March 2021 marks the centennial of radio broadcasting in PEI. A ground-breaking event led to the development of what we now take for granted—broadcast media.
Enthusiastic amateur radio operators called “hams” had been using Morse code for years. It was a demonstration of how a wireless radio set could receive concert music that provided proof that the latest technology had arrived on the Island.
It happened on March 11, 1921 in the Provincial Technical School in the Rena MacLean Memorial Hospital on the grounds of Government House in Charlottetown. Keith S. Rogers and his class of adult students successfully tuned into a broadcast from similar students at Union College in Schenectady, New York. A week later, the event was repeated for local dignitaries with special greetings for the PEI audience from New York.
World War I saw Keith Rogers posted with the Canadian Army in 1914 as a fortress signals officer at Citadel Hill in Halifax. In Charlottetown, Government House was turned over to the war effort, specifically as a convalescent hospital for recovering veterans. The construction of the Rena MacLean Memorial Hospital next door provided additional beds and eventually, as the focus turned from convalescent to rehabilitation for veterans, it housed the Provincial Technical School.
The 1921 broadcast showed the direction ahead, and Rogers began broadcasting locally that fall as an amateur with both announcements and music from phonographs.
The Charlottetown Radio Association was formed to gain a club license in 1923 for members of the group. Using that license, Walter Burke started broadcasting church services from Trinity Church in Charlottetown on January 25, 1925—only the second church in Canada to do so.
In 1925, Rogers obtained the first commercial radio license in Eastern Canada for a station that eventually became CFCY. Later, he planned for TV broadcasting on PEI, which his family completed after his death, launching CFCY-TV on July 1, 1956. His dream of connecting people through the airwaves of “the Friendly Voice of the Maritimes” was realized and the stations continue today with Maritime Broadcasting as the current owners of CFCY/Q93 and CBC purchasing the television operations.
A private event at Government House on March 11 will recognize the role that Fanningbank played in the early days of radio on PEI.
— Submitted by Ian Scott