History of Radio Broadcasting

Reginald Fessenden, transmitted the first short voice message on December 23, 1900 to his assistant, proving that auditory radio transmissions can relay messages from afar. In an era where telegraphs, Morse code and letter mail were the most common forms of communication over a distance, this was a ground-breaking discovery that provided a much faster vehicle to transmit information. Fessenden also pioneered the first radio broadcast from his home in Boston, on Christmas Eve in 1906.

The establishment of radio stations began in the 1920’s, when manufacturers refined receiving equipment and retailers set up radio stations that developed some of the first programming available in Canada. Home radios were marketed to a blooming population of enthusiasts, but not all were enamoured with the idea of this new market. Many major Canadian newspaper businesses began to apply for licences in a bid for control over the new medium.

In 1928, the Canadian government established a royal commission to advise on the future of broadcasting in Canada; at that time, Canadian radio had been rudimentary, and many listeners were turning to American stations and networks. Concerned that broadcasting should be a public enterprise, as opposed to a profit generating industry, in 1929 the royal commission proposed several recommendations to ensure that broadcasting remained a national public service.

In the 1930’s, despite lingering resistance from newspaper industries, news programming tailored for radio broadcast was increasing, and by 1936 the British United Press in Montreal launched Canada’s first radio newswire that provided coast-to-coast coverage. During the 1940’s, radio news developed for a Canadian audience was increasing steadily, opening Canadians to live broadcasts for immediate news delivery. However, the province of Quebec, supported by the province of Ontario, contested federal control of broadcasting, appealing to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. In 1932, the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council confirmed federal jurisdiction over radio communications and content. An Act was passed in May 1932, creating the Canadian Radio Broadcasting Commission. In the late 1950’s, the Broadcasting Act was introduced by the Conservative government of John Diefenbaker, instituted the Board of Broadcast Governors (BBG) to oversee the regulation of private and public broadcasting in response to pressure from the Canadian Association of Broadcasters. Due to ambiguities in the Broadcasting Act, a new act was passed in 1968 delegating licensing authority to a new organization, the Canadian Radio-Television Commission, later renamed in 1976 the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC).

Since its inception, the CRTC has worked to ensure that radio and television stations and networks operated under Canadian ownership “to safeguard, enrich and strengthen the cultural, political, social and economic fabric of Canada," and that the programming provided should be "of high standard, using predominantly Canadian creative and other resources."

For more information on the History of Radio Broadcasting, there are a variety of websites dedicated to the subject:

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Prior to widespread public use of the internet, few forms of broadcasting rivalled the reach of radio. Radio programs are often the go-to source of information, news and entertainment for persons with low or no vision, but there are limitations in terms of accessibility – especially for those living with hearing loss.

While people who live with mild or moderate forms of hearing loss can experience some challenges in understanding the radio, those who have severe to profound losses will likely find listening to the radio to be too difficult to follow. Some radio stations will provide transcripts of their shows upon request, but this is generally limited to talk shows and will only be available once the program is finished.

Some radio stations (such as the CBC) offer transcripts online for select, non-music based programs. However, some stations only provide transcripts upon request after the program has aired.

Transcripts of a particular radio program may be available from the radio station’s website. If they are not available, the radio station may be able to provide them directly. Contact the station directly to inquire if they are available.

Sometimes, radio stations will direct listeners to a third-party company responsible for producing the transcripts. Look for an email address associated with the station’s Transcripts and Recordings Department or their Accessibility Department if available, and remember to specify the date and time the program was aired, as well as the name of the program and subject. Be sure to contact the station shortly after the broadcast, as transcripts may not be available indefinitely.

While some radio stations offer transcripts, they may not be free and a fee for shipping and handling may be charged for each transcript to be delivered.

When transcripts are not available, the station may offer a recording of the show as a podcast that can be requested. Podcasts are a recorded version of the show offered online, usually on the stations website. Podcasts are usually embedded in a media player, and allows the listener to adjust the volume, stop, rewind and replay the program. This can be helpful if certain words or parts of the dialogue are missed when listening to the recording the first time.

For more information regarding Television and Radio transcripts or recordings, the Canadian Broadcaster contact list can be found at the following link: http://www.cision.ca/resources/broadcast-recordings/

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Assistive Listening Device (ALD) Options

Background noise, music, sound effects and ambient noise can make understanding dialogue more difficult for people with hearing loss. When the volume control on a radio is not enough to aid in comprehension, there are a few ways that the sound can be brought closer to the ear or synchronized with hearing aids.

Having a radio connected to an induction loop system in the home can make it easier to follow speech, by allowing the listener to hear the program directly through their hearing aids/cochlear implants, as would devices that synch through Bluetooth products. This allows the audio volume to be raised to a level of amplification set by the audiologist during fitting/programming to maximize the clarity of speech sounds.

If these are not options, there are other ways to improve audio clarity through assistive listening devices.

It is often helpful to connect your television, computer, radio and CD/MP3 device docking station to an audio system with multiple component options, so that any assistive devices can be coupled to this central system and the listener can simply switch the components as desired without having to unplug and reconnect to different devices repeatedly. FM and Infrared systems may come with stereo speaker systems, and positioning these speakers closer to the listener can help by bringing the sound closer to the ear, reducing sound deterioration that can occur over a distance.

Another option is to purchase high-end headphones that can be plugged into the radio. Some headphones can even be wireless, providing greater freedom of movement for the listener.

For more information on Assistive Listening Devices to help hear the Radio, please refer to the booklet “Full Access: A Guide for Broadcasting Accessibility for Canadians living with hearing loss

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