The Desk appreciates the support of readers who purchase products or services through links on our website. Learn more...

CBC Radio stops offering time “pips” as listeners move to streaming

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) has stopped broadcasting daily time updates on its flagship radio station as its listeners increasingly shift toward digital platforms.

For more than 80 years, the CBC notified its audience when the clock struck 1 p.m. Eastern Time with a series of short tones, or “pips,” followed by a long tone, or “dash.”

The daily tradition started at a time when clocks and watches needed to be wound and reset on a regular basis. The pips and dash heard on the radio allowed listeners to set the precise time based on their time zone.

Radio listeners around the world have heard similar things on their local stations — the BBC still broadcasts their own “pips” at the top of every hour on their radio channels, and all-news radio stations owned by Audacy do something similar with an hourly chime.

Despite advances in timekeeping technology, the pips and dashes have remained a staple on radio stations around the world. But in Canada, as more listeners shift to streaming and satellite radio, there were some internal concerns that latency issues associated with digital broadcast technologies might result in a situation where listeners heard the pips and dashes on CBC Radio 1 several seconds or minutes after the top of the hour, depending on how they were listening.

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

The time signal was provided by the National Research Council, the government organization tasked with science and research in the country. Most Canadians were unaware that the signal was going away until after it happened last week.

“The way it disappeared so unceremoniously really took people by surprise,” Craig Baird, the host of a popular Canadian history podcast, told the Guardian. “They missed the chance to say goodbye. It was like missing the series finale of a show that you’ve watched for years.”

Photo of author

About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is an award-winning journalist with more than 10 years of experience covering the business of television and radio broadcasting, streaming services and the overall media industry. In addition to his work as publisher of The Desk, Matthew contributes regularly to StreamTV Insider and KnowTechie, and has worked for several well-known news organizations, including Thomson Reuters, McNaughton Newspapers, Grasswire, Comstock's magazine, KTXL-TV and KGO-TV. Matthew is a member of IRE, a trade organization for investigative reporters and editors, and is based in Northern California.

Email: [email protected] | Signal: 530-507-8380