CBC Digital Archives

World's broadcasters welcome CBC Television

On a summer's day in 1927, Canadians coast to coast sat enthralled before their radio sets as Prime Minister Mackenzie King spoke to them from Parliament Hill. Through the 1930s radio kept them entertained, and in wartime radio kept them informed. Then, Canadians were captivated all over again by television. In 1952 a bald puppet named Uncle Chichimus ushered them into the TV age, and in 1966 an animated butterfly made Canadian TV a more colourful pace.

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After years of careful planning and a few months of frantic rehearsals, CBC Television is on the air. Montreal cuts the ribbon on Sept. 6, 1952; Toronto follows two days later. While setting up Canadian TV, the CBC often asked other countries' broadcasters for advice. This clip shows some of those broadcasters -- the BBC, United Nations TV and CBS -- extending special greetings to Canadian viewers as CBC Television goes to air. 
• In 1948 the CBC announced Canada's plan for television. Like radio, it would be a mixed public-private system. CBC stations would open first in Montreal and Toronto, and private stations beyond the reach of CBC transmitters would be licensed and regulated by CBC.
• Private broadcasters resented the CBC's apparent conflict of interest, being broadcaster and holding the power to grant broadcast licences. In 1958 when the Board of Broadcast Governors was appointed, the CBC lost its regulatory powers.

• The CBC set a target of September 1951 for the Canadian debut of television. However, equipment shortages caused by the Korean War pushed the date back one year.

• On May 26, 1950, the Globe and Mail reported that "new methods (have) to be created" for the new art of television. "Generally speaking, it (is) not satisfactory to train a television camera on a stage play," the newspaper explained.

• By the end of 1951 about 70,000 TVs had been sold in Canada. All antennas were pointed south to pull in American TV signals.

• In early 1952 the CBC began hiring producers, directors and technicians. Mornings were spent in the classroom learning about TV techniques and theory; afternoons were devoted to hands-on learning in the studio.

• One of the young staffers there at the beginning was Norman Jewison, who would go on to make Hollywood films. "The weeks before we went to air were terrifying," Jewison later told author Stephen Cole. "It was all live. We were crazy with excitement and fear."

• CBFT Montreal was first on air on Saturday, Sept. 6, 1952. An English-language film for children, Aladdin and His Lamp, came on air at 4 p.m., followed by an English cartoon and a French film. At 7:30 a news review of the summer of 1952 was broadcast, followed by a bilingual variety show. An official launch ceremony was held at 9 p.m., and was blessed by Archbishop Paul-Émile Léger.

• The first thing Canadian viewers saw on the Toronto debut of the CBC on Sept. 8, 1952, was a slide bearing the station's call letters, CBLT. But a technician had decided to polish the slide at the last minute. Due to his haste in returning it to its place, viewers saw the slide upside-down.

• The next feature was a program called Let's See, in which a bald puppet named Uncle Chichimus told viewers what they could expect to see on CBC that evening.

Let's See was followed by weatherman Percy Saltzman, the first human seen on English TV in Canada. Announcer Lorne Greene followed with a sensational news story: Toronto's notorious Boyd Gang had pulled off a daring jailbreak the night before.

• Other networks besides the BBC, United Nations TV and CBS offered congratulations to CBC. The Italian broadcaster, RAI, sent a greeting in French. The Dutch broadcaster, and American networks ABC, NBC and DuMont all sent their good wishes.

• The DuMont network was started by a scientist and TV manufacturer, Allen DuMont. It pioneered daytime broadcasting but ceased operations in 1955.
Medium: Television
Program: CBC Television Special
Broadcast Date: Sept. 15, 1952
Guest(s): George Barnes, Alexander Cadogan, Don Hollenbeck, Sylvia Peters
Duration: 11:44

Last updated: April 16, 2014

Page consulted on April 16, 2014

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