NNSL Photo/Graphic

Canadian North

Home page text size buttonsbigger textsmall textText size Email this articleE-mail this page

Broadcaster battles for funding
Community radio station, feds, point fingers over missing program dollars

Danielle Sachs
Northern News Services
Published Friday, January 4, 2013

Bureaucratic haggling is bringing local community radio station CKLB to the brink of extinction, according to Les Carpenter, chief executive officer of the Native Communications Society of the NWT.

After receiving neither funding or a contribution agreement from the Department of Canadian Heritage for 2012, the station was forced to go off the air for five days at the end of December.

"We had intended to be off for a certain amount of time based on our staff being off and on vacation. So we decided to save some money where we could," said Carpenter.

"If you're an aboriginal organization you're kind of used to this," he said.

The organization receives about 77 per cent of its funding from the Department of Canadian Heritage and is currently surviving off the dregs of its 2011 budget, said Carpenter.

Ideally, the society's budget for should be at least $1.8 million, said Carpenter, but it is currently operating with just under $1 million. The funding that doesn't come from the Department of Canadian Heritage comes from the GNWT and some advertising, he said.

There are 22 employees working on either the television production or radio broadcasting side.

Without the funding for 2012, Carpenter said the organization relies on high-interest bank loans to get them through another day.

"It's a lot of games, but that's what we've come to expect," said Carpenter.

Without the necessary funding, aboriginal programming is on the brink of extinction, said Carpenter.

However, the Department of Canadian Heritage insists funding has not been cut to CKLB but has actually doubled in recent years.

"With this funding comes a responsibility to taxpayers," said Sebastien Gariepy, spokesperson for James Moore, the minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages.

"Just like every other organization that receives funding, the Native Communications Society, which runs CKLB, must comply with the funding agreement it signed and provide the Department of Canadian Heritage with the documents set out in that agreement," he said.

The required forms and information have been submitted to the Department of Canadian Heritage five or six times, said Carpenter.

"They said it's because of reports we haven't submitted, which is just bullshit," said Carpenter.

"They keep on asking for changes, then we re-send, and then they ask for the original way again. They're doing everything they can to frustrate us into giving up.

"The federal government, since they've put in a majority government, are looking to kill off aboriginal programming."

When CKLB was off the air, a lot of regular listeners called in or contacted the station, said Deneze Nakehk'o, director of radio.

"We're still here and we're not going away," said Nakehk'o, who is also part of the Idle No More movement.

"Our people come from an oral tradition and we're a radio station. The elders in the communities sit at home and listen to their radios. It's a way of filtering the information and participating in community events. Whenever we're off the air we get a lot of calls."

The issues raised over omnibus Bill C-45 that prompted Idle No More protests aren't strictly First Nation issues, Nakehk'o said.

"Water and land is important to everyone, is something everyone can get behind. The Northwest Territories is not really a name. For Ottawa it's just a general direction. We're out of sight and out of mind. Our funders are not getting the message on what it's like to operate in the North," said Nakehk'o.

CKLB provides programming to more than 30 communities across the NWT, Northern Alberta and three diamond mines in six languages - English, South Slavey, North Slavey, Gwich'in, Chipewyan and Tlicho.

E-mailWe welcome your opinions. Click here to e-mail a letter to the editor.