In 1974, the federal government introduced satellite television to the North to bring CBC TV to isolated regions. Inuit leaders were worried that the resulting content would undermine traditional social structures. They sought to adapt television technology to help protect their culture and Inuktitut language.
Funded by the federal government, the Inuit Tapirisat of Canada (now Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami), started two satellite broadcasting experiments in the late 1970s. The first was the eight-month Inukshuk Project. It consisted of installing basic production facilities in six northern communities and training Inuit employees in television production. The Inukshuk Project was a hit. Inuktitut-language television programs started broadcasting via satellite from Iqaluit in 1980. A second project, Naalakvik II, offered videoconferencing and broadcasting to five Inuit communities in Nunavik (Northern Quebec). It was also successful.
Creation of IBC
Inuit Broadcasting Corporation (IBC) grew from this momentum. It formed in 1981 when the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) granted a network television license to Inuit Tapirisat. IBC aired its first program, a 90-minute special introducing the new network, on 11 January 1982.
By the end of that year, IBC proposed a dedicated northern television channel. A consortium formed including six Indigenous broadcasters, the Northwest Territories and Yukon governments, the National Aboriginal Communications Society and the CBC Northern Service (now CBC North). After much discussion, a new network was created — Television Northern Canada (TVNC). First broadcast in 1991, TVNC featured daily news and coverage of issues concerning Indigenous and northern populations in Canada. That same year, IBC gave up its broadcast licence to TVNC, which agreed to broadcast IBC and other content in northern Canada.
In 1997, TVNC applied for a licence to broadcast in the entire country and be a part of basic cable packages. This created the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN), which first aired on 1 September 1999. IBC continues to produce content that is broadcast on APTN.
IBC operates an administrative and production office in Ottawa, Ontario. It also has two production centres in Nunavut: one in Iqaluit and another in Rankin Inlet. The Nunavut Media Arts Centre in Iqaluit opened in December 2015. It houses the IBC offices and the Inuit Film and Video Archive. The archive — funded by the federal government, Nunavut government and several Inuit organizations and businesses — contains footage that depicts important events in Inuit history, from the days of traditional living to the emergence of the internet.
Partially funded by the Department of Canadian Heritage, IBC receives revenue from Nunavut government programs, license fees, production funds, program sales and fundraising. The majority of IBC employees in Nunavut are Inuit.
IBC has a subsidiary company, Inuit Communications Systems Ltd. (ICSL). Incorporated in 1983, ICSL provides video services for the Nunavut Legislative Assembly and produces commercial video for government, Inuit organizations and the private sector. It also provides radio and webcasting services.
APTN broadcasts IBC content, as does IsumaTV — a collaborative multimedia platform for Indigenous media organizations and broadcasts. IsumaTV developed out of Igloolik Isuma Productions, created in 1990 by former IBC employees Pauloosie Qulitalik, Paul Apak Angilirk, Zacharias Kunuk and Norman Cohn. Though Igloolik Isuma Productions went bankrupt in 2011, IsumaTV continues to create and distribute new content.
In association with the National Film Board (NFB), IBC announced the launch of the Nunavut Animation Lab in November 2006. Inuit artists received training in computer animation, media, communication, management and television production. (See also The Craft of Motion Picture Making.) Animated short films produced by the lab include Ame Siqiniq Papatsie’s Qalupalik (2008), Alethea Arnaquq-Baril's Lumaajuuq (2010) and Gyu Oh’s I Am But A Little Woman (2010).
IBC has co-produced live shows with broadcaster NHK Japan and attended children’s programming conferences in Britain. It has sold episodes of Takuginai (a children’s show) to a broadcaster in Greenland and contributed to a television news-magazine show about Indigenous issues in partnership with the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation.
With its programming, IBC seeks to preserve the culture and language of more than 25,000 Inuit in Inuit Nunangat (the Inuit homeland in Canada). IBC programming is available online or through broadcasting services such as APTN and IsumaTV. IBC content is also available through the NFB and Alexander Street, a Virginia-based media publisher.
Recent IBC programming includes Qanuq Isumavit? (What Do You Think?), a discussion show that covers local and global issues from suicide prevention to climate change; the popular children’s show Takuginai (Look Here) with puppet character Johnny the lemming; Pituqait (Old Stuff) that discusses clips from IBC’s archives; and Illinniq (Learning), which examines how sociopolitical developments have shaped the lives of Inuit.
A well-known past show is Niqitsiat (Healthy Food), a cooking show hosted by cook Rebecca Veevee from 2009 to 2018. The comedy show, Qanurli? (What’s Next?), about two men running a network from an isolated region, was originally produced by IBC but is now produced by an independent company and broadcast on APTN.
Through Igloolik Isuma Productions, former IBC employees Pauloosie Qulitalik, Paul Apak Angilirk, Zacharias Kunuk and Norman Cohn made ground-breaking Inuit films such as Atanarjuat (The Fast Runner) (2001). Atanarjuat became the first Canadian film to win the prestigious Camera d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. It also won five Genie Awards including Best Motion Picture and 19 major international awards. It was voted the best Canadian film ever made in a poll conducted by the Toronto International Film Festival in 2015. (See also Top 10 Canadian Films of All Time.)
Leetia Ineak, an Inuk puppeteer, writer, director and producer of children’s television for IBC, was awarded an Indspire award in 2000. Her most well-known project — Takuginai — received the Special Recognition Award from the Alliance for Children and Television in 1996. Rebecca Veevee, former host of Niqitsiat, received the Governor General’s Meritorious Service Medal in 2015 for her work promoting traditional Inuit foods. Niqitsiat received recognition for combating diseases related to poor nutrition in northern communities.
In 2011, Nunavut Animation Lab’s Alethea Arnaquq-Baril won Best Canadian Short Drama for the digital animation short Lumaajuuq at the imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival.