Inuit Broadcasting Corporation Presentation to the CRTC on Cable Tiering and Universal Pay TV, 1982
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 network.
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 an afterthought.”
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 services.”
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 out.”
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 powerful.
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.