Musings About MHR Canada: Excerpt #2

Written by on December 11, 2020

(Preamble: Most of this historical information came from Google, so please note that I seek no animosity when apparently tooting my own (Canadian) horn!)

Radio as we know it was first created by Reginald Fessenden, a Canadian working in the US. Although many sites list an American station as the first broadcaster, in fact it was a station in Canada – XWA – that was granted the first broadcast license on December 1st, 1919.

(photo courtesy: Quinte News)

This was a Marconi station in Montreal and the call letters stood for “experimental wireless apparatus”. By 1920 XWA had changed it’s call sign to CFCF which it retained for decades. Those call letters stood for “Canada’s first, Canada’s finest”¹. This little bit of information may sound like Canadian boasting and so it is but we must remember that very soon, Canada fell far behind the USA in its broadcasting experience!

Oh, another fact… not a boast, but just a little fun. The first scheduled broadcast was in May 1920, also predating American broadcasts. And so CFCF become the oldest radio station in the world, although actual broadcasts were very limited, and nothing like the 24/7 operations of the Mars Hill Network today.

Almost from the very beginning of the technology, radio and religion, particularly Christianity, were closely linked. Although some fundamentalists condemned the use of radio on biblical grounds, that Satan is “the prince of the power of the air” (Eph. 2:2), Christians across the theological spectrum soon saw this medium as useful for spreading their views, and the industry of Christian radio was born [IN THE USA!]. Although radio programs serve a variety of functions, Protestant Christians, particularly evangelicals, view the major goal of broadcasting as making converts to [actually making known the Gospel of our Lord and Savior,] Jesus Christ². On January 2, 1921, KDKA in Pittsburgh, PA. broadcast the church services from Calvary Episcopal Church. The Rev. Lewis B. Whittemore, an associate pastor of the church, conducted the service, thus becoming the first Christian broadcaster². Another first for the USA! – as you can see, I believe in equal and balanced journalism.

I could not find when Christian broadcasting commenced in Canada but that’s a subject for next time.

Submitted by Hank Blok, Secretary-treasurer, Mars Hill Radio Canada.

¹ Marc Montgomery, Radio Canada International, December 1, 2015

² Glenn R. Kreider, Wylie Online Library, 25 November 2011

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