Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN)

Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN) is the world’s first Indigenous national broadcaster dedicated to Indigenous programming. First broadcast on 1 September 1999 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, APTN provides various content, including news, dramas and documentaries. Aimed at diverse audiences, APTN offers programming in Indigenous languages, English and French. It broadcasts into more than 11 million Canadian households and businesses, a significant portion of which are located in remote areas. APTN mainly generates revenue for operations through subscriber fees, advertising sales and partnerships.

Aboriginal Peoples Television Network

Creation of APTN

Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN) grew out of Television North Canada (TVNC), a network that featured daily news and coverage of issues concerning both Indigenous and northern populations in Canada. First airing in 1991, TVNC broadcasted from Yukon to northern Labrador.

In 1998, Abraham Tagalik, chairman of TVNC, put forward a bid for a new national Indigenous network that would change media stereotypes of Indigenous peoples. Tagalik’s bid received support from both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, including broadcasters and the Assembly of First Nations. One anonymous supporter said that APTN would be a “gift to the country, benefiting not only the Aboriginal people, but all other parts of the cultural mosaic that is Canada.” Tagalik later went on to become APTN’s chief operating officer.

In February 1999, the media regulator Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) granted APTN a national broadcast licence. While some opposed the APTN application, objecting to the CRTC’s mandating of APTN content on television, many more supported this requirement, and the decision held.

When APTN launched on 1 September 1999, Indigenous peoples in Canada were able to share media stories in their own languages from coast to coast to coast for the first time. The network’s mission is “sharing our Peoples’ journey, celebrating our cultures, inspiring our children and honouring the wisdom of our Elders.”

Operations

Based in Winnipeg, Manitoba, APTN broadcasts into more than 11 million Canadian households and businesses. A significant portion of its audience is made up of people living in remote areas of Canada. APTN operates bureaus in three northern centres: Yellowknife, Whitehorse and Iqaluit, as well as in other parts of the country: Halifax, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Thunder Bay, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg and Vancouver. As of May 2018, it has 127 full-time employees, the majority of whom are Indigenous.

With more than 80 per cent Canadian content, APTN also airs programs from New Zealand, Australia, Central and South America and the United States. Just over half of its programs are in English; the rest are in Indigenous languages (28 per cent) and French (16 per cent). APTN mainly generates revenue for operations through subscriber fees, advertising sales and partnerships. In 2017, the network signed an agreement worth $2 million with the federal Department of Heritage Canada for the production of Aboriginal Day Live.

Programming

APTN delivers news coverage of issues concerning Indigenous peoples in Canada, including missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, healthcare, living conditions both on- and off-reserve, the economy and land claims. (See also Social Conditions of Indigenous Peoples in Canada.)

APTN’s first original programming included Heartbeat of the Earth, a series about Cree, Dene and Métis cultures. The show was hosted by Marty Ballentyne, a Cree musician and general manager of Missinipi Broadcasting Corporation, a non-profit Indigenous radio station in Saskatchewan. Other early shows included Moccasin Flats, Buffalo Tracks, Ravens & Eagles, Eastern Tide, Spirit Creations, La Voix des Mechif and Seventh Generation.

Recent popular shows include the dramas Blackstone and Mohawk Girls, documentary food series Moosemeat & Marmalade, and Taken, a documentary series co-broadcast with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

To celebrate its tenth anniversary in 2009, APTN aired the 90-minute special Milestones, Memories and Moving Forward with actor Lorne Cardinal. APTN was an official broadcaster of the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, covering events in English, French and eight Indigenous languages.

In 2017, APTN broadcast Aboriginal Day Live, hosted in eight cities across Canada. This marked the country’s largest-ever celebration of National Indigenous Peoples Day, which honours Indigenous cultures, heritage and the summer solstice. The network also airs the Indspire Awards, previously known as National Aboriginal Achievement Awards.

Plans for Expansion

In 2016, APTN committed to launching All Nations Network, an independently managed sister-station in the United States. While this has not yet occurred, APTN continues to explore potential distribution outlets for its news and specialty programming in the United States.

APTN plans to launch First Peoples Radio Inc., a national service for Indigenous people, in Toronto and Ottawa in June 2018.

Recognition

In 2018, Canada’s Top 100 Employers — a national competition that awards leading employers in their respective industries — selected APTN as one of its top employers. The same year, APTN was also selected one of Canada’s top employers for young people and named one of Manitoba’s top employers.

Collectively, APTN journalists have won a number of local, national and international awards for their work. APTN actors, directors, producers and television programs have received recognition from the Canadian Screen Awards and similar awards organizations.

High-profile Indigenous APTN actors include Michelle Thrush (Blackstone, Moccasin Flats, Aboriginal Day Live), Jennifer Podemski (Moccasin Flats, Moose TV, Blackstone),Tantoo Cardinal, Tina Keeper, Glen Gould and Charles Bender (Mohawk Girls), and Adam Beach (Catch The Dream, Moose TV, Wapos Bay: The Series, Arbor Live).

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Further Reading

  • Doris Baltruschat, “Television and Canada’s Aboriginal Communities,” Canadian Journal of Communication Volume 29 Number 1 (2004).

  • Andrew Clark, “An Electronic Meeting Place,” Maclean’s (6 September 1999), pp. 60–61.

  • Lorna Roth, “The Aboriginal People’s Television Network (APTN) — Going National,” Something New in the Air: The Story of First Peoples Television Broadcasting in Canada (2005), and “Bypassing of Borders and Building of Bridges: Steps in the Construction of the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network in Canada,” International Communication Gazette Volume 62 Issue 3-4 (July 2000).

  • Sigurjón Baldur Hafsteinsson and Marian Bredin, ed., “Part 1: The Cultural History of Aboriginal Media in Canada” and “Part 2: APTN and Indigenous Screen Cultures,” Indigenous Screen Cultures in Canada (2010).

  • Jennifer David, Original People Original Television: The Launching of the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (2012).

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