The Acting Secretary of State to the Ambassador in Mexico (Clark)

No. 645

Sir: With reference to the Department’s telegram No. 63, May 5, 1932, 5 p.m.,32 there are enclosed copies of notes exchanged with Canada on May 5, 1932, dealing with radio broadcasting in Canada.33 The Department will telegraph the Embassy when the notes are to be made public in order that the Embassy may make such explanations as it thinks advisable to the Mexican Government.

In 1924 the Secretary of Commerce, whose jurisdiction at the time included radio, called a conference of individuals interested in radio in the United States.34 Persons charged with the administration of radio in Canada attended the meeting; and an informal understanding was entered, into between those persons and the Chief of the Radio Division of the Department of Commerce. Under that informal understanding the Secretary of Commerce declined to assign six channels to American stations and made assignments on eleven others only where the geographical location and the power involved insured a minimum of interference in Canada. The Canadian authorities assigned to Canadian stations the six channels not assigned in the United States and made assignments on the eleven others mentioned only where the geographical location and power involved insured a minimum of interference in the United States.

The situation was changed in 1926 when a Federal Court held that the Secretary of Commerce did not have the authority to require broadcasting stations to remain on frequencies assigned by him.35 Broadcasting stations in the United States then “jumped” the frequencies assigned to Canadian stations. When the Federal Radio Commission began functioning in 1927, it enforced the informal understanding of 1924 upon American stations.

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A conference of representatives of the Canadian and United States Governments was held in 192736 to allocate broadcasting frequencies as between the two countries, but the representatives failed to reach an agreement. While the Governments recognized the exceedingly tenuous nature of the understanding of 1924, both continued to make assignments in accordance with its provisions.

In 1929 the Canadian Government appointed a committee to investigate radio broadcasting in Canada and to make recommendations for its improvement. That committee met and reported37 but apparently the report was not acted upon. On March 2, 1932, the Canadian House of Commons appointed a committee for the purpose, among others, of recommending a complete technical scheme for radio broadcasting in Canada. A copy of the resolution creating the committee is enclosed.38 The committee held several public sessions on the question of nationalizing the Canadian broadcasting system and then held private sessions to work out a technical plan. After the technical plan had been tentatively formulated, the Canadian Government submitted a copy of it to this Government with the request that it be studied from the standpoint of any readjustments which might be necessary in the United States to permit the plan to be made effective in Canada.

A study of the plan made late in April revealed that the Canadian technical experts had followed the principles applied by the Federal Radio Commission in making assignments to American broadcasting stations. It also revealed that the channels to be used by the Canadian stations were, with the exception of 540, 1050 and 1100 kilocycles, already in use by Canadian stations under the informal understanding respected by both Governments. Of the three channels mentioned, 540 kilocycles is just outside the broadcast band and its use will cause no interference to American stations. On 1050 kilocycles there is a four-hour time difference between the American station using the frequency and the proposed Canadian station, and on 1100 kilocycles there is a three-hour time difference. On 1050 kilocycles the power of the Canadian station (500 watts) is to be such that, considered with the time difference, no interference should result. On 1100 kilocycles the power of the American station is such that its coverage is regarded as limited; this coupled with the time difference should permit both stations to operate without either interfering with the effective service area of the other.

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While under the technical plan recommended by the committee three frequencies not now used by Canadian stations will be used by such stations in the future, this is compensated for by the fact that Canada is surrendering the use of 5 channels (580, 890, 1010, 1200, and 1210 kilocycles) now shared by Canadian and American stations. It is believed that officials of the Mexican Ministry of Communications possess copies of the rules and regulations of the Federal Radio Commission, of the latest annual report of the Commission, and of the list of broadcasting stations in the United States, and can make an independent determination of the effect of the proposed Canadian plan upon broadcasting stations in the United States.

Although the Canadian note requests, and the United States reply agrees, that the necessary readjustments of American broadcasting stations will be made, both Governments are well aware of the fact that no readjustments will be necessary in the United States to permit the plan to be made effective. The effect of the exchange of notes is largely to permit the committee of the Canadian House of Commons to have a formal basis for its technical recommendations.

At the time of the conference in San Antonio of representatives of the American and Mexican Governments, it was not known that the Canadian Government contemplated an exchange of notes with the United States on the subject of radio broadcasting. The request that this Government study the proposed technical plan, it is understood, came only after the Canadian Prime Minister requested the committee to make its report at the present session of Parliament. It had been assumed that there would be no change in the broadcasting situation between the United States and Canada until after the International Radio Conference at Madrid. That situation was changed by the desire of the Canadian Government to convert the informal understanding with the United States into a formal one as a basis for the technical plan proposed by the Canadian Committee.

The Department is very desirous that the exchange of notes be not construed by the Mexican Government as an effort to effect an understanding between the United States and Canada without reference to the broadcasting needs of Mexico. It should be made clear that no real change in the situation has been made; and that it was only the fact that the whole broadcasting system in Canada was undergoing an investigation that led the Canadian Government to suggest that the existing understanding be made a matter of record.

This Government is of the opinion that subsequent to the Madrid conference there should be a conference of interested North American Governments for the allocation of frequencies. It was understood by the American representatives at San Antonio that the Mexican [Page 98] Government is probably of the same opinion. Likewise it appears that the Canadian Government favors the holding of such a conference. The exchange of notes between the United States and Canada will not in any way affect the holding of a North American conference or influence the decisions which may be reached by it.

The notes, copies of which are enclosed, were exchanged on May 5, 1932. They are not to be made public until the Committee of the Canadian House of Commons makes its report. At that time they will be released simultaneously in Washington and Ottawa. The Department will telegraph the Embassy the date of the release in order that the Embassy may be guided in its conversations with the Mexican Government.

Very truly yours,

For the Acting Secretary of State:
Harvey H. Bundy
  1. Not printed.
  2. Supra.
  3. See United States Department of Commerce, Recommendations for Regulation of Radio (adopted by the Third National Radio Conference, October 6–10, 1924), (Washington, Government Printing Office, 1924).
  4. United States v. Zenith Radio Corporation, et al. (1926, D. C.) 12 F (2d) 614.
  5. The conference met at Washington from March 21 through March 24.
  6. Report of the Royal Commission on Radio Broadcasting (Ottawa, F. A. Acland, printer to the King’s Most Excellent Majesty, 1929).
  7. Not found in Department files.