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Media History in Canada Database

Author: Allen, Gene
Title: Old Media, New Media, and Competition: Canadian Press and the Emergence of Radio News
Year: 2009
Publication: Communicating in Canada's Past: Essays In Media History
Editor: Gene Allen and Daniel J. Robinson
Pages: 47-77
Place: Toronto
Publisher: University of Toronto Press
Abstract: In this chapter, Allen examines the competitive relationships surrounding newspapers and radio stations at the time of radio’s emergence on the Canadian media scene in the 1920s. Previous studies of early radio as new media portray radio competition with newspapers as a “press-radio war.” Radio could transmit news faster and further than newspapers could, threatening the newspaper business. In Canada, however, Allen says this “war” was as clear cut as in America. Some newspapers climbed on the radio bandwagon, some did not. However, Canadian Press – the collective of newspapers that shared news – had to face the threat of radio head on. Allen shows three distinct periods of policy by CP to deal with radio news competition. That policy was disjointed in the early days of radio, as CP had to figure out how to deal with member papers which owned stations competing with member papers which did not. Members disagreed about how to deal with radio, some wanting to control information to hurt radio and others wanting to work with radio. Other issues for CP included the establishment of the CRBC and its public stations across the country – the CRBC wanted news for its radio stations and provided a sort of competitive protection by using CP news on its broadcasts. The CRBC in turn enacted rules that prevented non-affiliated private radio stations from stealing news from CP newspapers for broadcast. As Allen notes, this meant all CP newspapers – even the ones without radio stations – were now in the radio business after all. CP restrictions on broadcasting news would be lessened in the face of competition from Transradio, an American company that provided news to private radio stations in Canada that were not affiliated with CP. In the end, Allen argues that Canada did not see a clear press-radio war (a metaphor born out of a too simple concept of media technology as objects without social or political context). In the 1920s and 1930s, Canada saw a “civil war” between newspaper owners as they dealt with the “problem” of radio. – by Duncan Koerber