A new radio station coming to Ottawa is promising to offer Indigenous programming in everything from music to talk shows to languages.
This week, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission announced it granted licences to five new Indigenous radio stations in Ottawa, Toronto, Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver.
First Peoples Radio Inc., a non-profit corporation created by the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network, will operate the stations in Ottawa and Toronto.
"We're now being offered the opportunity to get in the world of radio, and reach our communities in a whole new and different way than we have up to now.," said APTN CEO Jean La Rose.
"We've been in television now for 18 years. It'll give us the opportunity to now go into radio and have a totally different, more community-driven voice in these two markets."
5 licences up for grabs
APTN originally applied for the licences in all five cities to take over radio stations left behind by the now-defunct Aboriginal Voices Radio network, which had its licences revoked by the CRTC in June 2015.
But Yukon-based Northern Native Broadcasting got the Vancouver licence, while the Aboriginal Multi-Media Society of Alberta picked up Calgary and Edmonton.
'It's important for the urban Indigenous stations to operate well, because over 50 per cent of the Indigenous population live in urban centres.' - Andrew Cardozo, CRTC commissioner
La Rose called the CRTC announcement "a mixture of a bit of disappointment, but also a great deal of satisfaction," but said FPR is forging ahead with a programming plan specific for Ottawa and Toronto that includes music, current affairs, local and national news, and Indigenous languages spoken by communities in an around each city, including Algonquin and Inuktitut.
The plan is to cater directly to Indigenous listeners with "radio offerings that speak to them in their urban reality," according to La Rose.
FPR beat out northern Ontario's Wawatay Communications Society for the Ottawa and Toronto bids, which Wawatay CEO John Gagnon called a disappointment.
"It seemed to be that we put together a plan that was a high standard for our youth and our people and our communities of Ontario, in regards to language broadcasting," said Gagnon, in Ottawa for a national Indigenous broadcasting conference at the University of Ottawa.
"Being that Wawatay had 40 years experience, we thought that would be a no-brainer for us to take those markets," he added, saying their proposal had more of a focus on broadcasting in Indigenous languages.
"It was a platform for us to introduce ourselves to mainstream Canada."
'Broadcasting that reflects them'
La Rose said collaborating with other broadcasters like Wawatay once FPR is up and running is a possibility, and that's a stretegy former CRTC commissioner Andrew Cardozo believes is essential as these new stations ender the Canadian fold.
"They will survive best if they share some of their programming," said Cardozo, now the president of the Pearson Centre for Progressive Policy.
Still, Cardozo said he's encouraged by the new licences, and is eager to hear these new Indigenous radio stations thrive in these five cities.
"It's important for the urban Indigenous stations to operate well, because over 50 per cent of the Indigenous population live in urban centres," said Cardozo.
"So they need to have broadcasting that reflects them. But the rest of society needs to see and hear broadcasting that reflects Indigenous people."
FPR plans to be broadcasting in Ottawa in eight to 10 months.