Canadian Broadcasting Corporation

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CBC redirects here, as this is the most common use of the abbreviation in English. For other uses, see CBC (disambiguation).
Canadian Broadcasting Corporation
Société Radio-Canada
Type Broadcast radio network
Television network
Country Canada
Availability National, available on terrestrial and cable systems in American border communities, international via shortwave and Internet
Owner Government of Canada
(Crown Corporation)
Key people Robert Rabinovitch, president
Launch November 2, 1936 (radio)
September 6, 1952 (television)
Past Names Canadian Radio Broadcasting Commission

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, commonly known by the abbreviation CBC, is Canada's government-owned radio and television broadcaster. In French, it is called la Société Radio-Canada (Radio-Canada or SRC). The umbrella corporate brand is CBC/Radio-Canada.

The CBC is the oldest currently-operating broadcasting service in the country, first established in its present form on November 2, 1936. Radio services include CBC Radio One, CBC Radio Two, La Première Chaîne, Espace musique, and the international radio service Radio Canada International. Television operations include CBC Television, Télévision de Radio-Canada, CBC Newsworld, le Réseau de l'information and CBC Country Canada. The CBC operates services for the Canadian Arctic under the names CBC North and Radio Nord Québec. The CBC also operates digital audio service Galaxie and two main websites, one in each official language.

As a Crown corporation, the CBC operates at arm's length (autonomously) from the government in its day-to-day business. The corporation is governed by the Broadcasting Act, 1991, and is directly responsible to Parliament through the Department of Canadian Heritage.



The CBC's predecessor, the Canadian Radio Broadcasting Commission, was established in 1932 by the government of R.B. Bennett after an intense lobbying campaign by Graham Spry and Alan Plaunt of the Canadian Radio League which had been set up in 1930 to campaign for the implementation of recommendations by the Aird Commission on public broadcasting. A major concern was the growing influence of American radio broadcasting as US based networks began to expand into Canada.

The CRBC took over a network of radio stations formerly set up by the federal Crown corporation Canadian National Railways, which was used to broadcast programming to riders aboard its passenger trains, with coverage primarily in central and eastern Canada. On November 2, 1936, the CRBC became a full Crown corporation, and gained its present name.

For the next few decades, the CBC was responsible for all broadcasting innovation in Canada. It introduced FM radio to Canada in 1946. Television broadcasts from the CBC began on September 6, 1952, with the opening of a station in Montreal, Quebec (CBFT), and a station in Toronto, Ontario (CBLT) opening two days later. The CBC's first privately-owned affiliate station, CKSO in Sudbury, Ontario, launched in 1953.

On July 1, 1958, CBC TV was linked from coast to coast. Colour television broadcasts began on July 1, 1966, with full colour service being achieved in 1974. In 1978, CBC became the first broadcaster in the world to use an orbiting satellite for television service, linking Canada "from east to west to north". Since the 1970s, the CBC has not dominated broadcasting in Canada like it formerly did, but still plays an important role. Today, the CBC operates several radio, terrestrial television and cable television networks, in both English and French, as well as a number of Aboriginal languages in the North.

Unlike the public broadcasters of many European nations, the CBC's television networks sell advertising and do not collect a licence fee. However, the CBC does receive under a billion dollars annually in federal funding, which is the source of heated debates. The CBC's radio networks do not air any commercial advertising.

This and other aspects make the CBC more controversial than most other public broadcasters, including the BBC. Critics, often led by private media, sometimes accuse the network of cultural elitism, liberal bias, or bias in favour of the current governing party. The CBC is also sometimes thought to have an unfair advantage in the Canadian television marketplace, because it competes with private broadcasters for advertising dollars, while simultaneously receiving the subsidy of a government grant.

The CBC’s cultural influence, like that of many public broadcasters, has waned in recent decades. This is partly due to severe budget cuts by the Canadian federal government, which began in the late 1980s and levelled off in the late 1990s. It is also due to industry-wide fragmentation of TV audiences (the decline of network TV generally, due to the rise in specialty channel viewership, as well as the increase of non-TV entertainment options such as videogames, the Internet, etc.). Private networks in Canada face the same competition, but their viewership has declined less than that of CBC TV, because Canadian private TV networks primarily rebroadcast American programming with Canadian advertising inserted in it. American shows are very popular among Canadians, and often attract much higher audiences than made-in-Canada programming.

Many believe the CBC acts as a necessary counterbalance to what they perceive to be the conservative bias of private networks, or that it preserves Canadian culture against the homogenizing influence of rebroadcast American programming. Canadians continue to poll in favour of maintaining funding to the CBC. As it was initially conceived, the CBC ensures that Canadian stations act as more than just affiliates broadcasting foreign content. The Canadian government attempts to balance funding inequities between private and public networks by providing large subsidies for private production of Canadian content.

It should be noted that CBC and Radio-Canada are often, mistakenly, considered two separate entities when they are in fact, from a legal standpoint, one and the same. Indeed many personalities, particularly in news, and occasionally some individual series appear on both English- and French-language networks. Nonetheless it is generally clear to the casual observer that the English and French operations are very different from each other in matters such as branding, programming, and bases of operations, owing to the cultural differences between English and French Canada. While there have been attempts at corporate branding, including using "SRC" as the main French-language brand instead of "Radio-Canada", most such efforts have failed. Moreover, the CBC has never attempted to impose the "CBC" brand on French Canada in the way the "BBC" brand has come to be used on Welsh, Gaelic, and other non-English broadcasts.

This is the original logo of the CBC, used between 1940 and 1958.  It features a map of Canada, as well as a lightning bolt design used to symbolize broadcasting.
This is the original logo of the CBC, used between 1940 and 1958. It features a map of Canada, as well as a lightning bolt design used to symbolize broadcasting.
The CBC used this logo between 1958 and 1966.  It consists simply of the legends "CBC" and "Radio-Canada" overlaid on a map of Canada.  The version shown here was used by Radio-Canada, while the CBC used a version with the legends transposed.
The CBC used this logo between 1958 and 1966. It consists simply of the legends "CBC" and "Radio-Canada" overlaid on a map of Canada. The version shown here was used by Radio-Canada, while the CBC used a version with the legends transposed.
This logo was designed for the CBC by Hubert Tison in 1966 to mark the CBC's progressing transition from black-and-white to colour television.  It was used until all CBC TV programs had successfully switched to colour, at which point the CBC adopted the logo below.
This logo was designed for the CBC by Hubert Tison in 1966 to mark the CBC's progressing transition from black-and-white to colour television. It was used until all CBC TV programs had successfully switched to colour, at which point the CBC adopted the logo below.
This logo, nicknamed the "exploding pizza" or the "exploding pineapple", was designed for the CBC by graphic artist Burton Kramer in 1974, and it is the most widely recognized symbol of the corporation.  The "C" in the middle stands for Canada, and the radiating parts of the "C" symbolize broadcasting.  The logo was officially changed to one colour (generally dark blue on white, or white on dark blue) in 1986, and simplified to the version currently used in 1992.
This logo, nicknamed the "exploding pizza" or the "exploding pineapple", was designed for the CBC by graphic artist Burton Kramer in 1974, and it is the most widely recognized symbol of the corporation. The "C" in the middle stands for Canada, and the radiating parts of the "C" symbolize broadcasting. The logo was officially changed to one colour (generally dark blue on white, or white on dark blue) in 1986, and simplified to the version currently used in 1992.



Terrestrial services

The CBC operates two national broadcast television networks — CBC Television in English, and la Télévision de Radio-Canada in French. Both sell advertising, and are otherwise similar to the privately-owned networks, but offer more Canadian-produced programming than the other major networks. Most CBC television stations, including those in the major cities, are owned and operated by the CBC itself and carry the same schedule aside from local programming.

Some stations that broadcast from smaller cities are private affiliates of the CBC, that is, stations which are owned by commercial broadcasters and air a predominantly CBC schedule. However, many affiliates of the English network often opt out of network programs to air more popular foreign programs acquired from other broadcasters. (Private affiliates of the French network, all of which are located in Quebec, rarely have the means to provide alternate programming.) Such private affiliates are becoming increasingly rare.

CBC television stations in Nunavut, the Northwest Territories and Yukon tailor their programming mostly to the local native population, and broadcast in many native languages, such as Inuktitut, Gwich'in, and Dene.

One of the most popular shows on the television networks of both CBC and Radio-Canada is the weekly Saturday night broadcast of an NHL hockey game. In English, the program is known as Hockey Night in Canada, and in French, it is called La soirée du hockey. Both shows have been televised since 1952. The French edition was discontinued in 2004.

Ratings for CBC Television have declined in recent years, perhaps due to an increased focus on Canadian content, programming that rarely does well in English Canada against sleeker American productions. In Quebec, where the majority speaks French, la Télévision de Radio-Canada is popular and gets some of the highest ratings in the province. The language barrier, in addition to other cultural differences, keeps viewers from tuning to American channels in as large a number as English-speaking Canada.

Cable services

The CBC operates three specialty television channels—CBC Newsworld, an English-language news channel, RDI, a French-language news channel, and CBC Country Canada, a Category 1 digital service. It owns a managing interest in the francophone arts service ARTV, and through a joint venture with the National Film Board, CBC runs another digital specialty station, the Documentary Channel.


CBC Radio has four separate services: two in English, known as CBC Radio One and CBC Radio Two, and two in French, known as La Première Chaîne and Espace Musique. CBC Radio One and La Première Chaîne focus on news and information programming, but air some music programs, variety shows, comedy, and sports programming as well. Historically, CBC Radio One has broadcast primarily on the AM band, but many stations have moved over to the FM band. CBC Radio Two and Espace Musique, which are found exclusively on FM, air arts and cultural programming, with a primary focus on music, mostly classical. CBC's radio services do not sell advertising except when required by law, for instance, to political parties during federal elections.

CBC Radio also operates two shortwave services. One, a domestic service, broadcasts to Northern Quebec on a static frequency of 9625 kHz, and the other, Radio Canada International, provides broadcasts to the United States and around the world in eight languages. Additionally, the Radio One stations in St. John's and Vancouver operate shortwave relay transmitters, broadcasting at 6160 kHz. Some have suggested that CBC/Radio-Canada create a new high power shortwave digital radio service for more effective coverage of isolated areas.


The CBC has two main websites. One is in English, at, and the other is in French, at (or In 1993, CBC launched an experimental web service, followed by a small site supporting CBC Radio, and a site supporting the CBC Halifax TV program Street Cents. CBC consolidated its English radio and TV sites into a single site in 1995. In 1996, it began offering 24-hour live streaming of its radio services using RealAudio. In 1997, CBC launched a site for kids, and covered its first federal election online. In 1998, it launched an online news service.

In 2000, the CBC launched a wireless service, and CBC Radio 3, an Internet-exclusive broadband magazine, which provided streaming audio devoted to youth culture and independent music. Radio 3 is operated by CBC Radio. As of 2005, production of the magazine was suspended as the CBC redesigns the arts and culture portals on its website, although the site continues in podcast format and some of its content still airs as a Saturday evening program on Radio Two. Bandeapart is the French equivalent, and also airs content as a weekend program on Espace Musique. Both services will launch as full channels on Sirius Canada in late 2005 or early 2006.

In 2004, CBC began offering RSS feeds, and in 2005, it launched a new online arts and entertainment magazine. Also in 2005, CBC began offering podcasting of the CBC Radio science program Quirks and Quarks, and of Tod Maffin's technology column /Nerd, as well as limited podcasting of CBLA's Metro Morning. It's been a move that's been praised by some tech pundits as unusually ambitious for a public broadcaster.

CBC/Radio-Canada also offers an extensive, free Archives service, available on the Internet, showcasing pivotal moments in Canadian history from the 1930s on. Over 8,000 clips and interviews from news and information programs provide an in-depth look at Canada's past.

Today, is the largest news and information site dedicated to the Canadian viewpoint. It includes over 350,000 pages of news, analysis, commentary and indepth background information on issues affecting Canadians, plus on-demand streaming media, mobile and e-mail news delivery, detailed CBC on-air program information, digital archives, and more.

In 2003, it won an Online News Association award in the “service journalism” category for its coverage of the SARS epidemic. In 2004, was the only organization to win two awards from the Online News Association: one in the "specialty journalism" category for Canada Votes, its coverage of the 2004 Canadian federal election, and one in the “service journalism” category for ADR Database, a tri-medial project from the CBC News investigative unit. was also a finalist in the “online commentary” category for Blair Shewchuk’s “Words: Woes and Wonder,” a series of columns about the English language.

Other ventures

Audio services

CBC/Radio-Canada offers a 24-hour, 45-channel digital audio service known as Galaxie. The service is available on digital cable and direct broadcast satellite television providers across Canada. Some cable companies, as well as direct broadcast satellite service provider Star Choice, carry only 20 of these 45 channels, together with a separate 20-channel digital music service offered by Corus Entertainment, known as Max Trax.

In November, 2004, the CBC, in partnership with Standard Broadcasting and Sirius Satellite Radio, applied to the CRTC for a license to introduce satellite radio service to Canada. The CRTC approved the subscription radio application, as well as two others for satellite radio service, on June 16, 2005. Sirius Canada is expected to launch in late 2005 or early 2006.

Technical services

CBC Transmission has extensive experience in the design, installation and maintenance of broadcast transmission facilities and is able to provide a full menu of service offerings to the private sector.

CBC in other countries

United States

From 1994 to 2000, the CBC, in a joint venture with Power Broadcasting (former owner of CKWS-TV in Kingston, Ontario), also owned Newsworld International (or NWI), an American cable channel which rebroadcast much of the programming of CBC Newsworld, and Trio, an arts and entertainment channel.

In 2000, CBC and Power Broadcasting sold these channels to Barry Diller's USA Networks. Diller's company was later acquired by Vivendi Universal, which in turn was partially acquired by NBC to form NBC Universal. NBC Universal continues to own Trio, which no longer has any association with the CBC. However, the CBC continued to program NWI, with much of its programming simulcast on the domestic Newsworld service.

As a result of a further change in NWI's ownership to the INdTV consortium - including Joel Hyatt and former Vice-President of the United States Al Gore - in late 2004, NWI ceased airing CBC programming on August 1, 2005, when it became Current TV. Ironically, INdTV has met with producers of the CBC program ZeD, which is similar in format to Current's proposed programming.

Carriage of CBC News

On September 11, 2001, several American broadcasters without their own news operations, including C-SPAN, carried the CBC's coverage of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, DC. In the days after September 11, C-SPAN carried CBC's nightly newscast, The National, anchored by Peter Mansbridge.

C-SPAN has also carried CBC's coverage of major events affecting Canadians. Among them:

Several PBS stations also air some CBC programming, especially The Red Green Show, although no CBC programming currently airs on the full network schedule.

Border audiences

In U.S. border communities such as Bellingham, Detroit, and Buffalo, CBC radio and television stations can be received over-the-air and have a significant audience. Such a phenomenon can also take place within Great Lakes communities such as Ashtabula, Ohio, which receives programming from CBC's London, Ontario transmitter, based upon prevailing atmospheric conditions over Lake Erie.

In northwest Washington State, CBC O&O station CBUT is transmitted to almost one million Comcast cable subscribers in Seattle, Bellevue, Tacoma, Olympia, and Everett. Also CBC appears in northern Minnesota.

CBC television's U.S. viewers appreciate CBC's news programs including The National and the fifth estate, comedy programs including Royal Canadian Air Farce and This is Wonderland, and British programs Coronation Street, Emmerdale, and Doctor Who. Buffalo is known for its high viewership of Hockey Night in Canada, while most Detroiters prefer CBC coverage of the NHL finals.

CBC Radio

Some CBC Radio One programs, such as Definitely Not the Opera and As It Happens, also air on some stations associated with American Public Media.

With the launch of Sirius Canada expected by 2006, the CBC's radio networks (including Sirius-exclusive Radio Three and Bandeapart channels) will be distributed on Sirius Canada. It is believed, although not yet confirmed, that they will also be available to Sirius subscribers in the United States.

Caribbean and Bermuda

Several cable TV services in the Caribbean region also carry feeds of CBC TV. Bahamas - Channel 8, on the CoralWave ("Cable Bahamas") TV system. Barbados - Channel 96, on the Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation ("CBC") TV system. Trinidad and Tobago, the Cable Company of Trinidad and Tobago ("CCTT") TV system. CBC is also available in Bermuda on Bermuda CableVision's digital cable service.

CBC Bureaus

CBC has reporters stationed in the following cities:

(Main cities are in boldface)

  • St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador
  • Halifax, Nova Scotia
  • Moncton, New Brunswick
  • Montreal, Quebec
  • Quebec City, Quebec
  • Toronto, Ontario
  • Ottawa, Ontario
  • Winnipeg, Manitoba
  • Regina, Saskatchewan
  • Edmonton, Alberta
  • Calgary, Alberta
  • Vancouver, British Columbia
  • Yellowknife, Northwest Territories
  • Victoria, British Columbia
  • Kelowna, British Columbia
  • Fredericton, New Brunswick
  • Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island
  • Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
  • Whitehorse, Yukon
  • Goose Bay, Newfoundland & Labrador
  • Gander, Newfoundland & Labrador
  • Sydney, Nova Scotia


  • London, United Kingdom
  • Paris, France
  • Washington, DC
  • New York, New York
  • United Nations, New York
  • Jerusalem, Israel
  • Moscow, Russia
  • Beirut, Lebanon
  • Beijing, China

CBC also uses satellite bureaus, with reporters who fly in when a story occurs outside of the bureaus. In the late 1990s, the CBC and other media outlets applied cutbacks to their overseas operations.

Public versus private ownership

Controversies within the broadcast industry will often ensue when the CBC launches new services in areas that private broadcasters are already in, or wish to be in. The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), which decides which new broadcast licenses will be granted, is, like the CBC, a government controlled body. The head of the CBC and the commissioners of the CRTC are all selected by the Prime Minister. This causes private broadcasters to suspect favouritism for the CBC.

For instance, the CBC was given the first license for an all-news specialty service, namely CBC Newsworld. As with other specialty services, that decision automatically precluded any other new service, with a similar format of news and analysis, from launching. When the privately owned headline news service CTV Newsnet launched in 1997, it was restricted by condition of licence to using a constant 15-minute news cycle. Critics of the CBC contend CRTC favouritism is shown by the fact that CBC Newsworld has not faced equal threats of sanctions over its airing of programs outside the "all-news" format, such as the BBC version of Antiques Roadshow, although such a program does technically fall within its permitted range. The CBC, was, however, forced to remove repeats of This Hour Has 22 Minutes and Royal Canadian Air Farce from the Newsworld schedule in 1997.

The CBC had directly intervened in every application by CTV to change the restrictions on Newsnet, up to the final decision by the CRTC, which largely removed the restriction in 2005. However, the CBC is not unique in this, as it is common for broadcasters to intervene against one another in licensing decisions. The Canadian market is very small (compared to the US), and some broadcasters feel it can not support the free market approach of the US. They argue it is better to favour a specific broadcaster in certain areas, so at least one Canadian channel will be able to prosper.

Other allegations of favouritism have centred around, for instance, the awarding of prized radio frequencies (i.e. for CBLA-FM in Toronto). By the same token, though, not all of the CBC's applications are automatically approved; at one point the CBC asked for use of a similarly prized Montreal frequency in order to begin a third French radio network, but was denied in favour of a private broadcaster. Moreover, most if not all groups who receive a favourable decision by the CRTC have been accused at some point of having secured favouritism from the commission.


As the oldest currently-operating Canadian broadcaster, and still the largest in terms of national availability of its various networks, the nickname Mother Corp and variants thereof are frequently used in reference to the CBC (e.g. [1]).

A popular satirical nickname for the CBC, commonly used in the pages of Frank, is the Corpse.

There is also an urban legend that a CBC announcer once referred to the network on the air as the Canadian Broadcorping Castration, which also sometimes remains in use as a satirical nickname. Quotations of the supposed blooper are wildly variable in detail on what was said, when it was said or even who the announcer was, and virtually no references exist to confirm that it ever really happened.

Conservative Party candidate Joe Spina referred to it as "the Communist Broadcasting Corporation" for its supposed left-wing bias.

The CBC was also jokingly called BBC Canada during the 2005 lockout due to the large amount of British content then aired in place of the regular schedule.

Labour problems

Most employees of the CBC were locked out by CBC management on 15 August 2005 in a dispute over future hiring practices. The locked-out employees were members of the Canadian Media Guild, representing all technical and on-air personnel outside Quebec and Moncton, including several foreign correspondents on unaffiliated contracts. While CBC services continued, it was primarily archive material, with limited programming with other employees. Major CBC programming such as The National and Royal Canadian Air Farce were not be produced during the lockout. In response, the locked-out employees produced podcasting material such as CBC Unplugged, which were credited with giving the union the upper hand in publicity and bringing the public on their side. After a hiatus, talks re-opened. On September 23, the federal minister of labour called Robert Rabinovitch, the president of the CBC, and Arnold Amber, the president of the CBC branch of the Canadian Media Guild, to his office for talks aimed at ending the dispute.

Late in the evening of October 2, 2005, it was announced that the CBC management and staff had reached a tentative deal which, if ratified, will result in the CBC returning to normal operations by October 11. The looming October 8 start date for the network's most important television property, Hockey Night in Canada, was cited as an additional incentive to resolve the dispute.

The CBC has been struck by a number of other labour disputes since the late 1990s:

  • A similar dispute, again involving all technicians outside Quebec and Moncton, occurred in late 2001 and concluded by the end of the year.
  • In spring 2002, on-air staff in Quebec and Moncton (again, on both English and French networks) went on strike, leaving, among other things, NHL playoff games without commentary on French television.

While all of the disputes have resulted in cut-back programming and numerous repeat airings, the 2005 lockout has appeared to be the most crippling dispute in several years. All local programming in the affected regions was cancelled, and managers were put to work reading abbreviated national newscasts or hosting national radio morning shows instead of the popular, locally-produced productions. BBC World (television) and World Service (radio) and Broadcast News feeds were used to provide the remainder of original news content. Some BBC staff protested their material being used during the CBC lockout. "The NUJ and BECTU will not tolerate their members’ work being used against colleagues in Canada," said a joint statement by BBC unions. The CMG questioned whether, with its limited Canadian news content, the CBC was meeting its legal requirements under the Broadcasting Act and its CRTC licences.

Galaxie supplied some music content for the radio networks. Tapes of previously aired or produced documentaries, interviews and entertainment programs were also aired widely. Selected television sports coverage, including that of the Canadian Football League, continued, but without commentary.

As before, French language staff outside of Quebec were also affected by the 2005 lockout, although with Quebec producing the bulk of the French networks' programming, those networks were not as visibly affected by the dispute apart from local programs.

The unions represented at CBC/Radio-Canada include:

  • Canadian Media Guild - CMG - Three units: 1. On-Air and Production; 2. Technical; 3. Administrative and Support;
  • Association of Professionals and Supervisors
  • American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada - AFM
  • Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists (Performers) - ACTRA
  • International Alliance of Theatrical, Stage Employees and Moving Picture Machine Operators of the United States and Canada (Stagehands) - IATSE
  • Writers Guild of Canada - WGC
  • Association des réalisateurs - AR
  • Syndicat des communications de Radio-Canada - SCRA
  • Société des auteurs de la radio, de la télévision et du cinéma - SARTeC
  • Syndicat canadien de la fonction publique - Conseil des sections locales (Groupe des employé(e)s de bureau et professionnel(e)s - SCFP
  • Société professionnelle des auteurs-compositeurs du Québec - SPACQ
  • Syndicat des technicien(ne)s et des artisan(e)s du réseau français - STARF
  • Union des artistes - UDA

Source: About CBC's Unions


Maison de Radio-Canada in Montreal
Maison de Radio-Canada in Montreal

Famous people who got their "starts" on the CBC

See also

External links and references

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