Nunavik’s TNI broadcaster is now a sinking ship

The new president of Nunavik’s broadcasting organization, George Berthe, says his ship is sinking but he still hopes to get it sailing again.

By JANE GEORGE

KUUJJUAQ Nunavik’s broadcasting service is deep in debt, and unless new financing is found, Taqramiut Nipingat Inc. could go off the air.

“We are between a rock and a hard place,” says TNI’s new president, George Berthe. “People need to know that this ship is sinking, that we have to put it on to shore and repair it.”

TNI has been in trouble since an adventure on the World Wide Web went bad earlier this year.

In August, Nunavik Net’s Internet services ended abruptly when Bell Canada cut off TNI’s telephones. TNI owed nearly $200,000 to the telephone company.

But TNI also owes another $300,000 to other creditors, mainly in expenses associated with getting its Internet project off the ground.

Berthe, who recently took over the presidency of TNI, says it’s too early to lay blame for this accumulated debt.

Pulling TNI out of debt will be tough because the organization’s yearly budget of $932,000 is handed out in monthly installments, Berthe said.

Members of TNI’s board and community delegates discussed the crisis when they met in Chisasibi earlier this month.

“If things don’t start to roll for TNI, we’re going to be in a bad situation,” said board member Sammy Duncan.

But the huge amount of money the company owes suprised the gathering.

“The odd thing was that people were still supportive of the Internet project. They got a taste for the Internet,” says George Berthe.

But Berthe says that it’s unlikely TNI will become part of the Internet industry again.

Berthe plans to look at TNI’s finances closely and develop a refinancing strategy. Downsizing, he says, is one option. But even layoffs may not completely solve the broadcaster’s financial woes.

Closure of TNI is a real possibility, if the communications company doesn’t find new support over the next few weeks.

Berthe, who was recognized earlier this year as a Young Entrepreneur under the National Aboriginal Achievement Awards, says he wants to be remembered as the person who saved, not killed, Nunavik’s broadcaster.

But he admits that this won’t be easy.

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