Isuma not giving up in fight for production dollars

Igloolik’s independent television production company isn’t giving up in its fight for public tendering of aboriginal televsion work.


Nunatsiaq News

IQALUIT An Igloolik-based independent production company may be getting the brush-off, but its owners aren’t ready to throw in the towel just yet.

Instead, Igloolik Isuma Productions Inc’s owners are digging in their heels.

Last month the company asked the federal Canadian Heritage department to open up its sole-sourced funding system of aboriginal radio and television programming to public tender.

Canadian Heritage gives $10 million annually to 14 native communication organizations in Canada, including the Inuit Broadcasting Corporation and Television Northern Canada.

Heritage Canada recently responded to Isuma’s proposal, which includes moving the southern management of IBC and TVNC to its Nunavut base.

Isuma suggested in its proposal that tax dollars being spent on southern management could be better used to improve the quality of aboriginal programming.

“All of the organizations funded are governed by contribution agreements which regulate the use of the funds, impose strict financial reporting procedures and require independent audits to be conducted annually,” states a letter to Isuma from Canadian Heritage signed by Debra Young, the assistant director of the citizens’ participation directorate, and Sandra Graham,the assistant director of broadcasting services policy.

“By virtue of these contribution agreements the department is legally bound to the 14 broadcasting societies. A tendering process is not an option.”

Isuma wants proof of accountability

Isuma’s secretary-treasurer said the response is ambiguous.

“We’re not taking that letter as a rejection,” Norman Cohn said. “On the other hand, it’s certainly not an invitation to participate. We’re taking that letter as a brush-off, if we agree to be brushed off.”

And it doesn’t. Zacharias Kunuk, a former IBC producer and president of Isuma, called on the department to publish government documents evaluating the productivity and financial accountability of these organizations.

“It’s our money,” Kunuk said. “We simply have a right to ask questions about it. We’re talking millions of taxpayers dollars every year for 15 years going to what they call aboriginal broadcasting.”

Cohn added taxpayers have the right to see how their money is being spent.

Isuma wants public tendering

That’s why Isuma is requesting to see an up-to-date audience survey and quality evaluation of TVNC and its affliated members. Isuma also wants to see the contribution agreements that Canadian Heritage says restricts it from opening up the sole-sourced contract to public tendering.

“We’re basically calling for the release of information,” Cohn said. “We’re not presuming that we would win the tender, we’re arguing that we should have the right to tender.”

Cohn said that while independent production is booming across southern Canada, independent aboriginal producers are struggling in the North under the current system.

“Part of what we’re arguing is that the way the system is set up it’s almost impossible for any independent production company to exist,” Cohn said.

“The set-up is totally stacked against the survival of an independent production company. There’s nobody to sell your programs to. The television channel won’t put you on.”

Cohn said Canadian Heritage has yet to respond to its Isumas latest request.

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