TRIBAL TV: Is it Worth the Effort?

Authors: Frank H. Tyro, PhD, Salish Kootenai College

Disciplines: Communications, Native American Studies

Themes: Cultural Preservation, Media

There is a need for American Indian people to be in control of the production and distribution of information due to the long history of being passive consumers of what the dominant society considers important, but tribally controlled broadcast facilities are rare and the communication business is rapidly changing. KSKC Public TV is housed at Salish Kootenai College, which holds its licenses. Since its launch in 1987, the television station has expanded service area, attracted national interest, and become a model for other tribes and tribal colleges. With recent budget shortfalls, the College has said it can no longer afford to fully support the local public television station. In 2007, a donation was requested from the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, which enabled support of the station at $100,000 for that year. For the following year, the tribes continued to support the station. These donations are continuing but the tribe recently decreased the donation by 25%. This case raises questions about the importance of tribally controlled media and how a tribally owned and operated television station might be retained.