The Northern Messenger

The Northern Messenger was a weekly radio programme broadcast to the Canadian Arctic in the mid-20th century. It functioned as a way to provide residents in remote locations with a means to communicate with friends and family in the south during the winter months when normal mail delivery was infrequent or non-existent and in an era before long-distance telephone networks had reached the region.


The original Northern Messenger was produced by KDKA in Pittsburgh and broadcast on its shortwave radio simulcaster, 8XS (later known as W8XK and WPIT). Its intended audience was Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers and other southerners stationed in the Canadian Arctic, with the aim of keeping them in touch with events in the outside world.[1] KDKA was owned and operated by Westinghouse Electric Corporation and the suggestion for Northern Messenger came from Canadian Westinghouse. The show consisted of messages from listeners to their friends and family living in the Far North, recorded music, and news.[1] The program was broadcast weekly from November to May, when normal mail delivery was unavailable.[1] KDKA's Northern Messenger and "Far Northern Service" operated from 1923 until 1940; in later years the Canadian-produced version was carried.[1]

In 1932, the Canadian Radio Broadcasting Commission began its own version of the service, initially under the name Canadian Northern Messenger, on its network of mediumwave and shortwave stations. The show was initially broadcast Saturday nights and, like its American cousin, consisted of personal messages from friends and family around the world to RCMP officers, missionaries, trappers, doctors, nurses, and scientists as well as Cree and Inuit,[2] ran from November to May. It was initially produced by CRCT in Toronto and carried on the CRBC's network including shortwave stations CRCX (Bowmanville), CJRO/CJRX (Winnipeg), and VE9DN (Drummondville, Quebec) - the shortwave stations would continue to broadcast the programme throughout the 1930s.[1] When the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation was formed as the successor to the CRBC, the programme was continued by CBC Radio into the 1970s.[3][1] During its first year, Canadian Northern Messenger relayed 1,754 messages, and would handle six times that many by its fourth year.[4][5]

CBC produced the programme out CBO in Ottawa in the 1930s, and then from its Winnipeg studio in the 1950s and early 1960s and finally from its Montreal studios beginning in 1965. Beginning in the 1940s, it would be recorded and broadcast over western CBC stations CBW Winnipeg, CBX Edmonton, and CBK in Saskatchewan and the Northwest Territories and Yukon Radio System on Friday nights, with broadcasts reaching Yukon and Northwest Territories, and then rebroadcast eight days later over CBC's powerful Sackville Relay Station aimed at Labrador, northern Quebec, and the eastern Arctic.[1][2]

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  1. ^ a b c d e f g "The Canadian Northern Messenger Service". Wavescan. March 4, 2018. Retrieved September 29, 2020.
  2. ^ a b "Radio Message Show Beams With 100 P.C. Audience From Arctic", Christian Science Monitor, October 26, 1949, pg 3
  3. ^ "Bush pilot rescued after 58 days in NWT wilderness". CBC Archives. Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. April 2, 1967. Retrieved October 1, 2020.
  4. ^ Berg, Jerome S. (2013). The Early Shortwave Stations: A Broadcasting History Through 1945. McFarland. pp. 37, 95, 96, 148. ISBN 978-0786474110. Retrieved September 18, 2020.
  5. ^ Roth, Lorna (2005). Something New in the Air: The story of First Peoples television broadcasting in Canada. McGill-Queen's Press. p. 67. ISBN 9780773528567.

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