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CBC Radio ends iconic time signal broadcast

Every day for more than 80 years, listeners to CBC Radio’s primary English and French services in Canada have heard a version of this message on the run up to 1 p.m. Eastern time: “The beginning of the long dash indicates exactly 1 o’clock eastern standard [or daylight] time.” This statement, followed by beeps and a long tone separated by seconds, has relayed the exact time from the country’s National Research Council (NRC) to Canadians nationwide.

However, as of Monday Oct. 9, 2023, the opportunity to accurately reset Canada’s clocks is no more. CBC Radio has ceased broadcasting what was commonly known as “the official NRC time signal.”

Back when the CBC began its time signal broadcasts on Nov. 5, 1939, the world was a very different place. There was no internet for people to access to get the “right time.” This meant that having access to a common national time synchronization signal every day was of vital importance to railways, ships and anyone else who needed to keep their clocks accurate.

Today, things have changed — as has CBC Radio and its French language counterpart Radio-Canada, which can be heard online and over the air on HD Radio, as well as AM and FM.

And that’s the problem: Apparently transmission delays over the web and HD Radio mean the NRC official time signal is being heard seconds late on these respective channels, negating the very purpose for which was established.

In a statement issued to CBC News, spokesperson Emma Iannetta explained that, “We share the nostalgia that many people have towards the daily time announcement but Canadians also depend on us for accurate information. With all of the different distribution methods we use today we can no longer ensure that the time announcement can be accurate.”

This being said, it is still possible for Canadians with access to shortwave radio receivers to hear the right time anytime via the NRC time station CHU. Coincidentally, this writer toured CHU on Radio World’s behalf just prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Radio World

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