My name is Stanley James, and I'm the chair of the Northern Native Broadcasting, Yukon, board of directors. With me is Sophie Green, who is the general manager. I'd like to extend the appreciation of Northern Native Broadcasting, Yukon, to the chair and members of the standing committee for the invitation to appear before you to share our thoughts on the evolution of the television industry in Canada and its impact on local communities.
Northern Native Broadcasting, Yukon, is funded through the aboriginal peoples program directorate of Canadian Heritage. The funding we receive through this initiative has remained almost unchanged since its creation. In the 1980s we saw a decrease in funding.
The agreement of just a little over a million dollars each year, if we are successful with our application, requires us to produce and distribute radio and television programming, with the Yukon First Nation audience's needs determining our mandate. Static funding can only be translated as a decrease, as the cost of living and the cost of business escalate consistently each year. The changes to industry standards, particularly in high definition and digital radio, have an immediate impact on us. We have had to lay off personnel and close down our analog television production unit, putting seven people out of work.
Although advertising has augmented the funding from Canadian Heritage, in the current economic downturn, advertising revenues have dropped faster for us than they have for others throughout the industry. Business does not view the aboriginal audience in remote northern communities as a good investment for their diminishing advertising dollars.
New media, changing viewing habits, audience fragmentation, and convergence are having their effects on us. We have not had the necessary funding to meet the needs of a fast-growing youth population who do not view the world as our ancestors did. We need to be able to produce programming that interests the youth of today, delivering the programming in the media of today. As a communications network, we need to continue to play a critical role in keeping the language, culture, and customs of the aboriginal people alive and in use.
We believe the federal government must continue to assist local aboriginal broadcasters and to assist in meeting the cost of digital transmission. We said the same in June 2003 to the House Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage, when they conducted hearings on the second century of Canadian broadcasting. The role of the cultural development fund to ensure the survival of local broadcasting should be strengthened and have the involvement of local broadcasting in the terms of reference. Oftentimes, non-profit societies such as Northern Native Broadcasting, Yukon, find themselves ineligible because of their status as a non-profit entity, as required by contribution agreements. For Northern Native Broadcasting, Yukon, fee-for-carriage does not apply as we are not television broadcasters but television producers. That means also that the CRTC local improvement fund will not be applicable in our specific situation.
The loss of local broadcasting or local production of content for the aboriginal community could be severe. In the Yukon, where two aboriginal language groups split into eight dialects, the ability to hear our language in as many mediums as possible is of great benefit. It is only a decade ago that the indigenous language of the Yukon began to be written down. Our population is a fraction of the entire population of the Yukon--approximately 6,000 of first nations ancestry, out of the Yukon population of approximately 30,000 people. The role of local aboriginal broadcasting in the Yukon is critical to maintain the diversity of the voices in the territory and the aboriginal population in Canada.
In closing, let me say how much we appreciate this opportunity to be here before the standing committee to talk about the evolution of the television industry in Canada and its impact on local communities. Both Sophie and I will try to provide answers to any questions you may have.