Happy Birthday, CBWFT

Today marks the 50th anniversary of CBWFT, Radio-Canada’s station in Winnipeg and the only francophone television station serving Manitoba.

The local station has gone all out with the anniversary, producing special programs looking back at the station’s history. Radio-Canada even sent Céline Galipeau to St. Boniface on Thursday to host the national Téléjournal there in honour of the occasion, the most attention Radio-Canada has paid to something outside Quebec in quite some time.

CBWFT is also launching a weekend local newscast starting this evening. Aside from a regional lifestyle show covering the prairies, there’s not much local programming produced out of there outside of the newscasts. Still, despite the dwindling francophone population (and hence the difficulty in getting good French-speaking journalists to work there), they produce quite a bit of local news – and as of this weekend there will be more local news for franco-Manitobans than English-speaking Quebecers.

As you’d see looking at some of the retrospectives, the history of Radio-Canada in Manitoba is fundamentally tied to the history of the francophone community there. Debates over official bilingualism, the Société franco-manitobaine, and the rift between anglo and franco Manitobans all have direct impact over CBWFT.

Not that you’d hear about any of that stuff from watching Radio-Canada and RDI outside of those local newscasts. Even as a Montrealer, it’s patently obvious how the importance of news on that network is directly proportional to its proximity to 1400 René-Lévesque East. Montreal mayoral debates air nationally, the national Téléjournal leads with what Jean Charest had for breakfast, La Petite séduction – a show about small francophone communities – has visited Manitoba only once in more than 65 episodes (it’s been outside Quebec only nine times, by my count), and Infoman treats going to Vancouver like he needs a visa to get there. The occasional new story or interview with Régis Labeaume is about as regional as it gets most of the time.

Maybe that’s the way it should be. Maybe Radio-Canada should concentrate on where its viewers are, and the vast majority are in Quebec, going to work in Montreal or Quebec City.

But as CBWFT has shown for the past 50 years, the French language doesn’t stop at the Outaouais, and there are francophones in Canada who have kept their culture going in areas where their language is truly in danger of extinction.

Here’s hoping it will keep the struggle going for another 50.

5 thoughts on “Happy Birthday, CBWFT

    1. Fagstein Post author

      Broadcast radio and television stations are supposed to be four characters long (except for stations with three-character callsigns that were grandfathered in), but the CBC is an exception and has some five-letter callsigns, including CBWFT, CBLFT Toronto, CBKFT Regina, CBOFT Ottawa, CBEFT Windsor, CBAFT Moncton, CBXFT Edmonton, CBGAT Matane (all Radio-Canada stations) and CBKST Saskatoon.

      In many cases, the CBC came up with callsigns for TV stations by adding “T” to three-character radio station callsigns, and then added “F” to the callsigns to create Radio-Canada TV callsigns. So in Edmonton, for example, CBX is the CBC radio station, CBXT is the CBC television station, and CBXFT is the Radio-Canada television station. Ditto in Ottawa, CBO, CBOT and CBOFT.

      What’s interesting is that CBC stations shouldn’t really start with “CB” since that prefix doesn’t belong to Canada. That ITU prefix belongs to Chile. Canada gets CF to CK (CG is reserved for Canada’s coast guard, but the rest are available for four-letter callsigns), as well as VA-VG, VO (used by Newfoundland/Labrador stations because the callsign system predates the province joining Confederation), VX-VY and XJ-XO. But because the CBC is so old, they get another special consideration in this case, and their callsigns are allowed to start with CB.

      1. Jacques from laprairie

        My mother tells me that my first words were CBWT CHANNEL 4

        the only reason THAT happened was because CBWFT was not on the air till 6 years later.



  1. Bibs

    Hehe, this reminds me of the time that I wrote to Infoman about the Arrêt/Stop sign pseudo-scandal in St-Boniface in my attempt to lure him outside of Montreal. It failed.

    Félicitations SRC Manitoba pour vos 50 ans, je vous en souhaite 50 autres.

  2. Bill Lee

    Well SRC did send La Belle Celine to Vancouver for the Olympics and there was a whole francophone house and show for 2 weeks. Otherwise SRC-Vancouver gets 1/10 staff, but half the news studios in the Vancouver bunker.

    And I see that it was the turn of TVA to win news animateur this night.


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