Graham Spry


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(1900–83), diplomat, journalist, political activist, Canadian broadcasting pioneer. In 1930, with Alan Plaunt, Spry formed the Canadian Radio League, a voluntarist association dedicated to establishing public broadcasting in accordance with recommendations of the 1929 Aird royal commission. For Spry and the league, broadcasting was to be an instrument for cultivating an informed public opinion and for educating, not merely to be a vehicle for advertising and transmitting American programs into Canadian homes. In the early 1930s Spry coined his famous and effective aphorism, ‘It is a choice between the State and the United States’, to emphasize that in the face of commercial pressures Canadian broadcasting could not survive without government support and guidance. Although the league's activities were concentrated in the heart of the Depression, and despite Prime Minister R. B. Bennett's declared policy at the time of cutting back expenditures to balance the federal budget, Spry succeeded in convincing the government to establish in 1932 the Canadian Radio Broadcasting Commission, forerunner of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, as Canada's public broadcaster. In addition to radio activism, Spry was publisher of the Farmer's Sun (1932–4) and of the Canadian Forum, which he purchased for one dollar in 1935, rescuing that periodical from bankruptcy. In 1948 Spry was appointed agent general for Saskatchewan in Britain; among other activities while in that office he recruited medical personnel from England to help neutralize the 1962 doctors' strike opposing the introduction of provincial medicare.

From The Oxford Companion to Canadian History in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: History of the Americas.

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