Televised bingo back on the boob tube

The John Howard Society apologizes for misuse of airtime.



IQALUIT — TV bingo is back.

The John Howard Society’s televised Saturday night bingo is back on the air in Iqaluit after being yanked from its time-slot on Eastern Arctic TV’s cable service earlier this month.

The station ran TV notices after May 11 stating the bingo was discontinued because the John Howard Society had misused its airtime. This week, the society is saying it’s sorry if it offended anyone with its programming.

At the root of the controversy was amateur-video footage shown by the society depicting the seedy side of Iqaluit — including a clip of a drunk man urinating outside the Canadian Legion.

John Howard Society branches across Canada lobby on behalf of prisoners, provide support services to ex-convicts, and offer educational programs in communities. The Iqaluit branch also offers a soup kitchen and children’s breakfast and lunch programs.

The society’s office manager, Doug Donaldson, said they were informed May 18 that Arctic Cooperatives Ltd., which owns Eastern Arctic TV, has allowed bingo back on the air. Bingo is the society’s main source of revenue, earning it about $7,000 a week.

“The stipulations are we’re just doing bingo, and that’s all we really want to do right now,” he said.

ACL unhappy

ACL was unhappy with what the society was airing, Donaldson said. Officials of the Iqaluit branch of the society apologized and assured ACL it won’t happen again.

“They just wanted to make sure we didn’t do anything that jeopardized the society as well as their airtime, so we can understand that,” he said.

In an interview last week before the bingo had been reinstated, society executive director Jay Wisintainer said they were given no specific reason why the society lost their airtime, nor had they been informed of any guidelines regarding use of that time.

The society paid $1,000 a week to use the channel from Friday afternoon through Sunday.

Wisintainer said the society’s board of directors decided to fill the extra time with community programming, allowing other charitable groups access as well as broadcasting scenes of life in Iqaluit.

“The only thing we’ve got written from them is an invoice,” Wisintainer said. “We haven’t ever had any guidelines or any parameters in place and that’s what we’ve been asking for because we wanted to run a community channel and we have been.”

He said that, in general, the community likes what they’ve been doing.

“We’ve been showing some really neat, unique stuff and I guess we went too far.”

Pisse-artiste becomes famous

Wisintainer said the most offensive thing they aired was the drunk man urinating in front of the legion about three months ago.

“It was comical and everybody thought it was hilarious,” he said. “Even that guy called in and said, ‘Hey, can you play it again? I heard about it, but I haven’t seen it,’ and we played it again for him the next night and nobody complained about that.”

Phone calls by Nunatsiaq News to the chief executive officer of ACL, Andy Morrison, were not returned, but Bill Lyall, chairman of ACL, said the bingo was halted for two reasons.

“We took it off the air because people in Iqaluit were complaining that the John Howard Society was putting on stuff that was embarrassing to some people in Iqaluit,” Lyall said. “Also the John Howard Society was given instructions that only bingos were to be shown.”

Donaldson said the long-term goal behind the community-channel idea was to use the equipment as a learning tool for kids interested in broadcasting.

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