Indigenous voices find their outlet

$41 million initiative tries to balance programming

Indigenous programming Down Under counts for just two hours — or 1.2% — of all weekly content, but a A$50 million ($41.3 million) initiative is set to try to redress the balance.

National Indigenous Television (NITV), the long-awaited Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander network, will launch next month and will attempt to see more indigenous content on Aussie screens, but as topper Pat Turner explains, she is also hoping to attract a crossover aud in the same way indigenous broadcaster Maori Television in New Zealand has widened its base from indigenous to more mainstream auds.

NITV will also provide a useful outlet for indigenous content, as the web will be sourcing and commissioning all on-air material. It also plans a strong online presence.

Given that much of its aud will be in rural Oz, particularly the Northern Territory, the web will initially piggyback on the same satellite carrying the Aboriginal-run commercial broadcaster Imparja to the territory, but it is also in talks with paybox Foxtel about carrying the service.

The channel results from the Australian government’s Backing Indigenous Ability initiative to help improve communications services in remote indigenous communities, as announced by communication minister Helen Coonan last year.

Until now, indigenous programming has been limited to current affairs skeins such as the ABC’s “Message Sticks” and SBS’s “Living Black,” as well as the occasional docu. Critics complain that the pubcasters often bury indigenous skeins in graveyard timeslots.

NITV hopes to diversify into a wider range of content. It will feature dramas, docus and news, but it also aims to counter what it considers to be a primarily negative view of indigenous Australians in the mainstream media.

NITV will seek content that highlights the positive aspects of indigenous culture, its history, its stories and its people.

In the first instance, the new web will primarily focus on acquisitions, but as it grows, it hopes to work with production companies to commission new programs as well.

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