WE PROUDLY BEGIN OUR BROADCAST DAY: SASKATCHEWAN AND THE ARRIVAL OF TELEVISION, 1954-1969
Wagner, Bonnie Christine
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Television was one of the most pervasive and influential media of the twentieth century. Its arrival in Saskatchewan in 1954 was cause for both celebration and trepidation as many people wondered whether the medium would be a benign or malevolent force in the province. The development of Saskatchewan's television system occurred at a much slower rate than the rest of Canada because Saskatchewan was not located near any major American cities, the expansion of television service in the province was left to private interests, and Saskatchewan's sparsely settled rural and northern population were difficult to reach with television service. Between 1954 and 1969, Saskatchewan had six privately-owned television stations. These stations were located in Regina, Saskatoon, Swift Current, Prince Albert, Yorkton, and Moose Jaw. Saskatchewan's second-rate television system was a source of frustration for many people in the province, particularly those in rural and northern areas who wanted decent television reception,as well as those in Saskatoon who wanted second channel service. Saskatchewan was also the second-to-last province to receive a CBC-TV (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) owned and operated station. The lack of CBC-TV facilities in the province meant that Saskatchewan was not represented on the CBC's national television network. Despite the slow development of television service In the province, Saskatchewan television viewers were actually treated to some of the best television programs of the era and could watch the majority of these programs because they did not have the problem of conflicting schedules on two channels. Viewing habits in the province were largely defined by the program schedules of the stations and not by the preferences of individual viewers. Because Saskatchewan viewers had only one channel to pick from, there was little difference in the overall viewing patterns of men, women, teenagers, children, and viewers in rural and urban Saskatchewan. In the Regina-Moose Jaw area, where viewers could choose between two channels, there was greater variability in the habits of men, women, teenagers, and children. Saskatchewan stations also broadcast a great deal of local programming in this era, some of which was quite popular though never outside of the community in which it was produced. In the 1950s, thousands of television sets were purchased in Saskatchewan and people in the province began to watch several hours of television daily. Television encouraged people to stay home instead of partaking in other leisure activities but only movie theatres and local sports teams were adversely affected by the arrival of television. Other forms of leisure such as reading and listening to the radio continued to maintain their popularity. Television also played into major trends occurring in the province in the 1950s and 1960s. The dissatisfaction with Saskatchewan's television service was a factor in the growth of western alienation in the 1960s. Television also further encouraged the trend of rural depopulation in the province because the medium was basically available only near larger urban centres. Finally, television fostered the growth of a new prairie and Canadian identity in place of a provincial identity.