Inuit broadcasters make pitch to improve Nunavut’s Inuktut cable TV offerings

“We are experienced in streaming for television”

The Inuit Broadcasting Corp., whose office is located on Federal Rd. in Iqaluit, is joining forces with Igloolik Isuma Productions and the Nunavut Independent Television Network to push for more Inuktut television broadcasting on the Arctic Co-operatives Ltd. cable network. (Photo courtesy of IBC)

By Jane George

Three Inuit broadcasters, who would like to see more Inuktut television programs on the Arctic Co-operatives Ltd. cable menu right away, have proposed a new collaboration with the ACL.

Igloolik Isuma Productions’ Zacharias Kunuk, Inuit Broadcasting Corp.’s chief executive officer, Manitok Thompson, and Nunavut Independent Television Network’s executive director, Lucy Tulugarjuk, say that ACL should add IsumaTV Nunavut to its basic cable television package in all Nunavut communities “as soon as possible,” in a joint letter sent on Sept. 10 to the ACL’s CEO Rod Wilson and board members.

“We just want to show how this television channel can be done as soon as possible because we are experienced in streaming for television and we are the most experienced in getting a channel on now for Inuit in their language to enhance the language and culture,” Thompson told Nunatsiaq News. “This can happen this week or as soon as ACL agrees to free a channel for us to use.”

Right now, ACL’s Basic TV package of 28 channels in Nunavut broadcasts less than one per cent of its time in Inuktut, said the three Inuit broadcasters in their letter to the ACL.

IsumaTV Nunavut would immediately add 168 hours a week of Inuktut television, increasing Basic TV’s Inuktut to five per cent, the letter states.

“We can show how it works for a limited time without new funding. We can make it a Christmas present to all Nunavummiut by running 24/7 Inuktut from Nov. 1 to Dec. 31,” Thompson said.

The programming would include IBC’s Takuginai children’s series, shows by Kingulliit, Isuma, Arnait Video, Artcirq and Taqqut Productions, award-winning Inuktut movies like Atanarjuat The Fast Runner, Maliglutit (Searchers) and Tia & Piujuq, historic series like Nunavut (Our Land), Sivulita Angunasukpatangit (Hunting With My Ancestors) and IBC’s Amitturmiut, and Super Shamou.

Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. said in July that it would spend $2.4 million over three years to support plans to create an Inuktut television channel.

The money will go towards setting up a new Inuit TV Network, with the aim of producing occasional special broadcasts in 2020 and ramping up to a regular schedule of programming in 2021.

NTI’s decision to support to a new group left the three leaders of Nunavut’s oldest broadcasting organizations “surprised and concerned,” they said in a July 20 letter to NTI President Aluki Kotkierk.

They asked her to invite their team of non-profit Inuit firms to work together to operate an Inuktut channel in all Nunavut communities.

With the ACL’s collaboration, more Inuktut can get on air right away, Thompson said.

If ACL, NTI and the Government of Nunavut want to keep it going, “then of course they have to help finance it,” said Thompson, a former Nunavut cabinet minister.

IsumaTV cable channels in Igloolik, Arviat and other Nunavut communities were disconnected when the ACL recently upgraded to its new digital network.

“IsumaTV Nunavut already is a 24/7 Inuktut television channel,” Kunuk said in a Sept. 14 joint release from the three Inuit broadcasters. “ACL Digital just cut it off local cable channels we’ve been broadcasting on for years. Let ACL put IsumaTV back on Digital Basic now so everyone in Nunavut can watch it.”

Thompson said Inuit have waited 20 years to see an Inuktut television channel.

“Isn’t it time to stop talking about it and start doing it? IBC has more than 1,500 programs on IsumaTV,” Thompson said in the release.

Takugunai, the award-winning children’s show, is a longtime IBC favourite.

For more 30 years, Takuginai has entertained young viewers in Inuktut with its puppet family that includes Johnny the Lemming, Granny and Grandpa, Pukki and Meesee.

One of Takuginai’s goals is to keep Inuit culture alive, but Takuginai also tries to come up with educational themes, dealing with issues like road safety and gun safety.

However, since APTN stopped featuring Takuginai in 2015, the only way Inuit children can now watch Takuginai in Inuktut is on IsumaTV, she said.

“Television technology is changing fast,” Thompson said in the release. “IsumaTV’s channel is on the Amazon Cloud. It can be sent to ACL digital cable as soon as they want to show all the IBC, Isuma and other Inuktut content already uploaded to IsumaTV.

“ACL Basic TV shows nine American TV channels. Do Nunavummiut really need to see Detroit TV more than our own Inuktut channel?”

Thompson said they had not yet heard back from the ACL on their proposal, but its executive is expected to meet on Sept. 17, with the annual general meeting slated for Sept. 24.

Asked for comment on Sept. 14 on the proposal, Duane Wilson, vice-president for stakeholder relations at the ACL in Winnipeg, said ACL would “need at least a couple days to rally all the relevant info and stakeholders to provide a meaningful response.”

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(2) Comments:

  1. Posted by Apa on

    Something tells me this request isn’t as easy to grant as they make it sound. Arctic Cable can barely keep big channels on the air let alone a locally created on. They’ll probably say: sure we can do it, but we need X amount of dollars (much much more than the little donation NTI made) and need to go back and forth with the CRTC for about 3-5 years, etc.
    .
    Maybe the brashness of their public request will make ACL buckle and they’ll find a way to make this happen. I see a bunch of new IBC execs trying to make a big splash. Maybe they’re very naive. Or maybe the old guard were too passive to make this a reality. But I’m willing to bet they’ve been working on getting content on cable for years and know exactly why ACL can’t/won’t be able to make this happen.

  2. Posted by Free TVs for Nunavut on

    Nunavut should have free TV options, like free over the air digital television in the south.

    To watch local Inuktitut pogromming, Nunavut youth and elders alike should not be forced to pay expensive TV services either Shaw, Bell or ACL.

    It is also important Nunavut TV viewers not be dependent on expensive broadband costs to watch local Inuktitut programming. Local Internet is unreliable enough already.

    Free local TV over the air is the future, including free for your homeTV sets and your mobile devices like phones and tablets.

    Nunavut elders and youth alike should be able to watch TV for free, no TV or Internet service fees.

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