REVIEW OF THE CBC LITERATURE
2.1 A thumbnail history of CBC Radio news.
The organization of the Canadian broadcasting industry is a blend of the British and American structures. In 1929, the first Royal Commission on Radio Broadcasting in Canada, now known as the Aird Commission, recommended the formation of a national monopoly similar to that of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), in preference to a commercial complex like that of the United States. The revenues derived from commercial stations were later found necessary to support the national system, so a compromise was the result.
The Canadian Radio Broadcasting Corporation (CRBC) was set up in 1932, but was plagued with political and internal problems (v. Allard, 1979), and so it was terminated in 1936. When the CBC took over on April 1, 1936, it inherited the CRBC's five stations and most of the staff of 37 - including 18 announcers.
When the CBC began radio broadcasting on November 2, 1936, news bulletins were supplied free of charge by Canadian Press (CP), just as they had been to the CRBC. The reports read on the air were the same as those prepared for the newspapers, however, and CP maintained strict control of wording and content. In 1938, the CBC General Manager, Bill Gladstone Murray, suggested to CP that their
sentence structure, impeccable for publication, is sometimes not appropriate for reading [aloud]. It is chiefly a matter of shortening the sentences, eliminating dependent clauses, and wherever possible using short Anglo-Saxon synonyms (PAC-MG 30, E333, 2).
CBC and CP worked together that year to produce an outline for rewriting print news for radio use. During 1939 and 1940, CBC paid a small fee for the news services and cooperated in preparing the bulletins, but CP still retained control over content. In 1940, the CBC National News Service (NNS) was organized and other newsgathering services were added. On January 1st, 1941, the CBC took over full responsibility for the selection and preparation of news items.
Dan MacArthur, the influential first Chief Editor, set the editorial style in 1940 and maintained it for thirteen years. His early efforts prevented the NNS from becoming merely a mouthpiece of successive governments (v. Albota, 1988). McArthur established the integrity of the CBC news bulletins by using only information that was "authentic and authoritative, avoiding rumour, false emphasis, and sensationalism" (Canada, 1940, p. 13). The news reporting remained strictly impartial, yet McArthur was aware of his audience. In 1941, he wrote:
It is hoped to achieve a desirable medium between the complete impersonality of BBC news announcing, and the extremely personal -- and too often sensational -- style affected by popular news announcers in the United States. It is kept in mind, that if the style of CBC news bulletins is too impersonal, too matter-of-fact, many listeners will turn to United States and Canadian newscasters who present the news in a lively personal style which enjoys a wide acceptance on this continent (DCM-PAC).
Radio was the only form of public broadcasting when the NNS was established. When television began, Canadian audiences were introduced, largely through U.S. television, to investigative and "eyewitness" news reporting. But the CBC continued to take its news reports only from secondary sources and the role of editors was restricted essentially to text preparation. Bill Hogg, Chief Editor of Radio News from 1953 to 1966, adhered to the original "bare facts" ideal. Even during the 1950s, Hogg discouraged use of the new, portable tape-recorders so as preserve "objectivity" (v. Eamann, 1985). The CBC was the leading disseminator of factual information, but at the expense of becoming known as "the good, gray CBC." In 1957, Toronto's Sunday Telegram called CBC newswriters "faceless, nameless robots stripped of all personality and opinion" (Robert Fulford, May 19, 1957). Time magazine said much the same thing: "the personality of CBC News is not that of a newsman, but of the announcer who simply reads it" (July 19, 1963).
During the 1960's, there was a revolution within the CBC News Service itself. The Association of CBC News Supervisors was formed, and they wrote to the administration:
We are living in an era of violent change in which the upheaval of ideas has breached tradition and shattered prejudices. This is an age when people need to be informed responsibly, intelligently -- and fully. We must meet the challenge of that need.... We can no longer be satisfied with disseminating the bare facts of the news gathered by others. (letter, K. Brown to VP of Administration, November 14, 1966).
The National News Service was reorganized to make better use of the combined resources of both radio and television. Greater use was made of recorded news reports, and a new, two-host format for the major evening newscast (The World at Six) was instituted. Professional media watchers liked the new "sound." The Toronto Telegram wrote, "It is crisply written, brightly read and it has a keen sense of swift movement" (Sid Adelman, April 12, 1967). Changes continued to be made. By 1968, the major morning newscast (originally The World at Eight, now called World Report) had also switched to two newsreaders. In 1968 also, the daily BBC newscast, which had been heard over the CBC since the beginning, was discontinued. The BBC model was no longer "inside" the Corporation; American models were exerting a greater influence. The most subjectively apparent change in newsreading that occurred with the changes in format was a great increase in the rate of speech. That impression is tested in this study.
With the regular inclusion of "voice clip" reports in the newscasts, anchor newsreaders lost some of the authoritative status derived from being the sole imparter of information. The listener was presented with an immediate and obvious contrast between the read-aloud style of the impartial report and the more spontaneous, personally-involved speech of "eyewitness" news reporting. This linguistic contrast is the source of a continuing "authority versus credibility" division within the Canadian news industry (Tom Walters, CKVU Television, Vancouver, personal communication).
The re-evaluation of policies in the late 1960s brought about a restructuring of all CBC program formats. For the first thirty years of CBC Radio, virtually every word heard over the networks had been scripted and all programs handled by full-time staff announcers. Since the publication of the Meggs-Ward Report in 1970, the hosts for many programs have been selected for their expertise in a particular subject and not necessarily for their well-modulated "plummy tones." These program hosts hired on a contractual basis have increasingly replaced the all-round, career announcer. Program hosts and newsreaders are subject to different linguistic expectations, and for that reason one can often hear sentences such as, "We'll hear more about that right after the news [nuz]," followed immediately by "Here is the CBC news [njuz]." The [+jod] variant after t, d, and n is the form traditionally recommended for use by CBC announcers (CBC, 1946, p. 11; cf. also, Orkin, 1970, p. 120, and Duffy, 1983, p. 55). The English heard on the CBC Radio network exemplifies the divided usage typical of Canadian English, and CBC newsreaders follow the more conservative (British) example. On the BBC, Received Pronunciation is still the "voice of authority" for news and official announcements (O'Donnell & Todd, 1980, p. 91; Gough 1980).
2.2 CBC Broadcast Language.
The literature about CBC language written during the course of CBC's fifty year history shows two main patterns. The first is that the great bulk of it was written in the first thirty years. The second is that the works are dominated by the first Supervisor of Broadcast Language, W.H. "Steve" Brodie. Technical aspects aside, radio speech involves two areas: the voice, and preparing text for the voice. Brodie wrote much of the material about CBC voices and language himself, and his direction is obvious in many documents where the author is not stated. Brodie was prominent in preparing both of the first announcing and newswriting styleguides, and in revising the later editions. In addition, a review of archival materials reveals that many directives issued by others were copied verbatim from Brodie's memos (see, for example, PAC-RG 41, vol. 174). W.H. Brodie embodied the corporate CBC language attitude.
Modern CBC Radio audiences consider "a good clear speaking voice" and "proper use of the language" to be the first and second most important qualities in a good radio announcer (A CBC Research report: 1988 Qualitative radio study). An expectation of high standards in broadcast language was expressed in the official literature from the very outset. The Announcers section of the Aird Commission's report reads:
It has been stressed to us and we strongly recommend the importance of having competent and cultured announcers (French and English) and the desirability of having special training and tests of capability for such persons (Canada, 1929, p. 11).
The Annual Reports of the CRBC (1934; 1935; 1936) do not comment on speech standards, nor on any training given to announcers. However, the first Annual Report of the CBC (1937) expressed the official attitude of linguistic responsibility. The section titled Announcing reads:
The Corporation has adopted as its ideal for announcing the criterion that announcers should reflect the clearest and most cultivated speech of the region rather than that of seeking an impersonal uniformity. In accordance with this policy, the Corporation has attempted to improve the standard of announcing both on its own network and over private stations. For this purpose, a coach has been retained whose services are available to private stations (Canada, 1936-37, p. 14).
The CBC has always selected its announcers from among those who "naturally or through training" speak well (Brodie, CBCPA Recording 621011-5). Applicants are expected to hold a university degree or "the equivalent" (CBC Job Specifications Manual). The audition criteria have not changed noticeably between 1939 and 1988 (cf. Halhed, 1981, pp. 1,21; and the following):
Audition: a short newscast; two or three introductions from existing network programmes; promotional material; word list, grammatical sentences, a short (max. 2 minutes) ad lib biography.
Comments: voice quality, breathing, enunciation and diction, pronunciation, grammatical correctness, and reading ability (CBC Broadcast Language Office, Audition and evaluation forms, 1988).
When the National News Service began, preparation and delivery of news bulletins became of the first importance. McArthur and Brodie selected and trained the original Senior Editors for the five Regional Newsrooms, and they kept a careful watch on the announcers:
Along with the writing of the news, which has always been done for a listening rather than a reading audience, the manner in which the news is read by the announcer is regarded as of prime importance. Anything in the nature of the exciting or emotional is avoided. Men possessed of clear Canadian voices are selected, who, in their diction, are calculated to command the attention and interest of the average listener (Canada, 1943, p.7).
The CBC Annual Reports continued to report on the progress of the "Coach to Announcers" and of speech standards throughout the corporation until 1949. They recorded that many directives regarding broadcast language were sent out, and that lists of words indicating correct pronunciation were issued from time to time. Publication of the first CBC Announcers [sic] Handbook was noted in 1938, and of its revised edition, Handbook for Announcers, in 1946. Yearly progress reports on the NNS and the Broadcast Language department were continued until 1949. By that time the working arrangements were well established, and language bulletins were being published regularly by Brodie. The entries in the Annual Reports were discontinued.
2.3 Broadcast Language Supervisors.
William H. Brodie joined the CBC in 1936, and was first attached to the Programme Division. The Broadcast Language Department was formed in 1940, with "Steve" Brodie as Supervisor of Broadcast Language, the title which he retained until his first retirement in February, 1962. On January 20, 1966, Brodie returned, at age 74, to help train the new announcers needed for coverage of Expo '67. He was retained in an advisory capacity until shortly before his death in 1976.
Brodie was succeeded by Eldon Wilcox, the newly-appointed Chief Announcer (English), on February 26, 1962. Wilcox was selected to
provide specialist advice and instruction in matters relating to announcer's [sic] functions in the English language (Toronto newsletter (memo), A.K. Morrow, February 28, 1962).
John Rae took over as Chief Announcer in October, 1965, when Wilcox was moved to Ottawa. On June 5, 1974, Rae was appointed Supervisor of Broadcast Language for both Radio and Television in the English Services Division. His duties and his title were changed to Manager of Broadcast Language and Announce [sic] Services on February 3, 1975, and Lamont Tilden then worked with him in the role of Broadcast Language (BL) Counsellor. Tilden had postponed his retirement for two years to take the position. When Tilden did retire in December, 1976, John Rae continued alone for a year until George Rich took over as BL Counsellor in December, 1977. John Rae retired on July 1, 1979. Rich carried on as Counsellor until May, 1983, when he was nudged into early retirement at the age of sixty. The Office of Broadcast Language then lay empty until the fall of 1983 when Ken Haslam urged that the position be revived. Ken Haslam is the present (1989) Broadcast Language Counsellor. Haslam was given the title and responsibilities in addition to his full-time duties of Senior Announcer. Unfortunately, because of severe cut-backs in funding for the CBC, the Office of Broadcast Language no longer has an operating budget.
2.3.1 CBC language bulletins.
Brodie's column Please Don't Tread on the Flowers appeared almost continuously for twenty-eight years in the CBC in-house publications, running from January, 1947, until July, 1975. The succession of magazines in which Flowers appear is: Radio 1(3), which become Radio-TV 13(7), on September 1, 1957, which then become Closed Circuit 1(1), on September 14, 1965. The last installment of Brodie's column appeared in Closed Circuit 10(10), on July 10, 1975. A compilation of Brodie's Flowers is in preparation for publication by Dr. Kenneth Bambrick of the University of Western Ontario (personal communication, January 30, 1988).
In February, 1975, Lamont Tilden and John Rae started a monthly BL bulletin titled You Don't Say. The bulletin was distributed throughout the CBC, and was also made available to interested organizations and individuals outside the corporation. When Tilden retired, Rae continued You Don't Say until George Rich took it up in December, 1977. Over one hundred editions, in six volumes, were published before the bulletins were discontinued in July, 1983. Dr. Grace Jolly of the University of Saskatchewan has compiled a computerized database of the contents of the first four volumes of You Don't Say (personal communication, February 24, 1988).
Ken Haslam began his in-house column of advice in February, 1984. This is currently in distribution within the CBC, and is called Generally Speaking. Haslam also regularly writes a column titled Words: Use and abuse that appears in Content magazine, a trade publication for Canadian journalists.