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Montreal radio station CKAC, the world's first French-language broadcaster,...

MONTREAL -- Montreal radio station CKAC, the world's first French-language broadcaster, Wednesday celebrated 60 years on the air with a flood of telegrams, plans for gala events and six weeks of special programming.

CKAC first hit the airwaves Sept. 22, 1922, broadcasting from makeshift facilities atop the printing plant for the daily newspaper La Presse, which owned CKAC until 1969.

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The station, with 90 employees, is the flagship of the 39-member Telemedia network. The number-one radio station in Montreal, CKAC boasts over 1 million listeners.

The station was officially inaugurated at a function attended by such luminaries as Hollywoood stars Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks on Oct. 2, 1922 -- several days before the first radio station in Paris went on the air.

On the way to its diamond anniversary CKAC established numerous landmarks, including the first French broadcasts of hockey games in 1925, and the first French advertising jingles.

In October 1970 CKAC acted as an intermediary, airing messages for governments and Front de Liberation du Quebec terrorists who kidnapped British trade commissioner James Cross and murdered Quebec cabinet minister Pierre Laporte.

Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau hailed CKAC as an 'exceptional success story' in a message of congratulations. 'It has never ceased contributing to the blossoming of the French fact ... and developing the French language and culture in Canada and especially in Quebec,' Trudeau said.

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French Prime Minister Pierre Mauroy said CKAC had played a vital role in promoting French culture.

Premier Rene Levesque called the growth of CKAC an example of Quebec's ongoing achievements in the communications industry.

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