Comparison of public and private broadcasting Networks in Canada

Table of Content

Media Systems in Canada: An Introduction

Canada is largely perceived as a country that heavily relies on communications and communication technology. The media sector is well-developed and can reach practically every Canadian, making it an essential component of Canadian life. The mass media in Canada includes television, magazines, newspapers, books, internet, radio and films. These serve several functions such as providing information, entertainment, education and advertising.

This essay could be plagiarized. Get your custom essay
“Dirty Pretty Things” Acts of Desperation: The State of Being Desperate
128 writers

ready to help you now

Get original paper

Without paying upfront

According to BBG Communications (2008), Canada has a total of 130 VHF and UHF television stations in the broadcasting industry. They broadcast on 1,456 transmitters across the entire country which are owned both publicly and privately. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation is a public network that operates in both English and French languages. Besides CBC, four other private networks also broadcast bilingually.

The exclusive English broadcasters in Canada are CTV and Global, which are available throughout the country. Meanwhile, TVA and TQS broadcast in French and are mainly aired in Quebec. However, TVA can be accessed throughout Canada by using Cable television. Additionally, there is a national network called the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN) that primarily programs content from First Nations communities. APTN is considered part of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission Network but is only aired on Cable television in most parts of Canada.

The official national networks in Canada include CBC, APTN, Radio-Canada, and TVA while TQS is considered a provincial network for Quebec. Although CTV and Global are legally classified as television services, they operate as television networks. Most of these stations are owned by their respective networks but may have affiliates that are owned differently.

Both public and private broadcasting systems in Canada serve under different mandates.

Historical development and social context of Canadian media systems.

The history of Canadian broadcasting dates back to May 20, 1920, when the first broadcast was held by the XWA station under the Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company. This followed successful experimental transmissions towards the end of 1919. The radio broadcast, or wireless telephony as it was known then, featured a concert by Dorothy Lutton, a female vocalist.

At that time, the Canadian telegraph industry was a major means of communication and was under private ownership. By the end of the nineteenth century, the Great North Western Telegraph Company which was linked to Western Union and Canadian Pacific Railway Telegraphs dominated the Canadian market. Despite being privately owned, these companies were chartered by the government which also regulated them.

The Electric Telegraph Companies Act of 1852 was the first legislation to regulate wireless telephony. It allowed the government to have minimal supervision of privately owned telegraph companies. In 1881, another act was passed that gave the federal government some responsibility over telegraph communication. The Department of Marine and Fisheries originally created the Radio Branch, but in 1913 it was transferred to the Department of Naval Service to facilitate naval communication. By 1920, several other shore stations had been established on both coasts and were owned and operated by the Radio Branch.

It is worth noting that by late 1920, there were almost six hundred licensed amateurs in Canada who helped make radio popular and attracted the first audience of broadcasting. In total, there were 610 licensed Canadian radio-telegraph stations. Of these, six were public commercial and twelve were private commercial while 581 were amateur experimental and eleven were experimental. After the XWA broadcast, interest in radio became more pronounced and even Canadian newspapers began launching their own broadcasting stations. By 1922, there were eleven licensed broadcasting stations.

Examples of early stations in Canada include CJNC and CJCG in Winnipeg, CJBC and CKAC in Montreal, CJCA in Edmonton, and CJCE in Vancouver. In 1949, Canada authorized its first television service which began operations three years later. As the broadcasting industry developed, the government implemented several regulations to control it.

In 1929, the Aird Commission investigated radio broadcasting and recommended that all stations become state-owned. This led to the creation of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), which became a major force. However, commercial broadcasting continued alongside it. In 1932, the Canadian Radio Broadcasting Act was passed which led to the creation of the Canadian Broadcasting Commission.

Initially, Canadian broadcasting networks were private companies regulated by the government but after proposals to nationalize all broadcasting by commissions like Aird’s there were attempts at developing state-owned radio such as CBC but private ownership persisted.

Today’s Canadian broadcasting system is a mix of public and private networks with specific mandates they are expected to serve. The following section analyzes both public and private systems with reference to specific stations.

One of the public broadcasting systems in Canada is the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

Public broadcasting was initially proposed in 1929 by the Aird Commission, which felt that private broadcasting was too commercial and market-oriented, with program content that was mostly foreign. In 1932, then-Prime Minister R.B. Bennett echoed these sentiments as he introduced the Canadian Radio Broadcasting Act. There was an emphasis on the need to have a broadcasting network that would foster national consciousness and unity. Thus, under this act, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) was established as Canada’s first national broadcasting service and continues to serve as a national public broadcaster to date.

The mandate of the CBC is outlined in the 1991 Broadcasting Act:

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, as the national public broadcaster, should provide radio and television services that incorporate a wide range of programming. These programs should aim to inform, enlighten, and entertain.

The programming provided by the corporation should:

The content of Canadian media should:

  • Be predominantly and distinctively Canadian,
  • Reflect Canada and its regions to national and regional audiences, while serving the special needs of those regions,
  • Actively contribute to the flow and exchange of cultural expression,
  • Be in English and French, reflecting the different needs and circumstances of each official language community, including the particular needs and circumstances of English and French linguistic minorities,
  • Strive to be of equivalent quality in English and French,
  • Contribute to shared national consciousness and identity,
  • Be made available throughout Canada by the most appropriate and efficient means as resources become available for this purpose,


*The content should also reflect the multiculturalism & multiracial nature of Canada.*

Private broadcasting networks in Canada:

Although the Aird Commission had recommended the creation of a single public broadcasting system, private stations persisted and continued to serve local markets. They even formed affiliation agreements with the CBC, which allowed them to extend CBC coverage throughout Canada. As a result, it became increasingly clear that CBC needed private stations in order to expand coverage, especially at a time when broadcasting coverage was perhaps the most expensive and difficult in the world” 1. Therefore, the influence of private broadcasters continued to grow in Canada. When television was being organized in the 1950s and CBC faced a funding crisis, they threatened the authority of CBC as chief regulator of broadcasting.

1 (Aird Commission Report 1949)

The private broadcasting industry in Canada comprises national networks, regional networks, and individual networks. The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) regulates the programming content of the private broadcasting industry under the Broadcasting Act of 1991. This act outlines the terms that govern the operation of the Canadian broadcasting system. The mandate for any Canadian broadcasting system to operate under is defined by this act.

All persons who are licensed to carry on broadcasting undertakings have a responsibility for the programs they broadcast.

The programming provided by the Canadian Broadcasting System should be of high quality and diverse to cater to the needs of its audience.

The content should be varied and comprehensive, offering a balance of information, enlightenment, and entertainment for people of all ages, interests, and tastes – including men, women, and children.

(ii) It should be drawn from local, regional, national, and international sources.

(iii) Educational and community programs should be included.

(iv) The government should provide a fair chance for the public to access and be exposed to diverse opinions on issues that concern them.

(v) The Canadian independent production sector should make a significant contribution.

Educational programming is an integral part of the Canadian broadcasting system, especially when it is provided through the facilities of an independent educational authority.

(k) A range of broadcasting services in English and French shall be extended to all Canadians as resources become available.

Comparison between public and private broadcasting systems.

The public and private broadcasting systems in Canada differ primarily in their mandate. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) is mandated to “be predominantly and distinctively Canadian” and “contribute to shared national consciousness and identity”. On the other hand, the private broadcasting industry is expected to be “varied and comprehensive, providing a balance of information, enlightenment, and entertainment for men, women, and children of all ages, interests, and tastes” while also drawing from local, regional, national, and international sources 5. As a result of this mandate difference between CBC and private broadcasters in Canada’s media landscape has been significant. While CBC focuses mostly on program content that is distinctively Canadian; private broadcasters have filled their program content with foreign material that is mostly from the United States. This trend has caused concern among Canadians as it leads to an increase in American culture’s influence on Canadian media.The influence of private broadcasters has been increasing steadily such that by the end of the 1980s; CBC had only 20% share of television audience for English programs while French programs had only 30% share9.When television initially began airing in Canada; it was placed under CBC’s authority because it was felt that private broadcasters had low standards for their programs. They neglected their obligation to provide programming for the national system but focused mainly on foreign American content. The CRTC tried to put a stop to this “Americanization” by ruling that at least 60% of all programming should be Canadian-made6.The chart below provides a visual representation showing how Canadians view both domestic (Canadian) programs versus foreign ones.

The chart above shows the results of a survey conducted on how Canadians viewed Canadian and foreign programs during the 1996 to 1997 broadcast years. It is evident that during prime time viewing, English Canada watched mostly foreign programs, with drama being the most popular genre. In contrast, Canadian programs were more popular in all French TV channels, with News and Public Affairs being the most viewed segments. Therefore, it can be concluded that Canadian programs are predominantly watched on French television networks while English networks continue to be dominated by American content. The French sector has been successful in maintaining a distinctively Canadian identity and promoting national pride while English Canada remains heavily influenced by American culture. This highlights the need for innovation to ensure that English Canada also develops a unique Canadian identity.


Communication is an integral part of Canadian life and plays a crucial role in promoting Canadian cultural values. The responsibility of promoting nationalistic values falls on the Canadian public broadcasting system to ensure that they are not lost. However, private broadcasting networks have mainly focused on American content, which has raised concerns about Canadians losing their identity and becoming Americanized.

To address these cultural and nationalistic goals of broadcasting, the Broadcast Act was established. Despite this act, private broadcasters still prioritize foreign content over local content. This highlights the need for innovative solutions that will allow for Canadianization” of these stations.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission requires all Canadian broadcasting programs to have 60% Canadian program content. It is important to strictly adhere to this rule, with serious repercussions for those who do not comply. However, it is also important not to exclude valuable information from international sources in the name of promoting Canadianization. Additionally, over-regulation of program content should be avoided so as not to interfere with audience choice. Ultimately, both public and private corporations aim to entertain, inform and educate their audiences. While ideally they would serve under the same mandate, competition and consumer choice are promoted by different mandates.


Alderson, Evan, Robin Blaser, Harold G. Coward. Reflections on Cultural Policy: Past, Present, and Future. Calgary Institute for the Humanities, 1993. Published by Wilfrid Laurier University Press.

BBG Communications. 2008. Canadian Television Broadcasting Industry.” Retrieved from on April 3, 2009.

Canadian Broadcasting. 2005. Maintained by Barry Mishkind- The Eclectic Engineer. Retrieved from on April 3, 2009.

“Canadian Television for Canadian Audiences: Section 2: Canadian Content Now.” CBC Radio-Canada p.2-14.Retrieved from on April 3, 2009.

Department of Justice Canada: Broadcasting Act (1991), c.11.Retrieved from on April 3rd ,2009

Dorland,M.(1996).The Cultural Industries in Canada: Problems,Policies and Prospects.James Lorimer & Company.

Media Awareness Network:”Canadian Private Broadcasting Codes and Guidelines – Overview.” Retrieved from on April 3rd ,2009

The Museum of Broadcast Communications:”Canada”.Retrieved from on April 3rd , 2009

Vipond, Mary. (2000). The Mass Media in Canada. James Lorimer & Company.

Vipond, Mary.(1992).Listening In: The First Decade of Canadian Broadcasting, 1922-1932.McGill-Queen’s Press – MQUP

CBC Radio Canada: CRTC Submissions. Retrieved from on April 3rd ,2009

Cite this page

Comparison of public and private broadcasting Networks in Canada. (2016, Sep 04). Retrieved from

Remember! This essay was written by a student

You can get a custom paper by one of our expert writers

Order custom paper Without paying upfront