Covering Nunavut
Funding the mother tongue

Michele LeTourneau
Northern News Services

NNSL (Mar 01/99) - As I've recently discovered, the world of television, behind the screens, is a complex and confusing network of specialized knowledge and specialized language. It's crazy really, for the uninitiated -- such things as windows, breakaways, versioning and protocol events.

In fact, the term "protocol event" has been causing quite the mess.

This week, Inuit Tapirisat of Canada released the information that DIAND was allocating $1.4 million for televised coverage of Nunavut Day, and that the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation was awarded the entire amount for French and English national coverage, with Inuktitut coverage not yet in place.

"First of all, DIAND has not put any money towards French and English TV or radio programming, OK?" responded Alison Mortimer, senior advisor in the Nunavut Secretariat.

"The CBC will be covering the Nunavut inaugural ceremonies, specifically the protocol event, the same as any other news agency in Canada, and they won't be getting any funding from DIAND to do so."

According to Mortimer, the CBC was contracted to design, stage and mount the event, not cover it. "At this point they have received no money from us. I think that the figure that you may have there was a budgetary figure that at one time was discussed, but as I say, those discussions are still in play and I can't comment on that," said Mortimer.

Mortimer went on to explain that Inuktitut broadcasting would be provided as part of CBC coverage under CBC North, and, as well, that the Inuit Broadcasting Corporation would be covering the protocol event.

"There's some irony here that you don't want to miss," said Debbie Brisebois, executive director of IBC. "Our annual funding is actually $1.3 million... This contract that was given to CBC for April 1 -- that is for what they're calling coverage of the protocol ceremony -- at noon on April 1, which is one hour a half long."

I went to Marie Wilson, regional director at CBC North, for an explanation of TV terminology, specifically, the difference between "covering an event" and "design-staging a protocol event."

"They (CBC) have been hired to mount and stage the protocol event," said Wilson. "The model that's used is: on Canada Day every year there's a great big event on Parliament Hill. And that event is not CBC's event. It's the government of Canada's. But they want to create a great big event, which, through the national public broadcaster, they want everybody in Canada to be able to participate in."

"And then separate from that, every broadcaster in the country, if they wanted to, will be able to benefit from that contract to carry whatever amount of coverage, all, some, or none of that. Including their own breakaways, or their own host commentator, or separate windows into their regions, or different language versions, or whatever they felt like doing."

Under the contract, added Wilson, the CBC also has to provide the lines and the hook-ups and the feeds that will make that event available to whatever broadcaster wants it in the world, including the CBC and CBC North.

"I think the difficulty is that both DIAND and IBC don't have the experience of being a host broadcaster, they don't have the experience of having been involved in a contract of this nature. Nor by the way, does CBC North. That's not the kind of complex thing that we do. We don't have expertise in that, nor do we have first-hand experience." But the fact remains that in all this mire, the IBC does not yet have the funding it needs to cover Nunavut Day celebrations.

"In a way it's kind of the way we always end up doing things -- piecemeal, you know? We get a bit here, a bit there, a bit here, a bit there. And somewhere in the long run we end up with half of what we really need and find a way to do it," said Brisebois.

Meanwhile, with such a slow response from federal funding sources, IBC has gained the expressed support of Inuit sources, Nunasi Corporation, Nunavut Tunngavit Incorporated, and the government of the Northwest Territories.

Everybody seems to want IBC's Inuktitut coverage. And when I last heard, negotiations were taking place between DIAND and IBC for an undisclosed sum. IBC's proposal had a budget of $500,000 for six to eight hours of Inuktitut coverage to be broadcast in the North.

Thirty days and counting.