Missinipi Broadcasting Corporation’s beginnings go back to the early 1980’s. Prior to that, the north had received merely token attention in the area of communications. A Government radio service broadcast out of Prince Albert, “Northern News”, addressed issues and matters of interest for fisherman and trappers in the north. However, the broadcasts were short and plagued by poor reception. Most communities were more familiar with the commercial stations from the south whose signals periodically skipped into the north, especially at night.
In the late 1970’s, CBC began broadcast of a program, “Keewatin Radio”, which contained more northern content and was aided by better reception due to the installation of low power relay transmitters in the area. The stories, though pertinent to the northern populace, were largely in English, and still originated from a southern broadcast location. The service was provided one hour a day, five days a week, and consisted of short news items, with the rest of the time filled by music.
It wasn’t until 1983 that the north would have a chance to create its’ own programming. At that time, the federal Government introduced the Northern Native Broadcast Access Program (NNBAP), funded and supported by the Secretary of State. The program’s aim was to fulfill a long-standing obligation to enhance, protect and preserve aboriginal languages while at the same time allowing indigenous peoples to control their own communications. In March of 1984 a full time coordinating committee was formed and a coordinator was hired. A survey was conducted of the residents of northern Saskatchewan at that time. The results of a questionnaire that was directed to northern residents gave the organizers of native broadcasting an accurate idea of what aboriginal people wanted to hear on radio. Following the survey things began to move very fast. The first Board of Directors for Missinipi Broadcasting Corporation was elected in 1984 with a headquarters established in La Ronge, and a training program was implemented.”
With the basic operating structure in place, and an effort underway to develop the skills needed to provide quality programming, the corporation was on its’ way. However, it took time and a consistent effort to build a sense of trust in the communities among aboriginal leaders and the public. It was only through hard work, dedication and a strong commitment from the staff and board members that MBC became the trusted conduit of information that it is today.
That trust has been fostered by MBC’s progressive approach to its’ development in all areas. While initially most broadcasts were in English, a strong focus was placed on use of the aboriginal languages. Today, MBC provides ten hours of Cree languages and ten hours of Dene languages programming per week, and strives to integrate the languages into everything from special programs, to contests and more.
Where at first MBC was dependent on Secretary of State funding and the use of CBC’s transmitters in carrying its’ programming, MBC is now at least functionally self-sufficient, generating its’ own revenue through bingos and advertising, with a recently implemented digital network program delivery system of its’ own design.
While its’ original list of communities virtually mirrored CBC’s service area, today MBC is heard in well over 70 communities, including many southern cities where thousands of ‘Urban Aboriginals’ now make their homes but still wish to keep informed of what is going on in the north.
MBC’s Cree and Dene programming is nationally recognized as leading the field in indigenous communications, and has been shared with audiences as far away as the Northwest Territories, Alberta, BC, and Ontario.
In light of these developments, it is not hard to understand MBC’s position as the pre-eminent institution for the preservation, protection and enhancement of aboriginal cultures in Saskatchewan, and a leader in First Nations communications throughout the country.
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