Presentation to the CRTC on
Cable Tiering and Universal Pay TV
My name is Rosemarie Kuptana and I am appearing today with Lorne Kusugak
of the Inuit Broadcasting Corporation, George Kakayuk of Taqramiut Nipingat
Incorporated, and Garnet Angeconeb of WaWaTay. Josepi Padlayat, President
of IBC, is unable to be here today as he was already committed to address
the Indigenous People of Australia. Also messing are Silpa Edmunds of
OKalaKatiget, Cheeko Desjarlais of Native Communications Society, and
George Henry of Northern Native Broadcasting - Yukon, who could not be
here on such short notice. As you know, Northern travel is expensive and
difficult. However, I have with me telexes from all northern native broadcasters
expressing unanimous support for our position.
I would like to being by briefly telling you a bit about IBC and TNI.
IBC is a non-profit public television service dedicated to serving the
needs of 25,000 Inuit in the Canadian Arctic. IBC is presently broadcasting
five hours per week with production centres in Frobisher Bay, Baker Lake,
Eskimo Point and Igloolik. TNI is an independent communications society
based in Salluit, Northern Quebec. TNI provides programming for the IBC
Together with local Inuit production organizations, IBC and TNI account
for virtually all the television production in Inuktitut in Canada.
Commissioners, the subjects of this hearing, represent but a further phase
in the accelerating introduction in Canada of the Information society.
We fear, not that we will be left behind, but that we will be run over.
We are joined in our concerns by the Inuit of Labrador and the Western
Arctic and by the Northern Indian peoples of Canada. We will relate our
concerns as closely as we can to the questions you have submitted in the
call for hearing.
As you may know, Commissioners, IBC and TNI are operating under interim
broadcasting arrangements which hardly measure up to what a Northern Native
broadcasting service should be. These grossly inadequate arrangements
are supported by interim funding from the Government of Canada that runs
out on March 31st. That is in four months. True, there is a study being
conducted by the Department of Communications considering a long term
funding arrangement and there is a new Cabinet Sub-Committee on Broadcasting
and Culture. However, there exists no firm Government commitment to Northern
Native Broadcasting and time is running out.
As we reviewed the briefs submitted for these hearings by the great southern
organizations, we saw that they were preparing for a feast of tiers of
television and channels within tiers. This was upsetting to us as we have
visions of being subjected to multiples of Southern programming, irrelevant
to our culture and lifestyle. This is an old theme to the CRTC. In fact,
you and not only you, but also the CBC, and many spokesmen of the Government
itself are on record, as agreeing with our view that native people need
native broadcasting if we are not to lose our culture. What then is the
problem? We would describe it as ineffectual goodwill. Let me show you
what I mean.
In 1973, we find the Inuit of Northern Quebec opposing CBC’s application
to introduce TV service to the settlements of that region. We insisted
on community control of local broadcasting and that the service must make
a reasonable attempt to reflect our culture and language. Since that time,
as we say on page 21 of our “Position on Northern Broadcasting”,
which we filed in connection with this hearing, “The Inuit have
not lobbied for multiple channel television service: (but) with virtually
one voice, we have demanded what IBC proposes to deliver -- Inuktitut
television and radio as a primary, single channel service, and not as
You, Commissioners, agreed with our position. We can find your view reflected
in CRTC 79-320 of 1979 as follows: “Any further influx of Southern
television services to the North, although technically feasible, should
not be contemplated unless and until an appropriate and adequate first
services exists.” But what happened?
In 1980, the CRTC created the Committee on Extension of Service to Northern
and Remote Communities, the Therrien Committee. We would like in passing
to pay tribute to the Therrien Report since it proposed a Northern Native
television service. But the Therrien Committee was also concerned with
the introduction of pay television. In particular was it concerned with
substituting a Canadian pay television service for pirate American viewers
that had sprung up. From the Therrien Committee you moved quickly to the
licensing of the Cancom Four Channel, Wholesale, Satellite service for
this purpose. Then came the Pay-TV licenses last spring. Now we have more
Cancom and this hearing on Tiering and Universal service.
The 1979 need for “an appropriate and adequate first service”,
the priority for a native service for Natives, got lost in the shuffle.
Since July of last year, the Cancom package of 4 Southern channels has
been available in “remote” communities - remember, many of
those “remote” communities are our home communities where
we would like to provide our home “service”. And these Cancom
signals can be received, unscrambled for four dollars a month. Under the
conditions of its license from the CRTC, Cancom undertook to substitute
10 hours of Native programming per week on its channels. While in 1979
our Northern Native service was a pre-condition to “any further
influx of Southern television services to the North”. In the Cancom
decision, we were reduced to the status of being thrown scraps from the
Cancom table. In the unlikely event that we and other Native groups could
arrange a programming agreement with Cancom, imagine the position of the
Native viewer. He or she would have to be an avid, sophisticated and patient
dial, twirler to pick out the native programs buried among some 450 hours
a week of television 4 channels. For our communities, Cancom is nothing
but a cultural assault from the South with hunt-and-peck television for
Natives and we’re supposed to pay for it.
In the Cancom decision, Commissioners, you said -- CRTC 81-252: “The
Commission reiterates the view expressed in pervious decisions, that the
extension of Southern-originated broadcasting services to the North, and
to Native communities in particular, carries with it a concomitant responsibility
to facilitate the development of Northern and Native originated broadcasting
But we do not want our television to be the “concomitant responsibility”
of Southerners. We want to undertake that responsibility with our own
facility for distributing our own programming to our own people.
It is this kind of self-reliance that we had hoped to develop in cooperation
with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, supported by public funding.
Such a policy was outlined by the CBC in a submission to you in March
1980 as follows: “The second part of our approach is to encourage
the growth of independent, native regional production groups. Such groups
would be funded quite outside the CBC - by interested Federal Government
Departments or the Territorial Governments to that Native-controlled organizations
will be able to speak of and to their own people, creating programs that
ensure that television will be an affirmative tool in the maintenance
and development of their culture.”
This has not been the case.
IBC has ended up third in line on the CBC’s national satellite feed.
As you know, nature has made our land the land of the midnight sun. Well,
it took the CBC to make us the land of midnight television. Except for
a few brief segments of Inuktitut programming during normal hours, IBC
programming appears on the screen after the normal broadcast day.
One of many things we Inuit have in common with Southerners is that we
like to sleep nights, we like our children to sleep nights, and we like
to watch our TV service during normal TV hours. We recognize that owning
to the costs of serving our immense Territory, it may be impossible for
the present to gear our TV to normal time zones. But this particular time
zone that the CBC has given us is surely not what the Commission had in
mind when it spoke of “mutually agreed upon periods” for IBC
programming in the CRTC decision 81-255, or April 14, 1981, which licensed
the IBC network: “with respect to satellite channel space, the CBC
has undertaken to share with the applicant the use of its present northern
service facilities, on an interim basis, at certain mutually agreed upon
periods.” You should know that we have no choice regarding hours
available to us.
The term “interim basis” is a key term for us. So is the next
sentence in decision 81-255: “This arrangement will continue until
such time as Government funding can be obtained for a dedicated Northern
satellite channel which would then be shared by the CBC Northern Service
and the Inuit Broadcasting Corporation”.
Now you will understand what we mean when we speak of ineffectual goodwill.
We would like to recall the words of CRTC Commissioner Pat Pearce, at
the 1978 hearings for the Renewal of the CBC Network License. She spoke
of “sheer desperation, agonized desperation, that a whole people
is being destroyed -- and destroyed by whatever it is that makes a people,
that element, whether you call it element of the human spirit, or whether
you call it a culture, or whether you call it a language, or whether you
call it the history -- it was being destroyed and the time was running
She was talking about the destruction of our people, Commissioners: destruction
through cultural deprivation. The years go by. The hearings go by. We
are still doing “experimental things” under “interim
arrangements” at “certain mutually agreed upon periods”
as somebody else’s “concomitant responsibility”.
We might liken the onslaught of Southern television, and the absence of
Native television, to the Neutron bomb. This is the bomb that kills the
people but leaves the buildings standing. Neutron-bomb television is the
kind of television that destroys the soul of a people but leaves the shell
of a people walking around. This is television in which the traditions,
the skills, the culture, the language, -- count for nothing. The pressure,
especially on our children, to join the invading culture and language
and leave behind the language and culture that count for nothing is explosively
Commissioners, this does not mean that we find Southern culture lethal.
Nor does it mean we want to deprive non-Native peoples living and working
in the North of access to their own culture on television, in the way
we are being deprived. We want, first, a basic, coherent, comprehensive
television programming service for the Native people of the North. We
suggest that the Inuit and Indian peoples share this service, and we suggest
moreover that we both share it with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation,
which would provide the Southern Canadian programming segments in English
that we need and want in order to understand the Nation to which we are
proud to belong.
You will notice that we are not speaking of cross-subsidization, income-transfer
or cost benefit. We speak of sharing. It is in that spirit, and not in
a spirit of hard-nosed economic analysis, that we ask you to look at the
resolution on tiering and universal service we have submitted to you fro
the IBC Annual General Assembly.
The resolution urges that “A universal system of pay television
be adopted wherein the first tier of service would be reserved exclusively
for Canadian programming, a portion of which would be Inuit and Native
produced.” This part of our resolution is intended to support the
position of the Canadian conference of the Arts and the National Film
Board, and TVOntario. Then our resolution goes on to suggest a fee for
the first tier or service and that 10 per cent of the proceeds be channeled
into Northern and Native Broadcasting. But we do not wish to insist on
the particular organization and means that may be used to crate a Canadian
Production Fund. However, we do wish to urge sharing in this united endeavor
to preserve the things the people of Canada cherish.
For more than a decade, Canada has been proud of its world leadership
in satellite communications. Again and again, the Government has said
that the needs of Northern communications are one of the main reasons
for this development. But what they don’t say is that Canada has
developed an extraordinary amount of unused capacity for satellite communications.
While Native broadcasters have been denied the dedicated channel they
sought, the CBC has been whirling around out there with three rented,
but unused, transponders: one of them an extra and unnecessary channel
for House of Commons television, and two of them just in case the CBC
two approval for the CBC-2 channels in English and French. We also know
that more unused capacity is being put into orbit by Canada all the time,
at great expense to Canadians, presumably because some social benefit
is expected from it. If I am not mistaken, Telesat Canada estimates that
by December, 1983, no more than 40% or Canadian satellite capacity will
be in use.
Think of all that unused capacity out there in space. Then think of the
Inuit , and Dene Nation, and Yukon Indian, and other Native peoples’,
and complementary CBC Southern programming that could be put on one dedicated
Northern channel for our people. Think of the wealth of distinctive native
programming that would also be interesting to TV audiences in the South.
Commissioners, there is not pint in providing Inuit and Indian production
if we cannot distribute it, if our people cannot receive it. Surely, it
is obvious that in this information age there is an absolute and crying
need -- for a Northern Native channel. The feast of services you are proposing
to put on many channels, and many tiers of channels, in the South, we
are proposing to put on but one channel for Northern peoples.Commissioners,
all the concerns we have shared with you at the CRTC are lifted to a new
level or urgency by the information age and the mushrooming growth of
the so-called information society. Some few aspects of that new age and
that new society are the subject of this hearing today.
To summarize our position, Commissioners, as Northern broadcasters, we
feel the time has come for us to benefit from the advances in communications
technology. We have reminded you throughout our presentation of commitments
made to us over the years. Today. We are trying to say something which
was underlined in the recent Applebaum-Hebert Report on Canadian Cultural
Poklucy that the Canadian Government should play the role of facilitator.
That, Commissioners, is what we are asking of you. We ask that you consider
in your decision, that a portion of the first tier of service of a universal
pay-TV system be reserved for Northern Native broadcasting.
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