CRTC launches review of Indigenous broadcasting policy

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APTN's Jean La Rose says the broadcaster has been pushing for the review since 2011 and expects a productive collaboration between the CRTC and Indigenous community.

The CRTC has launched a long-awaited proceeding to review its Indigenous broadcast policy mandate.

The review, which will be conducted and co-developed in partnership with the Indigenous community, is a long time coming, according to APTN CEO Jean La Rose, who told Playback Daily that the community has been pushing for an updated policy since 2011. The current policy was created in 1990, nearly a decade before APTN became a licensed national broadcaster.

From the broadcaster’s perspective, an updated policy is an opportunity for transparent definitions on how Indigenous creators can trigger funding from organizations like the Canada Media Fund. La Rose says APTN’s broadcast requirements include 35 hours of Aboriginal-language and 20 hours of French-language programming per week. As it stands, the broadcaster has access to $300,000 in funds per year to produce its French content, which he says is “impossible.”

“There needs to be a clear, mandated formula that states where and how Indigenous broadcasters have access to an envelope that allows us to work with our producers and create the content that is reflective of our community, without any outside filter to have creative control over it,” says La Rose.

The need for funding access has only grown as well, thanks to a growth in training and development for Indigenous creators, such as Netflix’s new partnerships with the Indigenous Screen Office, imagineNATIVE and Wapikoni. La Rose says the policy will address the next step of allowing skilled creators and producers the chance to fund their projects.

The review, which the Commission says will “modernize the existing regulatory framework so that the Canadian broadcasting system can adequately support the special needs of Indigenous peoples, now and in the future,” is to run in three phases. The first of those will focus on communication with Indigenous broadcasters and creators in early-engagement sessions, with the goal of gathering an Indigenous point of view on the needs and issues to be addressed in the policy, as well as understanding the wide range of experiences and perspectives involved. La Rose says the focus on the Indigenous perspective will allow for a much more inclusive process.

Phase two will open up the conversation to public consultation to Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples, the scope of which will be determined by phase one. Phase three will see the CRTC present the preliminary conclusions and determinations from phases one and two, offering another opportunity for the Indigenous community to provide comment on the new policy.

“I expect it to be a very productive process,” says La Rose. “We do not want just to have a conversation, but to make sure that our needs and the growth of our industry are key in the development of a new policy. It seems, at this point, that that’s what the Commission has in mind and we’re quite happy about that.”

According to a survey conducted for the CRTC in 2017 on the cultural diversity in Canada, Indigenous peoples are “virtually invisible on Canadian networks” and often represented in stereotypes, with the exception of content seen on APTN.

Indigenous broadcasters and creators interested in participating in phase one are invited by the CRTC to contact The Indigenous Leadership Development Institute.

Image: Moosemeat & Marmalade, courtesy APTN