History of Science Journalism

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1920-1945

Journalism during This Era

Newspaper press dominates

The pages of major daily newspapers reported facts and described events: the newspaper press was now well established. Some newspapers remained politically affiliated (Montréal-Matin, Le Canada), but their circulation was somewhat limited.

A new form of newspaper emerged: the highly illustrated tabloid such as the weekly Petit Journal and the daily L'Illustration. Incidentally, during the 1930s, illustrated magazines such as Le Samedi (1889-1963), La Revue populaire (1907-1963) and La Revue moderne were also very popular.

The economic crisis of 1929 and the Second World War (1939-1945) did not spare the press industry. Circulation stagnated: the form and content of newspapers changed very little. However, as of 1917, the national press agency, The Canadian Press, ensured full coverage of current events in Canada (in 1951 the agency began providing a French version of its dispatches.)

The beginning of radio broadcasting in Canada

In 1920, the Canadian Government started to grant radio broadcasting licenses to private enterprise. Broadcasting material was rudimentary. Reception conditions were poor and the number of receivers limited. The introduction of the radio into households occurred gradually.

In 1931 only 28% of households in Quebec – 38% in cities and 8% in rural areas – owned a radio receiver.

Likewise, the roster of local broadcasts was scarce. Programming was not continuous, because stations broadcast only a few hours per day, and not necessarily every day! Between programs, no sound was heard on the radio, although sometimes another station airing on the same frequency might be heard.

Several of these first broadcasters rebroadcast 'programs' aired on American networks, such as concerts, theatrical plays, conferences, etc.

C.K.A.C. radio station

CKAC, first French-language station in Canada

On September 27, 1922, La Presse daily newspaper inaugurated CKAC, the first French-language station in Canada. This cross between a newspaper – a progressive medium with expertise in the dissemination of content – and radio waves led to the creation of the new medium that was radio. Other daily newspapers in Canada also obtained broadcasting licenses, for example the London Free Press created CJGC; Edmonton Journal, CJCA; Calgary Herald, CFAC.

Radio programming and its mandate change

Sponsors quickly began to produce shows and air them on radio stations. In the 1930s, radio stations designed and produced most of their programming themselves.

For example, management at CKAC established contacts with the artistic, scientific and social communities to 'feed' content aired at the station. From 1922 to 1927, music and theatre dominated station broadcasts. In 1927, CKAC improved its transmitting power, and broadcasting increased from 12 to 14 hours per day. Programming became increasingly reliable and continuous.

« Réveil rural » radio show

In the 1940s, public broadcaster SRC/CBC (Société Radio-Canada/ Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) took the initiative to design and produce its shows. This change confirmed the corporation's production autonomy and contributed to its professional image.

C.B.F. (Radio-Canada) radio station

Radio-Canada and the CBC, the basis of the public network

The precursor of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation was the Canadian Radio Broadcasting Commission (CRBC), created by the federal government in 1932. An official text used for promotional purposes and dated 1934 described CRBC programming as follows: 'Radiotelephony entertainment: through the Commission's national network, Canadian artists will offer Canadian households programs intended for the Canadian public' (translation). In 1936, the CRBC was replaced by Société Radio-Canada/Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (SRC/CBC).

From a journalistic perspective, and until the 1940s, radio did not play a significant role in reporting current events. The Second World War would result in this new mandate to inform the public: radio stations set up information services and hired reporters.