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Media, Information and Technoculture 2000F/G Chapter Notes -Publicaffairs, Miss Representation, Loss Leader

Media, Information and Technoculture
Course Code
MIT 2000F/G
Daniel Robinson

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Technological Nationalism
Maurice Charland
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.
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
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.

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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)
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
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
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