TVNC lobbies CRTC for southern aboriginal channel

If Canada’s broadcast regulator accepts the idea, southern Canadians may one day get a chance to watch northern aboriginal programming.


Nunatsiaq News

IQALUIT ¬ Television Northern Canada wants to reach its goal, to “share the unique character of aboriginal culture with all Canadians,” by broadcasting into every Canadian home subscribing to cable.

In order to do that, the nationally-licensed network will ask the Canadian Radio-Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) this spring to expand its distribution license to include southern Canada.

“Self-sufficiency” is another reason TVNC’s chair, Abraham Tagalik, gives for pushing for change.

“We want to be able to control our own destiny without government handouts,” he said. Canadian Heritage gives TVNC a $3.1 million annual operating grant. Other revenue is collected through infrequent commercial sales and transmission services.

The CRTC licensed TVNC on Oct. 28, 1991, as a native television network “to provide television programming in northern communities which reflects the social, political, economic and cultural life of aboriginal residents of northern Canada.”

The network was established after an influx of southern programming that northerners felt was destroying aboriginal culture and language, Tagalik said.

Currently, TVNC broadcasts cover more than one-third of Canada’s land mass stretching across the north from the Yukon-Alaska border to Labrador.

Programming includes health shows from the NWT government, children’s shows from the Inuit Broadcasting Corporation and CBC North’s news, among others, broadcast in 15 aboriginal languages.

Its audience consists of about 100,000 people, the majority with an aboriginal background.

National interest

The Angus Reid Group, in a nation-wide survey commissioned by TVNC, reported that 79 per cent of those polled said they would watch an aboriginal channel at least occasionally. Angus Reid questioned 1,510 southern Canadians from Jan. 26 – Feb. 2.

“The survey confirmed there is a lot of interest,” Tagalik said.

Two-thirds believed an aboriginal network would build a bridge of understanding between aboriginal and non-aboriginal groups. Three out of 10 people said the aboriginal population is too small to warrant its own network, which might replace current cable or satellite channels.

Basic cable package

Tagalik wants to expand TVNC’s audience by including the network in basic cable service packages across the country. He suggests cable subscription fees would increase only slightly, about 10 cents, with the addition of the network.

“If TVNC is distributed on a wider scale, we could generate the revenue needed to ensure our programs stay on the air,” Tagalik told the CRTC last November as it gathered public opinion on establishing a third national network.

Tagalik, with Aboriginal Voices publisher Gary Farmer, were the only presenters asking for a national network dedicated to aboriginal programming.

The federal government had asked the CRTC to seek nation-wide feedback on whether setting up one or more national television networks would serve the goals set out in the Broadcasting Act. The Commission submitted its report Feb. 6.

It recognized TVNC as a “unique and significant” service.

“Such a service should be widely available throughout Canada in order to serve the diverse needs of the various aboriginal communities, as well as other Canadians,” the report stated.

“The commission expects any application by TVNC to demonstrate how it will adapt its programming service to reflect the diversity of the needs and interests of aboriginal peoples throughout Canada.”

TVNC’s license comes up for renewal this spring, at which time Tagalik said he’ll apply for full national network license.

“Hopefully by August we could be approved,” he said, adding TVNC could be up and running nationally by the fall.

TVNC, with the help of an advisory committee of southern aboriginal people involved in the media, will develop a plan, both technically and content-wise, on how it would provide a nation-wide service representative of all aboriginal groups within Canada.

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