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An AM&E Special Lecture-Jean La Rose

Updated: May 3, 2023

By Sophia Katzell, Content Development Research Assistant

In the Winter semester our ARTM 6301- Issues in Arts and Cultural Management course had the privilege of attending an AM&E special public lecture featuring Jean La Rose of the APTN, the world’s first Indigenous television service.

This network

was borne out of a CRTC commission to create television for the North. Originally broadcast from Iqaluit, Yellowknife, and White Horse, this was the first time Indigenous peoples of the North saw themselves represented on television. Indigeneity exists at the core of this company- as of 2015, APTN has fully incorporated Indigenous forms of governance into their business model. Their governance board is made up entirely of Indigenous community members, ensuring Indigenous voices are heard when making decisions about the future of the network.

Over its lifetime APTN has consistently tried to push the limits of Indigenous storytelling. They were one of the first HD channels in Canada, ensuring that the shows they were bringing to their audiences were as high a quality as possible. They also pushed to air sought after content such as the Olympics, and broadcasted gold metal events with 14 to 16 hours of content daily. Having Ojibwe elders commentate events such as figure skating allowed Indigenous communities to hear sports commentary in their native tongue for the first time!

APTN programming institutionalized an Indigenous point-of-view, and took major strides in allowing Indigenous people to tell the story of where they came from and where they are today. The Canada Media Fund requires producers to have prior credits in order to receive funding, which was a significant barrier to access for Indigenous producers looking to break into the industry. Industry alliances between the APTN and non-Indigenous producers helped to lower these barriers by giving Indigenous producers a starting point for their careers.

Nowadays, the APTN stands at a crossroads. Changes to the Broadcasting Act removes factors that the APTN relied on for its survival. This includes the mandatory 35 cent-per-user charge levied against cable companies that formed a significant portion of APTN’s revenue. They have innovated in order to stay up-to-date with the latest consumer trends, and their online streaming platform Lumi is now available for users to receive content online. This has had some success, but there is still work to be done in moving consumers away from the “binge and unsubscribe” model of consumption.

All of us at AM&E are so grateful to have had the opportunity to listen to La Rose and gain some insight from his many years of success working for APTN. There were so many valuable lessons to be taken away from the lecture, most significantly that “It’s all about the story. It’s all about connections” (La Rose 2023).

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