A hostile context
At the beginning of the 20e century, the first radio stations in Saskatchewan were at first private and mainly English-speaking. It was not until 1933 that bilingual programming was broadcast in Saskatchewan thanks to the Canadian Broadcasting Commission (CCR).
However, the division of the airwaves between English and French is not done without clashes.
According to historians Richard Lapointe and André Lalonde, two of the authors of the book 50 years of radio : So many things to saygroups such as the Orangemen, the Sons of England and the Ku Klux Klan
CCR“,”text”:”se mettent à protester contre les émissions françaises ou bilingues du CCR”}}”>begin to protest against the French or bilingual broadcasts of the CCR.
Despite the arrival of CBC/Radio-Canada in the province in 1939, the vast majority of the programming broadcast there remains in English.
The fight for French-language broadcasting was then led by the spearheads of French-Canadian society in Saskatchewan. Among the latter, we find in particular the head of the secretariat of the Franco-Canadian Catholic Association, Antonio de Margerie, and Abbé Baudoux, of Prud’homme.
” They said to themselves: if Radio-Canada doesn’t come here, we’ll give ourselves a radio! »
Determined to hear their voices on the airwaves, Francophones are taking matters into their own hands.
From Assiniboia to Wauchope via Bellegarde and Ponteix, fundraising campaigns followed one another in 1945 and 1951. The objective: to collect enough funds to enable the opening of two stations to cover Saskatchewan.
It’s finally the 1er June 1952 that CFRG, Saskatchewan’s first French-language radio station, was born. A few months later, in November, it will be the turn of CFNS, in Saskatoon, to open its doors.
The Prime Ministers of Canada, Louis St-Laurent, of Saskatchewan, Tommy Douglas, and of Quebec, Maurice Duplessis, as well as the representative of the Pope in Canada offer their homage to the Francophones of southern Saskatchewan.
” CFRG, promote our French speaking! This is your primary mission. Make the French verb vibrate in all our homes. Make it appreciate and love! Teach our grandchildren, above all, to be proud of it! »
CFRG settles in Gravelbourg. On the first floor of the building, there are the studios, a vast nightclub and the offices. Apartments are found on the upper floor.
The transmitter and antenna are installed a few kilometers east of the village on land donated free of charge by farmer Roland Pinsonneault.
A cultural engine
The CFRG transmitter was initially limited to 250 watts before seeing its power increased to 5000 watts in 1956.
The actual scope of CFRG at the time, however, remains unclear.
According to Fransaskois Guy Préfontaine, a former CFRG technician between 1960 and 1966, the station could be heard outside the province’s borders.
: jusqu’au Manitoba, en Alberta, aux États-Unis, au Montana. Plusieurs gens parlaient français là-bas aussi.”,”text”:”On générait beaucoup de signal: jusqu’au Manitoba, en Alberta, aux États-Unis, au Montana. Plusieurs gens parlaient français là-bas aussi.”}}”>We generated a lot of signal: as far as Manitoba, Alberta, the United States, Montana. Many people spoke French there too.
However, Fransaskois author and sociologist Wilfrid Denis explains in the book 50 years of radio : So many things to say that CFRG’s radiation is deemed inadequate, reaching only a radius of about sixty kilometres.
By tuning into CFRG, the listener could hear local news broadcasts, but also cultural and educational content.
Jeanne Beauregard hosted a program for children, Maryvonne Kendergi offered cultural programs and Marie-Antoinette Papen was at the microphone of a program on the lives of women in the modern world.
It was the voice of the communityrecalls André Moquin, a Gravelbourg resident and former CFRG employee.
It was a very high level of language, even if it was the western French-Canadian accent that we heard.
Fransaskois Michel Vézina explains that some of the programs broadcast on CFRG were taken from the Radio-Canada network.
Possibly the most listened to program at the time must have been hockeyhe says.
: CFRG diffusait le chapelet en famille.”,”text”:”Le côté religieux était très présent aussi: CFRG diffusait le chapelet en famille.”}}”>The religious side was also very present: CFRG distributed the rosary in family.
” It was a kind of cultural engine. CFRG organized shows, brought artists to Gravelbourg. We killed two birds with one stone: we interviewed them for the radio and then there was a show in the community. »
And this is how Félix Leclerc visited Gravelbourg in 1963.
It was thanks to CFRG who brought him hereexplains Mr. Vézina.
Chronic financial worries
To survive, the Gravelbourg station had to sell advertisements. A representative traveled the province to sell airtime to companies wishing to advertise their products and services.
Sociologist Wilfrid Denis notes, however, that
sponsorships will never make up the deficits.
Even if fundraisers are organized, the financial problems of CFRG
perpetually threaten the survival position,” explains Mr. Denis.
It was ultimately Radio-Canada that came to its aid at the end of the 1960s. More than half of CFRG’s revenues at that time came from the state-owned company, says Wilfrid Denis.
Acquisition by Radio-Canada
The Federal Broadcasting Act of 1968 gave Radio-Canada a new mandate, that of
contribute to the development of national unity and constantly express the Canadian reality. A change that opens the door to the establishment of production offices in all provinces.
Between 1968 and 1972, several scenarios were evaluated by CFRG administrators.
They are thinking in particular of Radio-Canada taking charge of broadcasting, the station becoming no more than a producer of local content.
Another scenario is the sale of CFRG to the public broadcaster.
It is ultimately this last option that will be retained.
In 1972, Radio-Canada bought Gravelbourg radio. CFNS in Saskatoon will also be sold to the public broadcaster.
The profits from this sale will be invested in a new organization, the Fondation de la radio française, which promises to offer scholarships to Francophone students and cultural organizations in Saskatchewan. In 1997, this organization changed its name to Fondation fransaskoise.
A fear for jobs
The sale of CFRG is not unanimous, particularly in Gravelbourg where job losses are feared.
” We thought we were going to lose a lot of people in Gravelbourg. We employed about fifteen people at CFRG at that time. »
Paul Arès, then municipal councilor of Gravelbourg, goes so far as to assert CRTC
could mean the death of Gravelbourg, cultural capital of the francophones of this province.
” The importance of this station for us goes far beyond the $50,000 in salaries it brings us annually. »
Radio, a local medium
Ever since Francophones settled in Saskatchewan, there has always been this question of the survival of language and culture.says Michel Vézina.
it is absolutely necessary to develop all possible means, from radio to television and the Internet, because we do not have an environment that favors French.
” It’s still important to have a radio station, and not just a francophone radio station, but a local radio station. »
We live in a sea of English speakersexplains André Moquin.
The radio enables people to come together, to hear each other, to bridge this distance. It’s important and increasingly important because of social media.