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National Aboriginal television network on the horizon.

By Marie Burke

Windspeaker Staff Writer


The dawn of a new age in Aboriginal storytelling is on the horizon. A national forum for Aboriginal people to tell their own stories is almost within reach. Last June, an application to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission for a national Aboriginal television service was made. On Nov. 12, Television Northern Canada will be presenting arguments to the CRTC to establish the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network.

"It's been overwhelming how much support we received for a national Aboriginal network," said Abraham Tagalik, chairman of TVNC. Government and Aboriginal agencies from across Canada have given support to the application. Tagalik said they have made it a point to contact every Aboriginal organization in the country with news about this network.

TVNC's goal is to fill a void that's been left in the current spectrum of television programming. With 90 per cent of the network's programming coming from across Canada, and the rest from producers abroad, there will be great diversity. Tagalik said TVNC is considering Winnipeg as a southern base and satellite uplink centre. The southern base could see 40 people employed to run operations.

The APTN will not just be a specialty channel or service. The APTN will be a competitive broadcasting service.

The belief that the application will be hard to turn down is everywhere. Indeed it may be hard to find any Aboriginal person who would oppose APTN's birth. There are 150 independent Aboriginal producers from across Canada waiting in the wings, ready to take flight with the network.

The APTN will offer the full range of programming that other networks do, including sports, public affairs, biographies, theatre, drama, educational and cultural shows as well as a national daily news service and programs for children. Most of the programs will be from independent Aboriginal producers.

"We have never been given a priority to develop our own work," said Brenda Chambers, senior producer of All My Relations, which has been a recent successful pilot series for CBC. Chambers said the CRTC can't deny TVNC's application for a much needed Aboriginal production network.

The interest she has seen just in the west is tremendous. The Vancouver producer has been a point of contact for TVNC. Chambers has been providing a liaison service with western Aboriginal producers for APTN's possible upcoming production line-up.

Chambers sees the growing pains of starting up a network of this scope as a challenge, but the positive response coming from producers and TVNC makes that challenge sound like a labor of love. "I've got many show ideas that I have already been submitting," said Chambers.

Since 1991, TVNC has been licensed to operate an Aboriginal television network in the north. Its programming has come from eight northern communications societies and some independent Aboriginal producers. TVNC is, and has been, totally government funded for its operations in the north.

In its application to the CRTC, mandatory carriage status is being requested for APTN. This means all cable companies and some direct to home satellite distributors will have to carry APTN as a basic service. With advertising and service fees to subscribers, their revenue to operate is sound.

TVNC is going for an all or nothing bid with their application. Their northern license will expire around the same time as the presentation for APTN. There's a feeling that only extraordinary circumstances could stall the approval of TVNC's national distribution of the largest storytelling circle we might see in our lifetime.

TVNC is asking for letters of support in this initiative. Letters of support must be received at the CRTC and copied to TVNC before Oct. 19. The contact at TVNC is Jennifer David, communications co-ordinator at 1-888-278-8862.
COPYRIGHT 1998 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 1998 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Burke, Marie
Publication:Wind Speaker
Date:Oct 1, 1998
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