Imagine living in Toronto and turning on your evening news to get the day’s top stories for your community. Would you expect your news to be broadcast live from Winnipeg? For 19 years, this is how the community of Iqaluit, Nunavut, received their supper-hour news. CBC Igalaaq, which provides the day’s news for Nunavut and the Northwest Territories in the Inuktitut language, was broadcast from Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, a distance of over 2, 200 km from Iqaluit.
This past May however, following a successful pilot project to cover the Nunavut election with a live event in Iqaluit and the control room in Yellowknife, Igalaaq started broadcasting from Iqaluit.
The change required exceptional teamwork. The team in Iqaluit produced radio, and the employees had to agree not only to squeeze a TV studio into their small radio station, but also to take on new TV roles. The radio show producer has become a TV producer — working on the lineup, coaching the TV host in studio, and communicating with the Yellowknife producers. The radio broadcast technician operates the studio camera for TV. The TV host is backfilled by the radio announce operators, who also do Inuktitut versioning, translation and voice-over for the TV show. The radio maintenance technician has added TV studio maintenance to his duties, and two reporter positions were turned into video-journalists, which required training. The project was done with minimal budget and a quick turnaround of just four months.
How was CBC North able to take on new new roles so quickly? “We’re special,” says Regional IT Manager Jeff Gardiner laughingly. Being flexible and overcoming technical challenges is just part of everyday life in the North, Jeff explains. There’s no NGCN infrastructure (the network used between most CBC/Radio-Canada sites) and limited broadband. Transmission is done across satellite and there is a delay in all transmissions, including data. Staff understand how to work around these issues. For example, when the producer in Yellowknife gives the host in Iqaluit the “go,” it’s a second-and-a-half before her voice comes back, so she has to know to jump in and speak right away. The delay also means that there’s latency for captions and graphics, which technical staff know how to take into account.
There are other unique challenges, too. For instance, the control staff in Yellowknife don’t speak Inuktitut, the language being broadcast. And there’s the small issue of the scripts being all in English because the teleprompter and iNEWS can’t display the characters for Inuktitut. This means that the host must do simultaneous translation as she reads the prompters!
Despite all the challenges, Jeff explains that as soon as it was possible to broadcast from Iqaluit, everyone agreed that it had to be done because of the opportunity to fully showcase the land, people and culture of Nunavut in their own language, from their own territory. It’s a commitment to community that keeps CBC North innovating and doing things better.
-Melanie Miles, Writer/Editor, Corporate Communications