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Radio for the mind

The Story

On Monday Oct. 25, 1965, a new program billed as "lively and controversial radio for the mind" makes its debut on CBC Radio. The hour-long daily program is called The Best Ideas You'll Hear Tonight. It is a series of talks, discussions and commentaries for "people who just enjoy thinking." As heard in this excerpt, the very first episode featured a series on Darwin's theory of evolution by Dr. June Clare, a British biochemist. 

Medium: Radio
Program: IDEAS
Broadcast Date: Nov. 1, 1965
Host: Ken Haslam
Duration: 12:19

Did You know?

• The first three Ideas programs featured a discussion of Darwin's theory of evolution, an interview with the CBC Television crew on their Galapagos island expedition, a series called Peace on Earth inspired by the encyclical of Pope John XXXIII, the music of Villa-Lobos and a talk by Earle Birney about poetry and creativity.

• The 1965 premiere broadcast of The Best Ideas You'll Hear Tonight was the result of two educational programs, The Learning Stage and University of the Air, merging due to budget constraints.
The Learning Stage was an adult education program with lectures and interviews on topics such as theatre, music and poetry. University on the Air had more of an educational component, consisting mostly of lectures.

• The original team behind The Best Ideas You'll Hear Tonight, which included Bill Young, Phyllis Webb, Janet Sommerville and Jim Anderson, later said there was a great academic excitement in the universities about the new program.
• The title was shortened to Ideas by the fall of 1966. It is the longest-running program currently on CBC Radio (2004).

• When Ideas debuted, writer Timothy Findley worked as the show's fine arts editor, and his long-time partner writer Bill Whitehead was the program's science editor. The two contributors were recruited for the new Ideas show from The Learning Stage.
• The original host for Ideas was Ken Haslam. Jim Robertson, Warren Davies, Russ Germain and Sharon Dunn have hosted the program over the decades. Long-time host Lister Sinclair took over in 1983. Current host Paul Kennedy took over the reins in 1999.

• The Massey Lectures, which are still aired as part of Ideas, were created in 1961 by the CBC and the University of Toronto's Massey College. The Massey Lectures is a prestigious annual event in Canada, where a noted scholar gives a series of lectures on his or her chosen topic. The event is named after Vincent Massey, the first Canadian to be appointed governor general in 1952.
• Vincent Massey was known as an energetic advocate for the humanities.

• British economist and writer Barbara Ward Jackson delivered the first Massey Lectures back in 1961. Her lecture was titled "The Rich Nations and the Poor Nations."
• The distinguished list of Massey lecturers includes civil rights leader Martin Luther King, authors Doris Lessing and John Ralston Saul and linguist Noam Chomsky.

Ideas producers have not shied away from controversial and sensitive subjects. In February 1995, as part of now infamous documentary on female ejaculation, Ideas aired a six-minute sequence of a woman masturbating herself to orgasm.



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