Tom McLeod, an Inuvialuk and Gwich'in storyteller from Aklavik, N.W.T., and Inuit TV co-CEO Lucy Qavavauq, are ready to bring more Inuktut and Inuit-centric television programming into people's homes.
"Inuit TV network is really important because it's a space for Inuit to see themselves on television. It's a space to hear our languages … where Inuit can create whatever content we want," said McLeod.
McLeod is a filmmaker who has worked as a radio personality, produced TV for the Inuvialuit Communications Society, edited the Inuktitut Magazine.
He also attended the Ontario College of Art and Design University in Toronto, and was a board member for APTN and curator for the imagineNATIVE film festival.
While there are spaces for Inuit content on channels like APTN, Inuit TV will be a dedicated space.
"It is really sorely needed," McLeod said.
He will work alongside Qavavauq, who is originally from Arctic Bay, Nunavut, and has lived in Iqaluit for 20 years. She has been a radio host, producer, Inuktitut news TV host and reporter, and is passionate about Inuktut.
Inuit TV Network launched on May 2 on Shaw Direct channel 268 and will be available on Bell TV in the near future and on the taku.tv mobile app.
In a news release, Inuit TV President Alethea Arnaquq-Baril said the launch of the service has been 16 years in the making.
"We hope to see lots more Inuit try filmmaking, and that we will see more and more communities producing content for our channel," said Arnaquq-Baril.
The app allows users to download content to their mobile devices once and watch it repeatedly and offline, the network said.
Inuit TV is a network focused on Inuit and Inuktut content. It's funded by Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. and the Indigenous Screen Office.
Making TV programming accessible
McLeod is also the author of The Delta is My Home, a children's book focused on northern life.
Growing up, he said, he was "privileged" to see representation of Inuvialuit and Gwich'in on television.
"That's something I would definitely want for all future generations of Inuit and also other Indigenous children growing up," said McLeod.
Access is a challenge in communities with lower bandwith, he said.
"When you're in the North and you're paying per [gigabyte] for Internet, having a place where you can watch something over broadcast is a lot easier and can be a lot cheaper, as well."
Since February, McLeod and Qavavauq have been working on acquiring talent, but they already have excellent Inuktut programming like Anaana's Tent and eastern Arctic children's language learning content.
As a co-CEO, McLeod has to go through a lot of paperwork and meetings, but he also gets to work with Qavavauq to find content, help producers, and find money to turn those ideas into reality.