's broadcasting policy. Montreal & Kingston: McGill-Queen's University Press.

Raboy, Marc. (1995a). Accès inégal: les canaux d'influence en radiodiffusion. Sainte-Foy, QC: Presses de l'Université du Québec.

Raboy, Marc. (1995b, September). The role of public consultation in shaping the Canadian broadcasting system. Canadian Journal of Political Science, 28(3), 455-477.

Vipond, Mary. (1992). Listening in: The first decade of Canadian broadcasting, 1922-1932. Montreal & Kingston: McGill-Queen's University Press.

Walls, C. E. S. (1969, Fall). Royal commissions -- Their influence on public policy. Canadian Public Administration, 12(3), 365-371.

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