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CKLB optimistic about GNWT deal amidst further cutbacks

Station may have to pay back part of federal funding while “operating on bare bones”

Despite further cutbacks at CKLB, the chairman of the Native Communications Society of the NWT says a probable funding commitment from the GWNT means things are nonetheless looking up for the long-suffering “Voice of Denendeh.”

According to J.C. Catholique, representatives for the GNWT’s Department of Education, Culture and Employment have offered to help NCS ”not only financially, they are willing to help us rebuild the station in terms of strategy, as well.”

Because the two parties met behind closed doors at the NCS annual general meeting, which took place in Yellowknife on Friday, we know very little about the plan currently being negotiated. Jacqueline MacKinnon, Manager of Public Affairs and Communication with ECE, wouldn’t comment on what was discussed, though she said a follow-up meeting was expected in the near future.

Catholique, for his part, says the NCS is hoping to secure five-year block funding from the GNWT to broadcast in the territories’ five Dene languages, as well as in French.

“Part of their mandate is to make languages more visible… Under this agreement, they’re helping us out and we help them out by broadcasting in the Dene languages,” he says.

As it stands, the NCS gets roughly $200,000 each year from the GNWT. It’s a number that Catholique would like to see greatly increased: “It would be great to get a million dollars, though we’re probably never going get that much.”

He added that CKLB needed to start making more of its own money through increased advertising and fundraising.

Not all rosy

While the potential GNWT funding agreement might sound promising for CKLB fans, the radio station is still facing challenges.

For one thing, there’s a good chance NCS will have to pay back a large amount of the $464,000 in federal funding they received in September as part of the Department of Canadian Heritage’s Northern Aboriginal Broadcasting program.

“We were supposed to be broadcasting, but because we didn’t have the manpower, we just couldn’t do it,” says Catholique. “There’s a certain amount we have to pay back, not too sure how much… We still need to figure out how much that is going to be and I hope it’s not a significant number.”

EDGE online attempted to reach Les Carpenter, NCS CEO, to get a better sense of this amount, but he did not return calls.

The station is also “operating on bare bones,” says Catholique. Last week, the three-man remnant of CKLB’s staff took a further hit, though it’s unclear whether people lost their jobs or if it was just a reduction in hours.

Travis Mercredi, a technician at the station, says he still has his job, “putting ads in the system and keeping the baseline operation going.” But his hours have been cut back.

Deneze Nakehk’o, CKLB’s Director of Radio, told EDGE online in a text that “current staffing levels being cut back (not sure about particular arrangements yet),” though he added he was, “not at liberty to speak about personnel issues.”

Catholique says the plan was to build the station back up slowly over the coming months and years as their financial situation stabilizes. “To be honest, we’re going to start off slowly… I don’t think we need to put five or 10 people in all at once… it should be a gradual build up of the organization.”

“We’ll start off with one language, and as we get more money put another one in there.”