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Media, Information and Technoculture
Media, Information and Technoculture 2000F/G
Daniel Robinson

Technological Nationalism Maurice Charland Summary Canada's greatest challenge in the 19th century was to unite the country across a continent. The construction of the CPR (from 1881 to 1885) was a deliberate political and economic attempt to unite Canada's regions and link Eastern and Western Canada, the heartland and hinterland respectively. This project as based on the nation's faith in technology's ability to overcome physical obstacles. As the technology was adapted to suit Canadian needs, it fed the national rhetoric that railroads were an integral part of nation building. This spirit of technological nationalism also fuelled the development of broadcasting in the country and thus further served in the development of a national identity. These technologies supported as well as undermined the development of a Canadian nation. Based in connection rather than content, they did not favour any particular set of values, except those arising from trade and communication themselves, and so they also contributed to Canada's integration into first the British, and then the American empire. Questions Chartrand talks about how “…radio and electronic technology in general, will tend to ensnare Canada within an American web of information.” (59). Was this true at the time he was writing? To what extent is it still true today? How has the Canadian government’s policy changes/implementation affected this? By mandating that a certain percentage of radio content must be Canadian, has policy actually changed in Canada? With the (semi)recent increase in Canadian-based and Canadian-made television shows, there is much potential for analysis. Is a show/radio program produced in Canada automatically contributing to a sense of Canadian self-understanding? Or are we just reproducing what we see south of the border? “Who is to pay for Broadcasting?” Mary Vipond Summary Vipond points out that after taxes and other licensing fees failed, advertising took their place (in terms of who was paying for broadcasting). She notes four main alternatives that were suggested in the first decade of broadcasting: ‘loss leader’ stations, licensing fees paid by the listeners, direct government financing from taxes, and finally advertising. The shift towards advertising as the main source of income for radio broadcasters signalled a move towards the idea of radio broadcasting as a self-sustaining enterprise (rather than a tool or subdivision of something else). Vipond’s argument is that by 1932, advertising was inevitable in radio broadcasting. She concludes by stating that no matter the consequences with regards to quality or equitable distribution, there was no other alternative. Questions What role did the consumer play in the shift towards an advertising-centered radio broadcasting industry? What role does the consumer play today? Vipond states that listeners became more demanding over time; could we also say that listeners began to feel more entitled? And as for the direct advertising route that seemed so unthinkable many listeners in the mid-1920s, I wonder where those feelings of advertising as ‘infringing on privacy and sanctity of the home’ have gone. Now, we accept that advertising is a ‘fact’ of radio broadcasting (and of television broadcasting). Graham Spry and Public Broadcasting Robert W. McChesney McChesney argues that the need for public broadcasting is extremely great today, and provides the background for this statement. He chronicles the rise of public broadcasting (dating back to WWI), and the influential Graham Spry. Spry (along with Alan Plaunt) founded the Canadian Radio League in 1930. The purpose of the League was to gather support for public broadcasting, emphasizing the effect of commercial broadcasting on democracy in the radio world. The CRL also argued that a commercial broadcasting system would be a threat to Canadian culture and autonomy from the US as well as Britain. McChesney concludes with an analysis of the American as well as Canadian public broadcasting activists in the early 30s, and states that the broadcasting “…should never ever be entrusted to the tender mercies of corporate and commercial interests.” (214) Questions/Analysis I’m fascinated by McChesney’s viewpoint/argument in this paper. He seems to be a vehement supporter of public control over broadcasting, and really makes a case for the ‘duty’ of the citizenry to be in control. I’m particularly interested in his assertion that the fight for public-service broadcasting is symbolic of the greater fight for a more social democratic society. When he talks about Spry and the other broadcast reformers, he is speaking of an extremely different time. I wonder how important public control over broadcasting is today, and the methods in which we could start to challenge commercial interests. It seems that we take for granted the idea of public radio broadcasting; that is, we often forget that stations are largely promoting commercial interests. This is true for all stations, but for music and FM radio in particular it is a major concern. It would be interesting to delve deeper into the effects of ‘subtle’ commercialization in radio, and contrast between the direct advertising (“This morning’s traffic is brought to you by Sleep Country Canada.”) we seem to largely ignore and take as fact and the more subtle corporate interests (certain songs being played, on-air games, battle-of-the-sexes competitions, etc). Constructing Community and Consumers: Joseph R. Smallwood’s Barrelman Radio Program Jeff A. Web Summary The purpose of this essay is to place the radio program Barrelman in a social context, analysing it as it created a community of listeners and consumers. It describes the formation of the program, and the socio-political context it was created in (Newfoundland in the late 1930s). Web chronicles how the content of the show changed, and uses it to make claims about radio broadcasting and commercialization more broadly at that time. He also outlines the gender roles that the program reinforced, as the entertainment portion of it was directed at the men (the “breadwinners”) and the advertising at the women (often in charge of purchasing the consumer goods of the household). Web argues that Smallwood promoted independence and nationalism, while at the same time encouraging his listeners to desire a Canadian or American consumer lifestyle. He argues that this dichotomy might have contributed to the Newfoundlandian desire to join Canada officially. Questions/Analysis Web discusses the concept of fostering nationalism independent of ‘traditional’ government institutions (government, symbols, etc), which I think is a really interesting concept. Bringing it to today, I can think of a number of radio stations and other forms of broadcasting specifically designed to foster nationalism in some of this area’s Indigenous peoples, and one could argue that they haven’t been as successful as Smallwood’s program was. What are the reasons behind this? Does it have to do with the form (the fact that the radio ‘industry’ has changed drastically since Smallwood’s time, and its present format doesn’t allow for the same type of free discussion or dialogue around nationalism), or is the content to blame (lack of awareness, etc)? Or, in another vein of thought, does it have to do with the concept of the scattered community and the decline of radio broadcasting itself? From The Girl from God’s Country: Nell Shipman and the Silent Cinema Kay Armatage Summary Armatage centres this essay on Nell Shipman, providing a biography or her life. The author discusses Shipman’s work in the Canadian film industry, and especially notes the location of her stories (still in Canada, rare for that time). Armatage talks about her career at its peak, with critically-acclaimed films that quickly became popular and profitable. The author uses Shipman’s career as an example of the detrimental effect of the vertical integration of the
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