Notes on the Bill Beaton Collection
written by John Gilbert in a Word document. The format has been slightly
modified to fit a HTML document)
(Underlined Blue Text indicates a link is available by clicking
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The Summer 2015 issue of the OVRC Newsletter contained an
article by Paul Guibord about the 1930 Ottawa Radio Association Radio Show. The
radio exhibition was held in Ottawa from November 29 – December 1, 1930 under
the auspices of the Ottawa Amateur Radio Association. The article describes a
number of booths at the exhibition including a Federal Government booth where
they issued licenses to broadcast listeners.
Bill Wilson, who held the position of Director General,
Radio Regulations with the Department of Communications prior to his retirement,
wrote an article which may be viewed by clicking on the following link: “
Historical Highlights in the Early Regulation of
Radio in Canada ”
article refers to private receiving station licences as follows:
May 1923 a recommendation was made that broadcasting licences be amended to
permit the Minister to give written authorization for broadcasting stations to
collect fees for their services. Private receiving station licences were
required until April 1, 1953”.
Last year, 2014,
Doug Beaton kindly gave
Ralph Cameron a small
collection of licences dating from 1926 to 1953 which had belonged to his
father, the late Bill Beaton. They provide an interesting lens through which to
track of the evolution of the regulation of broadcast radio reception over the
Broadcast radio receivers were part of a period of rapid growth
in radio broadcasting in Canada.
NRC tested “the sensitivity, selectivity, and fidelity” of thirty-two different
models during the fiscal year 1934-35. The following year, ninety-four models
were tested with new methods being introduced in 1936. The NRC Annual Report
notes that “acoustic output of 21 broadcast-band receivers was measured for the
Canadian Radio Broadcasting Commission, which subsidized the work, during the
month of May, 1936”. To carry out the work NRC employed
F. Gordon Nixon at $40
a month and two technicians at $30 a month.
Frederick Gordon Nixon was born in Summerland,
B.C. and graduated from the University of British Columbia in 1933 with a B. Sc.
in electrical engineering.
Following three years with NRC he spent several months “engaged in radio
investigations for the NRC”
before joining the Radio Division of the Department of Transport in 1937. There
he first worked on inductive interference investigation and later on aviation
radio. In the 30`s, like most people working in radio communications at the
time, he was a radio amateur and held the call VE3ABH. He provided technical
advice to the Ottawa Amateur Radio Club.
Details of his assignments during WWII are not
known, but his family recalls that at some point during the war he spent six
months at Rivers, Manitoba, in connection with the development of radar to be
used by pilots. Most likely his work was associated with aviation radio. In 1944
he attended the International Civil Aviation Conference in Chicago as a
communications advisor and took an active part in the succeeding meetings
leading to the creation of the International Civil Aviation Organization
(ICAO). He attended the 1945 Commonwealth and Empire Conference on Radio for
Civil Aviation and was communications advisor for DOT at numerous national and
international meetings and conferences dealing with satellites and undersea
cable systems. In 1951 he was appointed Assistant Controller of
Telecommunications filling the post held for many years by
and became Director of the Telecommunications and Electronics Branch in 1957,
which reflecting the growth of telecommunications, became the Government
Telecommunication and Administration Bureau under his leadership in 1967. When
the Department of Communications was established in 1969 he lead, under the
title of The Administrator, regulatory and telecommunications policy functions
of the Department and thus can be regarded as one of the builders of the
Canadian communications environment today. In his retirement he moved to
Victoria, BC where he passed away, age 87, in June, 1999.
A review of
Bill Beaton`s collection of private receiving
station licenses shows an evolution of the government`s policy on radio
receivers. The license dated 6 December 1926 (Fig. 1.) was issued by the
Radiotelegraph Branch of the Department of Marine and Fisheries under the 1913
Radiotelegraph Act and is signed by A Johnston, Deputy Minister of the
Department. It cost $1.00. The reverse of the licenses in this period (Fig.2.)
spells out in no uncertain terms the dire penalty for violating the “secrecy of
messages” and the obligation of license holders (“…summary conviction to a
penalty not exceeding fifty dollars and costs or three months` imprisonment”).
Further, the obligation of owners of radio receiving sets is spelled out in the
Notice covering the renewal of sets for April 1st 1929-March 31st, 1929 (Fig.
3). Radio Dealers had the responsibility to issue license renewals and to
countersign the licence. These provisions appear unchanged under the new
Radiotelegraph Act, 1927, except that the license is now issued by the Radio
Service of the Department (Fig. 4.) This license appears to have been
transferred, most likely to a new owner of the radio set.
By 1936-37, still under the 1927 Act, (Fig. 5) the
licence (now spelled with a “c” rather than an “s”) is issued by the Radio
Branch of the Department of Marine and the fee has increased to $2.00. However,
the licensee is now permitted to “…work one radio receiving set in a passenger
automobile owned by the licensee”. While the provisions now identified as
“conditions” (Fig. 6) remain basically unchanged it is noted that the licence is
The 1939-40 licence
(Fig. 7) was issued by the Radio Division of
the Department of Transport under the provisions of The Radio Act of 1938. The
fee had now increased to $2.50 and a separate licence was now required for a set
in an automobile. The DOT Inspectors were obliged to produce their cards of
identity on request, as had been the case with the Department of Marine
The first of the post-war licences, dated 1947-48,
(Fig. 8) is a “Special Private Receiving Station Licence”. Still under the
provisions of 1938 it cost $2.00 and was “…to establish a private receiving
station and/or to operate one or more battery operated radio receiving sets
installed in the said station”. This licence was subject to the condition (Fig
9) that it was “….not valid for radio receiving sets located in areas served by
an electric distribution system or installed in automobiles”. This is the
first licence in the Beaton collection to be in both English and French.
A notice on the reverse of the licences from the
20`s reads “When using a receiver of the regenerative type for the reception of
radiotelephone programmes, please avoid increasing regeneration to the point at
which the receiver begins to oscillate, otherwise you will cause interference
with neighbouring receiving equipments”. The intent of this condition was still
reflected in the April 1952 licence (Fig. 10)
, the last of its type, in the words “The radio receiver shall not be operated so
as to emit any radiation which interferes with reception by other receiving
sets” (Fig. 11).
Bill Beaton no doubt found many of the licences
in his collection attached to the vintage sets he restored so well. No doubt
he had intended to mount a display of them – now made so much easier with the
technology available to us today. And we do not need to worry any more about
our receivers oscillating and interfering with the neighbours.
This section draws from “Physics at the National Research Council of Canada:
1929-1952”, by W E K Middleton.
This section draws from the radioalumni.ca site, August 2015.
Ottawa Citizen January 14, 1937
 G.C.W. Browne,
had been a wireless ship operator during World War I, was appointed radio
inspector in 1922 and was one of the original builders of the DOT Radio