Date of Award

8-2003

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

History

Supervisor

M. Gauvreau

Language

English

Abstract

This study investigates the advent and evolution of the Canadian 'electronic church' phenomenon as well as analyzing the creation of single-faith broadcasting in Canada. It analyzes the role the federal government has played in circumscribing and directing religious broadcasting in twentieth-century Canada. Methodologically, it departs from many important studies of religion in society by adopting a cultural rather than demographic approach. This approach draws attention to the inner workings of federal regulatory bodies and religious broadcasters; where both cultural forces during the twentieth-century, negotiated a place for religious broadcasting in Canadian society.

The argument suggests that during the twentieth-century, single-faith broadcasting in Canada and elements of the American 'electric church' phenomenon were circumscribed by federal regulatory bodies in order to ensure that some salient aspects of American fundamentalist religious culture and 'home grown' religious ministries focused on proselytization, did not transplant themselves in the Canadian broadcasting system. Due to some over-the-air radio disputes among religious broadcasters during the 1920s, all aspects centered on single-faith broadcasting and single-faith ownership of radio stations were banned in 1932, effectively placing the control over mass communications in the hands of the federal government. Thus, religious broadcasting and individual freedom were circumscribed in favour of ensuring social harmony and collective freedom. Although religious broadcasters never lost carriage rights to air their programs, they were banned from owning their own broadcasting licenses and were barred from owning their own radio or television station.

However, with the creation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1982, the advancements in mass communications, and mounting pressure from religious organizations for more representation in the Canadian broadcasting system, the federal government decided to initiate a public discourse on religious broadcasting in 1982. Because individual freedom of conscience and expression in matters of religion were guaranteed rights in the Charter, federal regulatory bodies eventually decided to fully deregulate their religious broadcasting policies in 1993. New technology and legislative provision combined to make it possible for Canadian religious groups to own satellite, radio and UHF cable channels. With this new freedom, power has trickled down to religious groups and individuals who are interested in developing a voice for religious radio and television in the Canadian broadcasting system Many religious organizations, particularly evangelical Christians, have scrambled to fill the Canadian broadcasting system with their religious messages but. in doing so, have found that their religious identity and evangelical message have been challenged, tempered and eroded by the very forces that issued them their power in the first place.

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