...“Media and Reconciliation” starts with a brief description of the role the CBC has played in promoting aboriginal language and culture. It could be meta-summarized in one word: “Feh.” The Broadcasting Act requires the Corporation to “create programming that reflects the aboriginal cultures of Canada” — but only, the Act adds, “as resources become available for the purpose.” The result, combined with the relative stagnation of the CBC’s overall budget during the Chrétien-Martin-Harper years, has been what the report calls “a minimum level” of service. The Corporation creates little aboriginal-specific programming and directly employs few aboriginal Canadians.
There’s good news, though! We have an independent aboriginal-run public broadcast apparatus — the Aboriginal People’s Television Network. Which was basically founded to make up for the failure of the CBC to meet its half-hearted afterthought of an aboriginal mandate.
We all know that APTN has a weird business model in which it monetizes its legally mandated cable carriage by airing a certain amount of dubiously “aboriginal” programming. (Airing Friday night: direct from Hollywood, Kevin Reynolds’ Rapa Nui.) This approach gives APTN a budget that is still a minuscule fraction of the CBC’s. But that money has been used to create viable career paths for aboriginal creatives, technicians, and producers; to make programming in threatened aboriginal languages; and to fund aboriginal news reporting, documentaries, and shows for children and youth. Seventy five per cent of APTN’s employees are aboriginal.
...The hope is that the Corporation, out of the goodness of its thrumming white heart, will use the cash to create more opportunities for aboriginal broadcasters. Meanwhile, APTN gets a cheerful pat on the back: it is urged to continue providing “leadership” in making First Nations television, with no mention of any possible adjustment to its budget.
Am I crazy, or does this seem like an example of the settler-vs.-colonized mentality that facilitated the creation of the residential schools in the first place? For some months before the TRC report came out, I had already been asking myself a question: why the hell don’t we just swap APTN’s budget with the CBC’s?...