Educational Broadcasting

Educational broadcasting refers to TELEVISION PROGRAMMING and RADIO PROGRAMMING providing or related to courses of study. The term "educational" is also applied at times to other programs that are particularly enlightening, informative or intellectually stimulating. Educational broadcasting can be received in the home or in an educational institution. Learning by yourself in the home is often called "distance education." Educational programming on radio has had a long, interesting history in Canada going back to the late 1920s. The University of Alberta was probably the first educational institution to get a radio broadcasting licence in Canada (CKUA in 1927).

Historically, the most active organization in producing and broadcasting educational radio programs was the CANADIAN BROADCASTING CORPORATION, starting in 1936. As well as programs for preschool and school-age children, the CBC has received international recognition for its FARM RADIO FORUM programming (1941-53). These programs discussed major issues and topics of interest to farming communities. The "Farm Forum" idea has been copied widely in developing countries since the 1950s as an excellent method for informing rural people isolated from modern sources of agricultural knowledge and for encouraging people to exchange information and ideas among themselves. When television services were introduced in Canada in the 1950s, the CBC could not produce more costly educational programs on the same scale that had been possible for radio. Also, the CBC's position as national broadcaster of educational programs was complicated because the CBC is a federal crown corporation and education is a provincial responsibility.

By the 1960s some provinces were saying they wanted educational television facilities and programs of their own. An agreement was reached between the provinces and federal government in 1969 so that a province could establish a specially incorporated provincial educational authority to hold broadcasting licences issued by the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC). At the beginning, each provincial broadcaster depended entirely on funds voted by the provincial legislature. However, all now depend at least partly on public donations and corporate sponsorships; some also seek advertising revenues to supplement their funds.

Provincial educational broadcasters that were established are the Québec Broadcasting Bureau (Radio Québec), in 1969; the Ontario Educational Communications Authority (TVOntario and la châine française), in 1970; the Alberta Educational Communications Authority (ACCESS), in 1973; and BC's Knowledge Network of the West Communications Authority (KNOW), in 1980. In 1995, the television broadcasting facilities of ACCESS were sold to a private company and CKUA was reorganized as a nonprofit radio station.

All educational broadcasters use various communications technologies to distribute their programs; the commonest technologies are over-the-air transmitters, cable television, and satellite distribution. In the 1980s there were discussions between the provinces about developing a nationwide educational television network using the existing broadcasters' resources, with contributions from the other provinces of programs or funding. However, provincial government funding cutbacks in the 1990s have made it more likely that a national educations television network will be developed by private corporations.