When Tom McLeod visited his home in Aklawik, NWT a few years ago, his niece wanted to watch a specific television program with him.
It was an episode of the Inuit TV show Tamapta in 1985, featuring his late grandfather.
So he streamed it, and raised his internet bill after a couple of views.
Once again, Macleod said, he was reminded of the constraints of Inuit hits when trying to watch culturally relevant TV shows in his own language.
“It’s just a microcosm of Inuit that wants to watch Inuit television but it’s inaccessible,” McLeod said in an interview.
,[That’s why] I think that [this content] Being available on broadcast is very important.”
Now, McLeod is serving as co-CEO of Inuit TV, which is distributing programming for Inuit throughout Alaska, the Inuvialuit Settlement Region, Nunavut, Nunavik, Nunatsiavut, and Greenland.
The network launched on 2 May on Shaw Direct’s channel 268. Later this summer, it will be available online on Taku.tv, as well as a smartphone app by the same name.
During the first week, Inuit TV had approximately 10 hours of programming each day, but would eventually move to 24 hours.
Most of the first week’s content originated in the Inuvialuit region, Greenland and Nunavut.
“It was really wonderful to see my language and my people represented on television,” McLeod said.
Nunavut programming included a play called Kiwiuk, as well as a documentary called Unipakkatut, which means “passion for the language” in Inuinaktun.
Inuit TV also aired a show about special places in the Western Arctic, called Umatiminin, and Iglaq, a children’s language learning show.
McLeod said his vision for the network is to give Inuit a place where they can create content in their own language. He said he wants people to be able to listen and learn from his dialects.
It includes programming in several Inuktitut languages, including Inuktitut, Inuinakatun, Inupiatun, Inuvialuktun, Inuitut and Kalalisut.
“I would really love to be a place where the Inuit can say, I want to make a game show, or I want to make a soap opera,” Macleod said.
There’s no process yet for the Inuit to take their ideas to the network, but McLeod and his team are working on it.
The network is also considering acquiring a channel on the Bell and Arctic Co-op cable networks to reach a larger audience.
“I’ve heard from some people that they feel disconnected from their culture, not being able to attend or have access to this kind of television service,” he said. “I hope we will be able to get to the full north very soon.
Lucy Tulugarjuk, executive director of Uvagut TV, said in a statement that the new channel is a “ringing endorsement that Canada needs to adopt and support the multiple platforms of Indigenous content.”
Uvagut TV broadcasts round the clock on Shaw Direct, Arctic Co-op Cable in Nunavut and regions in Nunavik and FCNQ. It was launched last year.
The two networks have a “really wonderful relationship,” McLeod said, adding that he went on Uvagut TV to promote the launch of his channel.
“Having multiple Inuit broadcasters can only be a good thing,” he said.
“I want the Inuit to have a place to build whatever they want to make. Having that space in 48 hours instead of 24 can go a long way in helping Inuit do what they want to do.
Central to Macleod’s dream of seeing more Inuit on TV comes from his uncle, who used to watch all the Inuit shows he could find on the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network, even if they were not in his language.
“He used to say, ‘I don’t always know what they’re saying, but when they laugh, I laugh and everyone has a good time,'” McLeod said.
“It was enough to see people like him on television that he was happy to be there.”
David Wayne, Local Journalism Initiative reporter, Nunatsiaq News