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The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation is the English-language service of the Canadian national network of radio and television. The French service is called Radio-Canada.

The crown corporation which controls the service was created on November 2, 1936 by an act of Parliament and was built on the structures of earlier experiments in national broadcasting. From 1936 to 1958, the organization was controlled by a unpaid board of governors, but in 1958 a paid chairmanship was created.

The corporation, by the 1940s, was part of the Golden Age of radio drama and began to have a distinct effect on culture. The boom in radio drama production also created a boom for actors, directors and particularly dramatists.

The CBC began to create its own stars: Esse Ljungh, Andrew Allan, Lister Sinclair, Lorne Greene and Len Peterson are some of the many crossover artists.

By 1948, 97% of the CBC's massive output of radio drama was by Canadian writers. The regions were represented by their local studios, plays, their writers and their actors.

With the creation of CBFT television in Montreal (which began broadcasting September 6, 1952) the corporation began to shift priorities as did audience loyalty. At the beginning of television, the CBC still employed a vast array of Canadian theatre artists (thanks, largely, to its first chief producer, Mavor Moore), but it was in radio that the commitment was ongoing.

CBC television, by the 70s, would be seen as the domain of a very small Toronto-based Úlite (and of public affairs programming especially) and theatre artists (particularly writers and actors) who wished to supplement the meagre incomes that were being offered on stage, were still turning to radio.

However, cutbacks in the 80s, under the Brian Mulroney government, further centralized radio production to Toronto, with some drama production teams disbanded in the regions. However, in 2006, CBC Executive Producer James Roy commissioned a four-part series on Canada's involvement in the war in Afghanistan, entitled Afghanada, producing over 100 episodes until the end of 2011. In 2018, the CBC moved into "digital theatre" with a series of podcasts of Canadian plays entitled "PlayMe," commissioning new works, and adapting theatre productions for audio only.

CBC's future in both television and radio is now the subject of endless debate, both in parliament and the media. Its role as the voice of the nation is questioned, as competition increases.

Readings: Mary Jane Miller. Rewind and Search: Conversations with makers and decision makers at the CBC. Toronto, Montreal: McGill Queens Press, 1996.

Source: Sharon Blanchard. The Radio Drama Productions of Esse W. Ljungh (Thesis), September, 1981.

Profile by Gaetan Charlebois and Anne Nothof

Last updated 2020-09-08