With Arctic co-ops “very supportive,” IBC, NITV and Isumatv turn to Shawto bring first 24/7 Inuktut television channel to air in Nunavut

September 29, 2020 (Iqaluit, Nunavut)

With Arctic Co-ops CEO Rod Wilson “very supportive,” now three Inuit broadcasters have turned their sights on Shaw Communications as the next step to get IsumaTV’s 24/7 Inuktut television channel on the air in Nunavut communities.

Writing September 28 to Shaw CEO Bradley Shaw, IBC CEO Manitok Thompson, NITV Executive Director Lucy Tulugarjuk and Isuma’s Dr. Zacharias Kunuk O.C. O.N. urged Shaw to live up to commitments Shaw made in its 2017 CRTC license renewal hearings “to encourage major broadcasters to turn to Indigenous producers for content.” Now IBC and NITV ask Shaw to add IsumaTV’s Inuktut channel to the hundreds of TV channels available on Shaw’s satellite selection in Nunavut.

Shaw and Co-ops basic channel packages show less than 1% Inuktut content in Nunavut where 84% of Canadians are Inuit. Adding IsumaTV’s 168 hours a week of Inuktut programming increases Inuktut from 1 to 5%. Since they choose Co-op cable channels from Shaw’s satellite selection, Co-ops only can add IsumaTV to its 28 channel Basic TV lineup if IsumaTV is among the hundreds on Shaw’s satellite. “We are committed to working together to identify solutions as we are excited about this opportunity,” Co-ops’ Wilson wrote September 18 to NITV Executive Director Lucy Tulugarjuk, “We look forward to collaborating on this project.” Once IsumaTV is on their satellite, Shaw also can add it to its 40 channel Limited TV.

IBC’s Manitok Thompson is determined to get IsumaTV on cable and satellite as soon as possible. “Elders have been waiting for over 20 years for this to happen. IBC maintains a collection of 40 years of priceless historic films that include 9,000 hours of footage and 18,000 programs, some in dialects that are being lost right now. We have collected all of this material, and it needs to breathe out into Inuit homes. We will not stop until it does.” Nunavut Independent Television Network (NITV) Executive Director Lucy Tulugarjuk remembers when she first saw her own community channel on television when she was just seven: “To see Inuktitut, hearing it, feeling it, knowing the faces from your community, is very important and you see yourself and your ancestors. I know there is a demand there, it is something that Inuit want.”

In CRTC Decision 2017-148: Renewal of licenses for the television services of large English-language ownership groups including Shaw, Bell and Rogers, the CRTC set a priority on broadcasters increasing indigenous television. “In the past, the Commission has raised the immediate need to serve the Indigenous community as a whole since vital questions of importance to Indigenous peoples are not completely covered, or not covered at all by non-Indigenous media. Currently, programming reflecting the Indigenous peoples of Canada is only offered by a small number of programming services. The Commission considers that the large private broadcasters can play an important role in providing access to such programming. In light of the pressing need to serve the Indigenous community, the Commission considers it appropriate to adopt an incentive to encourage the reflection of Indigenous peoples within the system.”

“Our youth are committing suicide,” said IBC’s Thompson in a phone meeting with Arctic Co-ops managers September 18.
“We have the highest suicide rate in Canada. Our foundation is shattered. Our youth don’t have the same choice of channels to see who they are proud of, their forefathers talking to them. They can’t see their language, their culture, it would help with the mental health of Inuit youth. We’re ready. We’re here. We have the content. With support from Arctic Co-ops, CRTC, Nunavut leadership and Inuit Elders, who will refuse to show it?”

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