Appendix D: – Canadian Radio, Some Background
Golden Ages and Endings
For most radio drama traditions, the arrival of television signals the end of radio’s dominance as the dramatic medium of choice. The abruptness of this shift from radio to television depends upon the conditions of television’s introduction. In Canada, television was not widely accessible until 1952. Even then, it was introduced by the CBC who wanted to create as little disturbance for their radio networks as possible. In 1956, the Canadian Royal Commission on Broadcasting’s report made provisions to protect radio broadcasting, while allowing for the expansion of television. Canada’s television capabilities developed faster than in Australia, but slower than in the US.91
The radio-versus-television struggle was also playing out in the USA, Britain and Australia. The United States, unlike the Canadian experience, saw television take over from radio almost immediately after the end of World War Two. The end of the war freed resources to mass-produce and mass-market television. The USA’s commercial system saw sponsorship money, and very soon thereafter audiences, switch from the radio to the now more commercially-available television.92 The Canadian experience of radio drama after WWII is similar to the British example, which saw radio drama persevere much longer after WWII than it did in the United States. This was due to a combination of heavy-hitting playwrights93 like Beckett and Pinter focusing on radio drama and the BBC controlling the introduction of television while continuing to foster its radio programming (Drakakis 15-16). In Australia, the commercial radio stations kept churning out “mass production of mass-appeal series, series, and single plays, mostly of mind-numbing banality” (Pybus 254). This was due largely to the fact that television wasn’t widely available in Australia until after 1956 (Pybus 254).
91 For a thorough statistical analysis of how the spread of television impacted the radio listening habits throughout the world - George A. Codding Junior’s Broadcasting Without Barriers. It is a numerical snapshot of how radio was faring as television spread throughout Canada, the United States, and other countries around the world in 1959.
92 The only real outlet for radio drama which remains in the USA the Public Broadcasting System. But there are people working to change this, see Joanne Kaufman’s article Stay Tuned for Radio Drama Renaissance in the June 19, 1998 edition of The Wall Street Journal (Eastern edition).
93 David Wade’s, in his chapter in Drakakas’s British Radio Drama, British Radio Drama Since 1960, addresses how the British stage benefited from playwrights who honed their craft writing radio plays for the BBC. Wade quotes John Scotney, Head of BBC's television script unit, recalling, “I was talking to one of my ex-bosses and said, 'By the way, can you think of the names of important modern playwrights who have started on radio?' He just said, 'Yes all of them'” (Wade, 220).