Canada’s first Inuit-language TV channel hit the air last Monday. Its arrival is not trivial, particularly in 2021, when we are talking more and more about representativeness and Aboriginal issues. But a major challenge awaits: profitability.
Called Uvagut TV, “Our television”, this network delivers youth programs, cultural events, feature films and news bulletins to northern communities. All in Inuktitut.
In interview at Newspaper, the director and producer Marie-Hélène Cousineau, who has been interested in the realities of the North for about thirty years, describes the appearance of Uvagut TV as a “historic moment”.
“For the Inuit, it’s a great victory, it’s a source of pride,” she says.
To preserve culture
The Inuit culture being a culture of oral tradition, the birth of Uvagut TV will act as “a powerful means” to keep this language alive, particularly among young people who are very influenced by English, underlines Lucy Tulugarjuk, President and CEO. of Nunavut Independent Television, the medium behind Uvagut TV with Isuma TV. She says Uvagut TV is increasing the volume of Indigenous language programming in the country by 500%. So far, the only ones that were offered were from APTN (Aboriginal Peoples Television Network), which broadcasts mainly in English since 1992.
“There are hundreds of TV channels in the North, and none of them is in our language,” says Lucy Tulugarjuk. APTN offers five and a half hours in Inuktitut per week. With Uvagut TV, it’s 168 hours. It is enormous. “
The natives will be able to “see and hear each other on the screen” by tuning into Uvagut TV, insists Marie-Hélène Cousineau.
“Diversity is not just about talking about others; it’s listening to others talk about themselves. It is giving them a voice. What do they have to say? »She comments.
A major stake
Uvagut TV is available to subscribers of Shaw Direct satellite packages as well as to Arctic Co-Ops cable network customers. Uvagut TV is also available online, but as Marie-Hélène Cousineau points out, the internet is so slow and expensive in the North that it must remain a conventional channel if it wishes to reach the right clientele.
The financial challenge promises to be significant.
“We started the channel without an outside source of funding,” explains Lucy Tulugarjuk. All our content providers have agreed to defer their license fees so that the channel can be put on the air. Now that it’s launched, we need to find a way to ensure its long-term profitability. “