Wawatay Native Communications Society restructures, saves radio network
40-year-old First Nations' media organization risked closure in 2014
The operations manager at Wawatay Native Communications Society says its television production and newspaper remain suspended but the radio service will continue while financial troubles are being resolved.
The independent media organization has a mandate to preserve, promote and enhance the languages and cultures of the Nishnawbe Aski Nation. It opened in 1974 but has recently accrued an increasing amount of debt and closed its Thunder Bay office late last year.
"Basically it appears it was a lack of capacity within the administration as the financial outlook became somewhat grim," said operations manager John Gagnon, who was hired in November.
"As you are aware, WNCS [Wawatay Native Communications Society] was in a damaged situation, and recovery from this state of affairs has begun to ensure our essential service continues for the people in our communities," Wawatay board chair Mike Metatawabin wrote in a president's report dated January 12.
The report said the organization had a deficit in excess of $400,000.
'Servants of the people'
Gagon said the federal funding for the radio service, WRN, has been restored and broadcasting continues with familiar voices heard from the Sioux Lookout and Timmins offices.
The Thunder Bay office was closed in November when publication of the newspaper, Wawatay News, was suspended.
Gagnon said there are plans to revive the news service online and television production could resume in the future. He said the hard work of clearing up Wawatay's finances and its reputation is well worth the effort.
"We're servants of the people," Gagnon said. "This is the people's radio station, the people's news and it's imperative for the preservation of the language, of Cree,Ojibway and Oji-Cree."
Metatawabin is optimistic about what the future holds for the 40-year-old organization.
"Although things may appear depressing, in all actuality we are in a good place to rebuild the agency’s corporate brand and deliverable services," he wrote in the report.
Gagnon said he hopes to be able to eventually hire back many of the staff who were affected by layoffs in the fall.