RCI: Broadcasting to the world
In February 1945, the "Voice of Canada" spoke to the world for the first time. The CBC International Service was founded to broadcast to Canadian Forces overseas in the Second World War. At war's end the radio service focused on telling the world about Canada in over a dozen languages. Despite budget cuts and critics who accused it of employing communists or operating as a government mouthpiece, the service now called Radio Canada International has persevered. CBC Archives looks back on RCI's six decades on shortwave.
King is joined by Justice Minister Louis St-Laurent, who addresses the audience in French, and by Howard B. Chase, chairman of the CBC board of governors. The three talk about the service's goal of reflecting Canada beyond its borders. The International Service will broadcast to the United Kingdom and western Europe in three languages -- English, French and German -- with a signal that is strong and clear.
• As the Second World War continued in Europe, it also became apparent that Canadians serving overseas needed a source of news from home.
• The CBC International Service was created by an order-in-council of the federal cabinet in September 1942.
• The CBC was responsible for setting up and maintaining the new service, but funding came from direct parliamentary grants.
• The final authority for the service rested with the Department of External Affairs. Unlike the rest of the CBC, broadcast material was subject to review by the department's "policy editor."
• According to a departmental memo written a month before the launch, External Affairs regarded the International Service as "virtually a new Wartime Information Office abroad."
• It should have taken about six months to make the shortwave station operational. Due to delays in obtaining the necessary equipment and construction, almost 29 months passed before the official launch.
• Engineers chose to erect the service's transmitters on a salt marsh called the Tantramar marshlands just outside Sackville, N.B. The site's proximity to the east coast, its low elevation and the conductive powers of its soil made it an ideal location for shortwave broadcasting.
• Right from the beginning, the new service was dubbed "The Voice of Canada." Watch a Canadian Army Newsreel describing the construction in Sackville.
• Montreal was chosen as the site for the studios and headquarters of the International Service because both English- and French-speaking staff members were on hand to host and produce programs.
• The service's first offices were in a former garment factory that had more recently been used as a brothel.
• Though Feb. 25, 1945, was the official launch date, the International Service had been carrying out test transmissions since December 1944.
• On Christmas Day 1944, the service broadcast a Christmas special for Canadian servicemen in English and French.
• This clip says the service began broadcasting in three languages (English, French and German). However, it also began testing Czech-language broadcasts in February and Czech was on the schedule beginning in March 1945.
• Psychological warfare against Germany was a priority before the war ended. German-language news shed a new light on Nazi leaders and told Germans what was happening in their own country.
• German prisoners of war, held in Canadian prison camps, were encouraged to record messages that would be heard at home. The messages were used as "listener bait" to encourage German audiences to tune in.
Program: CBC Radio Special
Broadcast Date: Feb. 25, 1945
Guest(s): Howard B. Chase, William Lyon Mackenzie King, Louis St-Laurent
Last updated: March 21, 2012
Page consulted on March 20, 2013
All Clips from this Topic
The International Service of the CBC launches with an address from Pri...
A Canadian army newsreel reports on the new international shortwave se...
The shortwave service brings news to Canadians overseas after the Seco...
Letters from Europe and South America testify to the International Ser...
An International Service correspondent entices the Korean Army to sing...
The International Service sends out Canadian music around the world.
Max Ferguson takes a comical look at the "voice of Canada" on its 15th...
A 1964 documentary describes the more technical aspects of frequencies...
A former International Service staffer tells Canadians about the short...
Have there ever been communists at the International Service?
The International Service reaches listeners in the Soviet Union.
Chinese broadcasts are rushed to air after the massacre in Tiananmen S...
Radio Canada International cuts language services and staff members in...
RCI's broadcasts in Russian become urgent as Soviets turn to shortwave...
CBC President Perrin Beatty and shortwave enthusiast Sheldon Harvie sh...
Staff and listeners defend the shortwave service as extinction seems c...
Families send out their love via the Canadian Forces Network on RCI.
A new funding formula gives RCI another year on the air, but there are...
A Montreal shortwave fan rallies supporters of RCI to pressure CBC to ...
In February 1945, the "Voice of Canada" spoke to the world for the fir...