In 1981, the CRTC decided one CBC-TV channel was enough

The CBC's plans to launch a second national TV channel were scuttled by the CRTC back in 1981.

Broadcast regulator turned down licence application to launch second CBC network

CRTC says no to CBC-2

42 years ago
Duration 2:21
In May 1981, the CRTC rejected CBC's application for a second television channel.

Four decades ago, the CBC had an ambitious plan to double the Canadian content it showed on television.

How? By launching a second television network, available on cable, to be called CBC-2, or Télé-2 in French, which would bring new and already-aired programming to viewers.

For $30 million a year, the CBC believed it could "provide a prime time, commercial-free alternative to the present broadcasting mix," as reporter Bill Casey put it, when explaining the concept on The National.

But the CRTC wasn't convinced of the plan's merits and it rejected the CBC's licence application for the proposed network on May 27, 1981.

A too-small audience?

The CRTC's John Meisel is seen speaking to The National about the regulator's decision to reject a licence application for the proposed CBC-2. (The National/CBC Archives)

According to Casey's report, the CRTC had concerns that the budget needs of CBC-2 would eventually become a drag on the existing CBC network.

And the CRTC also believed the potential audience for CBC-2 and Télé-2 — "some 17 per cent of the population, through optional cable facilities," as Casey described it — would be too limited to justify the existence of the second network.

"When one started looking at who would actually be in a position to enjoy it, the number of people likely to be involved, we obviously judged that that [audience] claim perhaps was not going to be met," said the CRTC's John Meisel.

'The death knell' for Canadian broadcasting?

Al Johnson, the CBC's then-president, is seen reacting to the CRTC's rejection of a licence for the proposed CBC-2 network. (The National/CBC Archives)

CBC President Al Johnson expressed disappointment with the CRTC's decision. He also had concerns for its implications for the future of Canadian TV.

"Well, I wouldn't want to say that this is the death knell," said Johnson.

"But I would go so far as to say that if the CRTC and the government don't form a partnership very, very quickly to Canadianize television in this country, we're going to be swamped with more of American channels ... and Canada will become fully a cultural colony of the United States."

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