The James Bay Cree Communications Society (JBCCS) recently completed its 23rd Annual General Assembly in Ouje-Bougoumou. One of the items discussed was the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation – Northern Quebec Services (CBC) and its relation with the society.
JBCCS was incorporated in 1981 and its mandate was to provide communications services to the Crees of Eeyou Istchee. The first time it went on the air in Eeyou Istchee was in June of 1986 through the CBC. At that time, we had to prerecord our programs and send them via satellite to CBC in Montreal. CBC would then broadcast our programs through its Northern Quebec Services.
In 1998, the Grand Council of the Crees of Eeyou Istchee signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Quebec. JBCCS received $525,000 for capital projects from this agreement. With this new funding, JBCCS was able to build its own network using telephone lines and also provide transmitters to some communities that did not have their own transmitters. JBCCS and local community radio were also able to transmit their programming throughout Eeyou Istchee with the new network. The network was officially opened with celebrations in August 2001 in Chisasibi.
During the 1980s, CBC installed TV and radio transmitters in northern communities with populations of 500 or more with the help of a federal government program. Communities, which included some Cree communities, had to incorporate communications committees in order to benefit from this federal program. Also, once incorporated, these groups were able to use the CBC transmitters to broadcast locally according to their schedules. This is the reason why some communities have CBC transmitters in their communities. The communities that do not have any CBC transmitters cannot benefit from this federal program since it no longer exists.
Since the implementation of the JBCCS network, local community radio stations
have incorporated their schedules to include CBC programs in their daily broadcast. Also, all local radio stations including JBCCS have acquired unrestricted Native Type A broadcasting licenses. Recently, JBCCS board of directors decided and informed the CBC that they would no longer carry their broadcasts in their network, the main reason being the restrictions on the CBC’s license and the CBC broadcasts during prime time. JBCCS has met with CBC management on these issues and were awaiting answers. Questions that we raised were never answered.
We were therefore very surprised at the reaction of the CBC when we informed them that we would no longer carry their broadcasts on our network. Listeners in Eeyou Istchee are aware that JBCCS started broadcasting its service during prime time hours when CBC used to be heard. It is regretful that we could not come to an agreement with the CBC regarding this matter. However, we are confident that we can provide a better service to the Cree communities.
The CBC has been very unprofessional, even suggesting that the local radio stations switch its broadcast during JBCCS broadcast times. Some communities are even considering purchasing new transmitters for the CBC. This is unacceptable since the CBC has a budget in the millions of dollars through the federal government. If CBC Northern Quebec Services really wants to be in all the communities, why doesn’t purchase its own equipment?
JBCCS has been patient and tolerant on this issue. We are grateful for the assistance the CBC has provided to JBCCS and the local community radio stations in the past. However, it should be more professional in its actions and provide its own equipment in the communities it cannot be heard. JBCCS is pleased of its progress and the communications services it can provide to the Cree Nation are just beginning. Remember, it is our network.
By Raymond Menarick, President of James Bay Cree Communications Society