Inuit in the three territories will soon have another cable channel focusing on their culture and language.
Inuit TV launches May 2 on Shaw Channel 268. It will also air on Arctic Co-op cable in communities and will be available on a computer, phone or tablet through the taku.tv app.
The idea for the all-Inuit channel was born 16 years ago, said Lucy Qavavauq, co-CEO of Inuit TV and former CBC North host.
“It’s a collection of our stories, our lives, and we tell our stories for the Inuit, for us,” she said. “What we also want is to be able to see the rest of our circumpolar world.”
This launch makes Inuit TV the second Inuit-focused channel to launch in recent years.
Uvagut TV launched in January 2021 and also broadcasts on Shaw Cable and Arctic Co-operatives Cable in communities.
Vision for 24/7 programming
Qavavauq was hired as co-CEO of Inuit TV in February, along with Tom McLeod of Aklavik, NWT
She says the ultimate vision would be to have programming for, by and about Inuit 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
But Monday’s launch won’t be quite as ambitious.
“We’re going to do a few hours of programming with just an idea of what Inuit TV will look like. So there are different beautiful, beautiful pictures and videos,” she said.
“And then after launch, we’re going to have to set a more scheduled time that’s consistent across all territories.”
Qavavauq said he hopes to strike a deal with Bell in May that will also make its content available across Canada.
They already have a lot of content from Alaska and the Inuvialuit Communications Society, she said. They are working on getting content from Nunavut, Nunavik and Greenland.
“We’re gathering a lot of content and always looking for a lot more,” Qavavauq said. “We know there are a lot of very talented filmmakers and people.”
Qavavauq says some programming will be in English, acknowledging that some Inuit do not speak Inuktitut.
She said the channel has been approved as a regional educational channel by the Government of Nunavut.
In a statement, Uvagut TV Executive Director Lucy Tulugarjuk celebrated the launch of the new channel, calling it “resounding support that Canada needs to embrace and support multiple Indigenous content platforms.”
“The interest and the creativity are there,” the statement read, “and with every new venue, whether it’s a new Indigenous television station or a new Indigenous streaming service , we have the audience for everything.”
Qavavauq says they have spoken with Uvagut TV to avoid overlaps in programming.
“They’ve also been very supportive in trying to lend so much expertise so far because they’re ahead of us in this wonderful thing that we’re doing,” Qavavauq said.
Inuit TV is still negotiating with Inuit Broadcasting Corp. on use of some of the nonprofit’s content and programming
Qavavauq says funding from Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. helped them grow Inuit TV from a volunteer organization to a hired staff. The funding was announced on Nunavut Day 2020 — $2.4 million over three years.
“Watching television, even for very young children, is considered one of many ways to support literacy development,” a joint press release said at the time. “Currently, there is a lack of Inuktut programming on Nunavut television to balance the everyday influence of Western culture and language.”