Monday, January 04, 2021

Radio Toronto Star

CFCA has unfortunately become a notably over-used acronym. It's the Communications Fraud Control Association, the Christian Foundation for Children and Aging, the the Community Fisheries Control Agency, the Central Florida Christian Academy and the Chicago Film Critics Association to name a few. It's a wonder that search engines can unearth anything about the former radio station of the Toronto Star at all. More here.

The Toronto Star is still published today. But their radio station CFCA-AM only existed for 11 years; from 1922 to 1933. It has no connection to the modern FM station 105.3 CFCA, branded as "Kool FM." The two stations are actually are separated by a 16 year gap, and about 68 miles. Waterloo is a Toronto suburb, but only in the way that New Haven, CT is part of the New York City MSA. One of them is the clear center of gravity so to speak.

The first broadcast of CFCA was on June 22, 1922. They were the first, and only radio station in Toronto at that time. CFRB is sometimes inaccurately cited as first. This is inaccurate, though they are certainly the city's oldest continually operating broadcaster. CFRB didn't sign on until 1927.  Just within Toronto proper, they were preceded by CKCE, CKNC, CKCL, CFCT, CJCD, CHCB to name a few. More here and here. Below is a table of the early licensed radio stations in the Toronto area from 1922 through 1928.

Toronto Star Newspaper
CKCE 450
1922 Canada Independent Telephone
CJCD 410
1922 T. Eaton Company
CHCB 440
1922 Guglielmo Marconi
CHCZ 420
1922 Globe Printing Co.
CJCN 410
1922 Simons and Agnew & Co.
Evening Telegram
CHVC 410 1923 Metropolitan Motors
CHNC 840 1924
Toronto Radio Research Society
CKCL 840
Dominion Battery
1926 Canadian National Railways
CJBC 840
Jarvis St. baptist Church
CHIC 840
1926 Northern Electric Co.
CKNC 580
Canadian National Carbon
CKOW 840
1928 Nestle's Food Co

In Canada the Department of Naval Service regulated broadcasting until July 1st, 1922 when it was transferred to civilian control under the Department of Marine and Fisheries. Only a handful of stations predate CFCA, including the experimental XWA in Montreal and the first batch of 23 license approvals by in April of that year.

So for CFCA most of their competition on the radio band came from the Unites States. Early stations like KYW, WBZ, WJZ, WHK, WTAM, WJY, WLW, KMOX, and WNYC and others were all audible in Canada.  While some of those became official clear channel stations, the reason at the time was the dearth of signal in the radio band, not the relative power of the transmitters. Aristotle was right, Nature abhors a vacuum, or as restated by Rabelais"Natura abhorret vacuum".

It was the owner of the Toronto Daily Star, Joseph E. Atkinson, who was interested in the promotional value of founding CFCA. It would be both the first local station in Toronto, and would make the Star the first newspaper in Canada to found a radio station. More here.

He made arrangements with the Canadian Independent Telephone Company to broadcast a Star sponsored concert over the experimental station 9AH. The Star had been presenting free live concerts for the public. The first broadcast was on on March 28th, 1922 at 8:30 PM. The star coordinated public radio-listening events at the Masonic Temple and at the Christie Street Military Hospital  More here.

In Canada, much like in some Caribbean countries radio ownership rates were low in the early 1920s. In 1928, only 52,500 radio sets were sold in all of Canada. But the explosion in the number of available stations corresponded with an increase in sales.  By 1931, that number had jumped to 173,200 despite the Great Depression. So to bridge that gap,  The Star used a Radio Car which began driving around the city of Toronto in the summer of 1922. They used a PA system to blast CFCA programming from the vehicle. This is eerily similar to Sound System cars in Jamaica starting around 1940 and continuing into the 1970s. More here.

But over time Atkinson failed to invest in new equipment. The station remained at 100 watts while other local station stations surpassed 10,000 watts. It was the height of the depression and Atkinson was reluctant to make that kind of investment. In 1932 the Canadian government passed a law limiting the power of privately owned stations to 100 watts. These conflicts culminated in 1933 and CFCA signed off on September 1st, 1933.

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