Providing a space to tackle tough conversation topics on the air is a source of pride for Kevin Calixte.
Host of the The Keke Show, a televised talk-show that features panel discussions on social issues relevant to Black communities, Calixte says the program allows people to share their realities with the masses.
"[It's an] agree-to-disagree kind of vibe. We take the topics that are really difficult — taboo — and we decide to talk about it, but always in a respectful way," he said.
Subject matter such as growing up with a toxic parent, gun violence among Montreal youth and seeking therapy as a Black man have all been addressed on the weekly show, which airs on Natyf TV, a French-language channel focused on diversity.
Now, thanks to the channel's shiny new licence, Calixte will be able to reach an audience bigger than he ever imagined back in 2017, when he first began broadcasting his show live on Facebook.
Kevin Calixte, host of The Keke Show, is one of the biggest content creators for Natyf TV. He says the channel's new licence will allow creators to bring new talent to Quebec audiences. (JRDN Photography/The Keke Show )
Natyf TV, an independent TV station headquartered in Montreal, was recently approved as a must-carry channel in basic TV packages by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC).
That means sometime this fall, it will be available on the basic subscriber service of all cable companies and other TV service providers in Quebec. Bell subscribers already have access to the channel.
"It's a game changer," said Calixte, noting the move will increase the show's distribution from 1,000 subscribers to more than two million.
"We're going to be able to have the chance to produce and create at the same level as the other big players," he said.
"We're going to be able to show new faces, new talent."
Diversity behind the camera
Since its inception in 2018, Natyf TV has aired content created by — and for — people from diverse communities.
But Jean-Yves Roux, the channel's general manager, says it's been tough to stay afloat the past five years.
"Every year, we have to ask ourselves, 'OK, are we gonna survive for the next year?'" he said.
The new licence, which Roux has been fighting to get since 2020, will change that. He says the royalties will amount to roughly $3 million per year — enough to make sure staff is paid enough to invest in more local content and to hire more people from racialized communities.
Roux says the doors are now officially open for Canadian content from diverse producers from Quebec or French-speaking producers from any other province.
"That's one of the main reasons [for] a new player like Natyf TV: to be there for those racialized producers," he said.
"There's a lot of talent in our communities, so we need to create opportunities, because it's the lack of opportunities for producers that is causing the lack of new content."
Nancy Dubuisson, the program director for Natyf TV, says the team is prioritizing orginal content from local producers this year. (Paula Dayan-Perez/CBC)
Roux says diversity behind the camera is as important, if not more important, than on the screen.
"It's not just a matter of, 'oh, we're gonna put one Black person in this TV show, I'm gonna put one Hispanic guy in this TV show,'" Roux said.
He says it's also a matter of storytelling — and who is telling those stories.
"This is where the fight is now in this industry. It's to get more people of colour behind the camera, as directors, as writers, as script editors," he said.
Nancy Dubuisson, the program director for Natyf TV, says the channel has a lot of content coming down the pipeline this fall, but especially next year.
A documentary that addresses stereotypes of Black women, another that speaks to the families of professional mixed martial arts fighters and other "big surprises" are part of the upcoming programming.
This year, Dubuisson says, the team is prioritizing original content from local producers.
Ronald Félix, business developer for Natyf TV, demonstrates the channel's new app, which will be available to stream content next year. (Paula Dayan-Perez/CBC)
The team is also launching a new app, where people can stream the channel's content. It will be available in the new year.
Dubuisson says diverse audiences will reap the benefits of what's to come.
"They're going to have stories that they can rely on," she said.