Southern managers bleeding IBC dry?

As the quality of native broadcasting slips to an all-time low, a bold new plan to take over TV production emerges in Igloolik


Nunatsiaq News

IQALUIT Two former Inuit Broadcasting Corporation producers say they can improve Inuktitut programming and create 300 jobs in northern communities by taking over the operation’s southern management.

Zacharias Kunuk and Paul Apak presented a proposal last week to the director of broadcast policy at the Department of Canadian Heritage.

Kunuk and Apak propose to take IBC and Television Northern Canada (TVNC) out of the hands of Ottawa-based managers. Kunuk, head of the independent production company Igloolik Isuma Productions Inc., said southern management styles and high administration costs eat up too much of the budget.

“This isn’t about power or money, it’s about improving the future of Inuktitut television for our children,” Kunnuk said. “IBC managers had their chance for 15 years and they’ve gone as far as they can. Now it should be our turn.”

Sole-sourced contracts

Their complaints aren’t directed solely at IBC, but at the whole web of government-funded native-broadcasting companies, which they say control content on TVNC, leaving no room for independent producers.

The heritage department currently hires private contractors to manage IBC and TVNC production from the South. Kunuk and Apak want these contracts open to public tender.

They say they can preserve IBC’s 25 jobs and create 75 new jobs as early as next April, by introducing a more efficient production system.

“We know we can produce twice as many programs at better quality for less cost, just by shutting down the Ottawa office which takes up half the budget,” Apak said.

The plan would allow independent producers with training and experience to compete for IBC’s yearly budget by upgrading Inuktitut programming with more jobs in remote communities.

Move production jobs North

By shutting down southern headquarters’ offices and focusing on paying producers instead of managers, Kunuk and Apak claim they can create 300 jobs in small commuities.

“Producers in Igloolik try really hard, but it’s the same old story in Ottawa we had to deal with 10 years ago,” Apak said. “Morale and budgets are down, but things stay the same.

“If the programs don’t improve soon, government cutbacks will put Inuktitut television out of business completely in the next few years.”

Apak was IBC’s first producer in Igloolik in 1983. Both he and Kunuk quit the corporation because they were frustrated by their southern bosses.

“I gave a lot of years trying to build IBC and it’s frustrating to see them going downhill,” he said.

Raw footage and endless stale reruns constitute much of TVNC fare these days.

But blaming the low-quality service on government cutbacks “just isn’t true,” said Kunuk. “It’s how you spend the money that counts.”

Native ownership structure

While the federal government ponders their proposal, Kunuk and Apak are preparing to invite aboriginal TV producers from across Canada to discuss their plans to create a whole new television service, which they’re calling SILA Specialty Channel Ltd.

The meeting is scheduled to be held in Igloolik in December.

Kunuk said he hopes to create an ownership structure for SILA that is more representative of aboriginal producers than TVNC is now.

And they’re in a hurry TVNC’s broadcast license comes up for renewal next spring.

“If we don’t do something, government will just renew TVNC for another seven years and we’ll be out of luck for any change,” Apak said.

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