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Ottawa’s funding delay sacks local TV crew

Six people have lost their jobs at Northern Native Broadcasting Yukon because Heritage Canada has failed to deliver its funding on time.

Six people have lost their jobs at Northern Native Broadcasting Yukon because Heritage Canada has failed to deliver its funding on time.

Ottawa funds the non profit broadcaster on a yearly basis, but the money didn’t come in time for the new fiscal year, said Stanley James, chair of NNBY’s board of directors.

That means the six-person television division has been eliminated, he said.

The broadcaster still doesn’t know if the funding is coming.

“We’re being put into a squeeze,” said James in an interview.

“We need to know if we’re going to be funded or not so we can adjust.”

The six employees are management, camera operators and other technical crew.

They got pink slips in mid-April, said James.

Whitehorse-based NNBY is co-owned by the 14 Yukon First Nations. It was founded in 1984.

It broadcasts radio CHON-FM to most Yukon communities and several in northern B.C.

CHON-FM is unaffected by the funding delay.

While radio advertising brings in some revenue, most of the broadcaster’s budget comes from the government grant.

NNBY receives $1,005,679 annually from Canadian Heritage through the northern native broadcast access program.

“We don’t get the dollars we should be getting for upgrades or raises,” said James.

The amount hasn’t changed since 1984.

The Yukon government should pressure Heritage Canada to adequately fund NNBY in a timely manner, said Yukon Party MLA Steve Nordick.

He introduced a motion asking the government to urge Ottawa to provide the funding so the broadcaster could maintain its staff.

“It’s a quality service that’s for all Yukoners and we want to remind the federal government it’s their obligation to provide funding,” said Nordick in an interview.

Because the broadcaster is part of Ottawa’s northern cultural mandate, the territory shouldn’t have to step with money, he added.

“It’s obvious the television programming is important to the Yukon — most of the territory is concerned,” said Nordick.

Liberal MLA Darius Elias also introduced a motion calling on the government to lobby Ottawa to give NNBY regular core funding.

James hasn’t recently heard from Heritage Canada about when funding might arrive.

They’ve sending a lot of letters asking a lot of questions, he said.

It’s reminiscent of a spending review Heritage Canada conducted in 2006 that left the broadcaster with a similar shortfall.

That April, the broadcaster started pressuring Heritage Canada to answer why the funding hadn’t arrived.

The broadcaster received its money in August.

The Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission has identified aboriginal broadcasting for special consideration in programming.

There should be more support for culturally specific broadcasters, said James.

NNBY plans to re-establish its television division in the early fall, and the laid-off employees may be hired back if they’re around, said James.

Heritage Canada could not comment before press time.