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License renewed.

It was a most welcome, if unanticipated surprise.

Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN) Chief Executive Officer, Jean LaRose, arrived at his sixth-floor Portage Ave. office in downtown Winnipeg on Aug. 31 expecting to hear from the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) that a temporary license renewal for the network had been ordered.

APTN's first, six-year broadcasting license was set to expite at midnight and the CRTC was expected to issue a temporary (administrative) license renewal so the network could continue operating while the commission completed deliberations on the detailed renewal application that the network had put forward earlier this year. That decision was expected within a few months.

LaRose had been told by commission officials to check the CRTC Web site. It was anticipated that the announcement of an administrative renewal would appear there at some point during the day. But when the posting appeared mid-morning, the news was quite unexpected: full renewal. And APTN got just about everything it had asked for in its renewal application.

The waiting was over almost before it had begun. The new, full, seven-year license would take effect at 12:01 a.m. that evening. The commission also approved APTN's request for a 10 cent per subscriber fee increase--from the current 15 cents to 25. That will translate into an additional $10- to $12 million a year in revenues.

"Champagne? No. We have a no alcohol policy. But the water and coffee was flowing freely here this morning and you can quote me on that," said a jubilant LaRose when contacted by phone for comment. "It's quicker than we expected. We're not going to the administrative renewal process and we got everything we wanted."

He couldn't resist a little dig at Windspeaker. The cover of our June edition, which contained stories about some of the growing pains the network had endured over the last few years, featured a photo of a poker table and the caption "APTN goes all in on license renewal."

"Now you can show the poker table with all the chips in front of me," LaRose joked.

APTN will now be able to offer "versioned" programming where the viewers will be able to select one of several languages. It will be able to send out two different feeds of its programming, meaning that western markets will not have to watch programming at a time that is convenient for eastern viewers. Aboriginal programming will make up 35 hours a week of the network's schedule by 2012. The CEO said the news will not have to go on the air at 4:30 in Vancouver anymore and that should make it easier to sell advertising, which will increase the revenues even more, as well as the size of the audience.

While the cable companies objected to the increase, which means they will have to raise their prices and deal with possible customer complaints, LaRose said the commission was impressed by the number of letters of support it received in favor of renewal. And a couple of big players supported APTN: the Canadian Association of Broadcasters (CAB) and the CTV network both wrote letters of support. It was the first time the CAB has ever come out in support of a broadcaster.

More money means better programming and more opportunity for Aboriginal producers, the CEO said.

The north/south split on the APTN board and the predominance of Inuktitut language programming has been a problem the network has been dealing with since the beginning. Changes to the board structure have been implemented so that southern members are not outvoted by the north. The CRTC made those changes a condition of the license.

"It comes into effect at 12:01 tonight. The governance committee has already given me direction to proceed with those changes and to start advertising for the seats on the board based on the new governance structure. We're on track to live up to that commitment," LaRose said.

By Paul Barnsley

Windspeaker Staff Writer

COPYRIGHT 2005 Aboriginal Multi-Media Society of Alberta (AMMSA)
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2005 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Barnsley, Paul
Publication:Wind Speaker
Date:Sep 1, 2005
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