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CHIN Radio: Bringing the world to Canada

For the week of Monday, March 23, 2015

On March 26, 1966, Johnny Lombardi successfully applied to the Board of Broadcast Governors for a licence to start a multicultural radio station. Shortly thereafter, he founded CHIN Radio, which has provided entertainment in various languages to Canadians ever since.

Johnny Lombardi in the CHIN studio
© Library and Archives Canada / MUS 306

Lombardi was born on December 4, 1915, to Italian immigrants living in Toronto, Ontario. When the Second World War broke out, he joined the Canadian army and served overseas. After the war, thousands of Italian immigrants came to Canada to build a new life, and many of them established their homes in Toronto. Lombardi opened a grocery store and imported products from Italy to meet the needs of this growing community.

Soon, he began hosting weekly radio shows in Italian. As the immigrant community of Toronto grew and diversified, Lombardi realized the demand for more foreign language broadcasting. His 1966 broadcasting licence application allowed for 20 per cent of his new station’s shows to be in a language other than English or French. CHIN played music from different cultures, reported news from around the world, and had multiple one-hour foreign language programs on the weekend. To prove to advertisers that there was a market for the station, Lombardi organized the CHIN Radio Picnic in 1966. It was a free event that in turn drew many listeners to CHIN’s multicultural entertainment. The picnic continues to be popular.

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Statue of Johnny Lombardi near College St., Toronto
© Photo courtesy of torontoplaques.com

In 1970, CHIN Radio increased its foreign language programming to 40 per cent. CHIN currently broadcasts in the greater Toronto area, as well as the National Capital Region. Besides Italian, it features programming in more than 30 languages including Arabic, Cantonese, Hindi, Polish, Russian, and Spanish. In the 1980s, Lombardi created a television network for immigrant communities, known as CHIN TV. Today, CHIN radio and TV continue to be a success.

The Introduction of Multilingual Multicultural Radio Stations in Canada is an Event of National Historic Significance for its role in promoting Canada’s diversity.

To learn more on Canadian broadcasting and multiculturalism, please read "Mister Broadcasting", Toronto's Cultural Mosaic, In Defence of Montréal’s Italian Spirit, and Canadian Citizenship: Masters of Our Own Destiny in the This Week in History Archives.

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