Executive summary of the “What You Said” report: CRTC Early Engagement Sessions

The executive summary of the early engagement sessions report is also available in the following Indigenous languages:

For more information, read the “What You Said” report (available in English and French only).


In June 2019, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) launched Broadcasting Notice of Proceeding CRTC 2019-217, a three-phase process to co-develop a new Indigenous broadcasting policy with Indigenous Peoples. The first phase consisted of early engagement sessions to establish the conduct and scope of the public consultation process, and to help identify the needs of Indigenous Peoples within the broadcasting system in Canada.

Between June 2019 and February 2020, the Commission met with Indigenous broadcasters, content creators and artists during 12 engagement sessions across Canada. Early engagement sessions were facilitated through the Indigenous Leadership Development Institute Inc. (ILDII) with a team of Indigenous hosts and facilitators. A discussion guide was provided to all attendees with questions about how the Commission could engage in a meaningful way with as many Indigenous communities as possible. Indigenous broadcasters and content creators were also asked to share their views on the challenges and opportunities they felt should be addressed in a new Indigenous broadcasting policy.

Views that were commonly heard throughout these sessions are summarized below. For a detailed understanding of perspectives shared by participants, please consult the full report.

What you told us / What was said

Obtain input on how to consult and identify needs

Participants provided generous feedback on how the CRTC could ensure that the co-development of a new Indigenous broadcasting policy is conducted in a fair and accessible manner. They stressed the importance of respecting the oral traditions of Indigenous Peoples and to include in-person consultation where and when practically feasible. Attendees also noted the importance of gathering the views of different communities and of recognizing distinct groups amongst First Nations, Inuit and Métis people.

Consultations should be mindful of the history of Indigenous broadcasting and conducted in a culturally sensitive manner. The inclusion of relevant policy background information and recognition of Indigenous languages was deemed essential to a meaningful consultation process, as was seeking the viewpoints of Elders and youth. Participants also spoke of the importance of respecting protocol and ensuring some form of compensation for Indigenous participants’ time, knowledge and expertise.

The importance of understanding the broadcasting needs of Indigenous Peoples living in both urban and rural areas, including Northern and remote communities, was clearly communicated throughout the sessions. To ensure a high level of participation, a variety of outreach methods were recommended, including Public Service Announcements on community radio and local television stations and social media, and direct communication with community leadership. Participants stressed that consultations should be transparent and based on principles of consensus-building.

What is working well

Participants showed appreciation for the format of the early engagement sessions, indicating they were respectful of Indigenous traditions. They appreciated that the sessions were organized and moderated by Indigenous facilitators.

We heard how Indigenous communities have shown tremendous resilience and are striving to succeed in the media and broadcasting industries. Indigenous talent in audio and audio-visual content creation and production is abundant. The role of Indigenous radio in supporting Indigenous music artists and helping Indigenous communities to reclaim their language and culture was identified as a success factor. Nurturing successful Indigenous music communities, such as the one in Manitoba, was acknowledged as playing a key role in achieving recognition of Indigenous artists and their music. The Indigenous Screen Office was noted as an important initiative in supporting Indigenous storytelling through film.

Participants also praised the establishment of the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN), which gives a voice to Indigenous creators. CBC North was also said to be locally focused, and viewed as a successful model according to some participants. Others spoke of certain non-Indigenous organizations that are considered allies and are increasingly working to help promote Indigenous content.


Participants provided feedback on a range of issues that have prevented Indigenous broadcasters and content creators from fully participating in all aspects of the broadcasting industry in Canada.

Radio broadcasters: Indigenous radio stations are an essential communications tool in their communities, however most face significant revenue challenges. Many would like to sell advertising but opportunities are scarce. While the current policy for Indigenous broadcasting identifies two types of radio stations (Type A and Type B), which both must be owned and controlled by not-for-profit organizations, some attendees suggested the need for another type that would be in line with for-profit commercial radio stations. Nonetheless, most felt that Indigenous radio should not be viewed or operated like large media corporations, or be required to abide by similar rules.

Broadcasting infrastructure: The need for improved infrastructure and equipment was mentioned repeatedly. Participants spoke of frequent equipment breakdowns which are difficult to repair due to remoteness of locations and lack of trained personnel. Television broadcasting technology in Northern communities was said to be particularly outdated. Upgraded and more affordable broadband infrastructure is needed, as online platforms are becoming increasingly important for consuming audio and audio-visual programming, for learning, and for accessing important information.

Music and audio-visual content creators: Indigenous content creators shared similar concerns. While they are well-represented on Indigenous media, they indicated the need to reach wider audiences. To do so, they felt that mainstream radio and television broadcasters should feature a minimum percentage of programming from Indigenous content creators. This need for Indigenous stories to be told to the broader non-Indigenous audience extends to online platforms as well. Attendees also noted the lack of investment and funding as barriers to the creation and production of Indigenous content.

Mainstream broadcasters have a major role to play: The role of mainstream media in supporting and reflecting Indigenous Peoples was raised throughout the engagement sessions. Participants noted the need for non-Indigenous broadcasters to acknowledge their role in meeting Canada’s obligations to Indigenous Peoples. Many felt that mandatory requirements to broadcast a guaranteed percentage of Indigenous content, created by and for Indigenous people, would be preferable to incentives or “encouragements”. Attendees also indicated there should be greater Indigenous representation in the operations and management of non-Indigenous broadcasters. Supporting Indigenous broadcasting students through scholarships and internships was seen as a way to contribute to the development of new and emerging Indigenous talent.

Participants expressed concern over non-Indigenous organizations receiving public funding for the creation or production of Indigenous content. They spoke of the need to implement mechanisms to ensure content is created by Indigenous people when setting out obligations towards Indigenous programming for mainstream broadcasters.

Participants felt that long-standing stereotypes towards Indigenous Peoples were being perpetuated throughout the media, and that Indigenous cultures and languages needed to be better reflected in programming. Many stressed the importance of enhancing cultural awareness throughout the broadcasting system. Having Indigenous cultural experts on-set or in-studio would ensure that content is appropriate and reflective of Indigenous cultures and traditions. Attendees also spoke of the critical need to ensure that emergency alerts are aired in Indigenous languages.

Representation of Indigenous Peoples working in the sector: Participants highlighted the importance of having Indigenous radio stations staffed and managed by members of their communities. However, Indigenous employment is needed throughout the entire broadcasting system. More Indigenous people need to be involved in decision-making processes, especially when developing funding programs and criteria to support the creation of Indigenous content. Some suggested that mainstream broadcasters be required to report on the number of Indigenous people they employ. Broadcasters should have concrete plans for hiring, training and retaining Indigenous staff.

An overall need for equity: Participants spoke of long-standing inequalities which policies should aim to level so that Indigenous artists, content creators and broadcasters are on par with their non-Indigenous counterparts in areas such as funding, programming visibility, access to technology and infrastructure.


Early engagement sessions’ participants provided important feedback on opportunities for improvement and possible solutions to address the above-mentioned issues.

Support for Indigenous community radio broadcasters: Participants felt that more financial resources were needed so that Indigenous radio stations could better serve their communities. Funding to bring professionals into their communities to offer training, and to pay producers of spoken word programming, would help increase the amount and diversity of content.

Support for Indigenous artists and content creators: For Indigenous music artists to be discovered and remunerated, some suggested that a universally accessible online catalogue be established. Participants also felt that more could be done by copyright collectives to help identify and track Indigenous music aired by all broadcasters so that creators are fairly compensated. Some felt the CRTC could help in that regard by requiring proof that radio stations have paid the appropriate copyright tariffs. Education for musicians would also be beneficial for understanding copyright registration and collection.

Participants felt that Indigenous storytellers should be encouraged to work together and not have to compete for limited funds. Partnerships with existing Indigenous and non-Indigenous production companies were seen as providing good opportunities for Indigenous storytellers to contribute their talent. Participants also felt there should be more resources, including from mainstream broadcasters, to support Indigenous journalists and spoken-word programmers, since they can create content focused on the perspectives of their local communities.

Youth, education and training: Providing job opportunities for Indigenous youth would spark their interest in the broadcasting industry and establish a pool of future talent. Well-funded mentorship and employment programs would help in that regard. Whether through formal education or on-the-job training, participants noted the importance of offering professional development opportunities for staff with broadcasting and programming-related duties; on-site training also helps with staff retention. Participants noted that physical production and training spaces should be available in smaller communities, not just in urban centres.

Establish an Association to represent Indigenous broadcasters: Most agreed that a national organization which could speak on behalf of Indigenous broadcasters while providing networking opportunities, guidance and support was urgently needed. Some participants indicated that such an organization should include regional representation. Participants spoke of the isolation felt by broadcasting staff in remote communities, and of the need to connect and learn from one another. The importance of having opportunities to network with Indigenous organizations from other countries was also cited. Launching such an organization would require both start-up and ongoing funding.

Create databases and archives: Participants felt that databases were critical for ensuring that Indigenous and non-Indigenous people can find, store and access Indigenous music, film and television programming. They noted there were barriers to accessing sources of archival film footage and recorded music, and expressed the need for tools to preserve Indigenous content, especially when spoken or sung in Indigenous languages. As traditional knowledge in some Indigenous cultures is meant to be shared only within the community, regulations are needed to protect archival broadcasting material.

CBC’s role, and working with CBC: Participants noted that CBC North, which does include local Indigenous stories, could be a model for all CBC television and radio stations. Attendees acknowledged the opportunities to showcase Indigenous content on CBC Gem but noted some Indigenous communities are not be able to access online services. Some spoke of difficulties in having CBC pick up their projects, particularly in television, and felt there should be greater opportunities to share content between Indigenous media and CBC. As CBC receives public money to operate, participants felt there should be more Indigenous programming on air, and more Indigenous people working in key programming and management positions. To help achieve this, participants noted that CBC could provide a full-time internship program for Indigenous people interested in careers in broadcasting.

Communities with their own policies, infrastructures, funding: Some Indigenous communities have established their own broadcasting policies, infrastructures and funding mechanisms, and it was felt that communities’ need for self-governance and self-determination should be recognized, including with regards to broadcasting regulations.


The importance of additional and sustainable funding was consistently identified as a key element to help remedy many of the issues mentioned throughout engagement sessions.

Participants indicated that additional funding is needed to address the unique needs of Indigenous broadcasters and content creators, and to rectify the imbalance that funding to support Indigenous broadcasting has experienced relative to the mainstream broadcasting system. In particular, we heard that funding is needed to train, employ and support Indigenous broadcasters, content creators and staff, to support costs associated with remote conditions, to improve technical equipment, to develop and maintain infrastructure, to support equitable access to communication services and to support Indigenous-language programming and news.

While recognizing that this was not under the purview of the CRTC, participants noted that funding for the Northern Aboriginal Broadcasting fund had not increased in 30 years and that funding dollars were being allocated to the same group of recipients. We heard that predictable and reliable long-term core funding is needed, as opposed to temporary and short-term project-based funding, so they could build capacity in their own communities. Many suggested that mandatory contributions be established by the CRTC to help address funding issues and to level the playing field. They noted that Indigenous broadcasters and content creators should have a seat at the funding table.

Because funding is scarce and processing time is lengthy, some suggested that a database of funding sources be established and that support be provided to help with funding applications. We also heard that eligibility criteria of mainstream funding programs are not often reflective of Indigenous realities.

CRTC and the new broadcasting policy

Participants noted the need for the CRTC to improve Indigenous representation within its organization, to build trusted relationships with Indigenous broadcasters and content creators, and to regulate the broadcasting industry to ensure the accurate representation of Indigenous Peoples.

More specifically, attendees indicated that the CRTC should hire more Indigenous people and ensure that Commission staff take cultural awareness training. Participants felt that an Indigenous committee or working group should be set up with the CRTC to help improve lines of communications and provide easy access to information and guidance when needed. They felt that regulatory processes should be simplified and more flexible, and that the CRTC should communicate on a regular basis with Indigenous communities and audiences.

Participants noted that the new Indigenous broadcasting policy should be respectful and inclusive of all Indigenous Peoples. It should be comprehensive in how it addresses access and Indigenous content. There was overall consensus that CRTC regulations for mainstream media should include provisions for reflecting and supporting Indigenous content and talent. Participants also noted the importance of studying broadcasting-related obligations found in reports such as those stemming from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls when creating the new Indigenous broadcasting policy.

Other views and comments

Participants shared important perspectives on a variety of other issues or subject matters, including some that fall outside the purview of the CRTC or of the process to co-develop a new Indigenous broadcasting policy. The Commission wishes to thank all participants for their input and provide assurance that all comments were noted, even if not reported in this executive summary.

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