Nunavut Snow challenge a no-show again on television



Nunavut’s annual Iqaluit-to-Kimmirut skidoo race is once again not likely to appear on The Sports Network, or any other TV station.

Nunavut Snow Challenge organizers have been unable to get enough funding or sponsorship support to pay for the high cost of filming and editing a television program based on the annual spring race.

George Athans, the director and producer who created the half-hour documentary that aired on TSN in 2004, said TV stations are very interested in airing another production, but the Government of Nunavut and Nunavut Tourism “felt that the event should be more self-supporting.”

In a letter dated Dec. 9, 2005, Alex Campbell, the deputy minister of Economic Development and Transportation, said his department would not support the initiative this year – mainly because the department has not seen a formal proposal.

“It is difficult for departmental staff to assess and to make recommendations on your initiative as there is no formal proposal from you to our programs,” Campbell wrote.

Campbell also wrote that the GN has provided $226,000 to the Snow Challenge since 2001-2002, “an amount that should by now have helped organizers demonstrate that the Nunavut Snow Challenge is a viable private sector business opportunity for broadcasters and their advertisers.”

Nunavut Tourism also refused to help with marketing the event, after receiving an angry email from James Patterson of Nunavut Productions that opened with “You guys have no clue what’s going on here, do you?”

In an email reply, executive director Maureen Bundgaard explained that her agency can only do so much with a total of two people in its marketing division, and an annual budget of only $2 million.

Bundgaard also pointed out that Nunavut Tourism’s status as an “arm’s length” organization raises the cost of running the office, because the organization cannot share GN office space or resources, which means a large part of its budget goes to overhead rather than programs.

Athans regrets that an opportunity will be lost to showcase the scenery of Baffin Island, while educating viewers about the North. The original documentary he produced included aerial footage of the race, footage of Iqaluit and a description of the territory.

“My intention really was to make it a pretty good tourism piece for Nunavut.”

That program aired five times on TSN.

Athans has done similar projects in other remote part of the world. Several years ago, he created a TV show called “The Caribbean Workout” set in the Barbados. What was conceived as a promotional video turned out to be a hugely successful work-out video, which now brings the Barbados workout to 100 million households through television.

The Nunavut Snow Challenge could provide a similar “hook” to people curious about Nunavut, Athans said.

Athans believes that it will be too late to organize any film footage of this year’s race if nothing changes before mid-February. That said, he hopes that race organizers will be successful in getting sponsorship from snowmobile companies or other business groups.

“I can’t in any way fault the government for spending money in other ways that may be more valuable to society.”

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