Inuit in the three territories will soon have another cable channel focused on their culture and language.
Inuit TV launches on May 2, on Shaw Channel 268. It will also air on Arctic Co-op's cable in the communities and be available on a computer, phone or tablet via the taku.tv app.
The idea for the all-Inuit channel was first sparked 16 years ago, said Lucy Qavavauq, Inuit TV's co-CEO and a former broadcaster with CBC North.
"It's a collection of our stories, our lives, and we're telling our stories for Inuit, for us," she said. "What we're also craving for is to be able to see the rest of our fellow circumpolar world."
The launch makes Inuit TV the second Inuit-focused channel to be launched in recent years.
Uvagut TV was launched in January 2021 and also broadcasts on Shaw cable and Arctic Co-operatives cable in the communities.
Vision for 24/7 programming
Qavavauq was hired as co-CEO of Inuit TV in February, along with Tom McLeod from Aklavik, N.W.T.
She says the ultimate vision would be to have programing for, by and about Inuit 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
But Monday's launch won't be that ambitious.
"We are going to do a few hours of programming with just kind of an idea of what Inuit TV will look like. So there's different beautiful, beautiful images and videos," she said.
"And then after the launch, we're going to have to set a more scheduled time that is consistent throughout the territories."
Qavavauq said they're hoping to have a deal with Bell in May that will also make their content available across Canada.
They've already got a lot of content from Alaska and from the Inuvialuit Communications Society, she said. They're working on getting content from Nunavut, Nunavik and Greeland.
"We are pulling together a lot of content and we're still looking for a lot more," Quavavauq said. "We know there are a lot of filmmakers and very talented people out there."
Qavavauq says some programming will be in English, in recognition that some Inuit do not speak Inuktitut.
She said the channel has been endorsed as the regional educational channel by the Nunavut Government.
In a statement, Uvagut TV's executive director Lucy Tulugarjuk celebrated the launch of the new channel, calling it "a ringing endorsement that Canada needs to embrace and support multiple platforms of Indigenous content."
"The interest and the creativity are there," the statement reads, "and with every new venue, whether it be a new Indigenous TV station or a new Indigenous streaming service, we have the audiences for it all."
Qavavauq says they've been talking with Uvagut TV about avoiding overlap in scheduling.
"They're also been very supportive in trying to lend as 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 the Inuit Broadcasting Corp. about using some of the non-profit's content and programming
Qavavauq says funding from Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. has helped them move Inuit TV to move from a volunteer organisation to hiring staff. The funding was announced on Nunavut day in 2020 — $2.4 million over a three-year period.
"Television viewing, even for very small children, is considered one of many ways to support literacy development," a joint news release said at the time. "Currently, there is a lack of Inuktut programming on Nunavut television to balance the daily influence of Western culture and language."