FLASHBACK: THE EARLY DAYS OF RADIO (July 13/10)

Can you believe that at one time a federal license was required to own and operate an ordinary radio out of your household?

I was reminded of this fact recently when I was talking to Bev Eaton about the 1929 earthquake. Actually, Bev had called to ask if I was familiar with the license. He was trying to remember when the license was required and what the fee was. Bev believed the license was in effect when he was a boy (he was born in 1918) and the fee might have been a few dollars; but that was all he could recall.

I vaguely remember that when I was a boy, some sort of official looking sticker was pasted on the back of the radio we kept in the parlour. Was that the old radio license? I had to call on Canning historian Ivan Smith to answer this question.

“I remember those radio receiver licenses,” Ivan said. “They were legally required to be ‘affixed’ to each radio received in operation in Canada. I remember going to the post office in Chester, some time in the mid-1940s, to buy our radio license for the current year. I don’t recall the fee exactly, but three dollars comes to mind.

“These licenses were commonly known as ‘Radio Receiver Licenses.’ Every home that had a radio receiver was legally required to buy one of these licenses each year and keep it near the receiver at all times.”

Ivan said the federal government used the fee as a way to raise money for support of the CBC. He directed me to the wording that manufacturers printed on the back panel of each radio set. “Warning!” the message read in part: “Any person installing or operating this Receiving Set without having first obtained a license from the Minister of Transport of Canada is liable …. to a fine not exceeding twenty-five dollars, and the said Receiving Set may be forfeited to His Majesty by order of the Minister ….”

I was unable to determine the date the license was first required but it apparently was well before 1938. The license fee in 1929 was one dollar. The fee in 1936 was $2.00, which was raised to $2.50 the following year. The requirement of a radio license was discontinued in 1953.

Ivan Smith tells me that much later the radio license became a collector’s item. He saw several copies of the “Private Receiving Station License” at the Bayhead Radio Museum, operated by Ernest Yeaw in Colchester County, and was able to photograph several of them. You can take a look at the museum by keying in Bayhead Radio Museum on Google.

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