Potlotek First Nation in Nova Scotia is hoping to become the latest Indigenous community in Atlantic Canada to own and operate its own radio station.
According to the Canadian Radio and Telecommunications Commission website, the Potlotek Communications Society has proposed to broadcast 126 hours of local programming, including 20 hours of programming in the Mi’kmaw language.
“My hope is that I can provide enough content that meet those requirements but I think I’m going to go beyond that,” George Marshall, who will be running the radio station, said in a recent interview.
If approved, the Potlotek radio station will become the fourth First Nation radio station in Nova Scotia and the ninth Indigenous-run radio station in Atlantic Canada.
The CRTC held a public consultation hearing for Potlotek’s application, along with five other applications, on June 15 in Gatineau, Que.
Eel Spear Radio
This isn’t the first time Marshall has tried to run a radio station in his home community of Potlotek.
A graduate student from McGill University was visiting with Marshall 17 years ago when he suggested they try to hook up his small broadcast transmitter. Marshall said he and another friend found a set of rabbit ears and an eel spear and tried to do just that.
“Together with the rabbit ears, his transmitter and my eel spear, we put it on the roof of my van and we went up to the highest hill in (Potlotek) and drove across the potato fields out to an apple tree,” Marshall recalled.
“Out there, we taped the rabbit ears on the end of my eel spear and leaned it up against an apple tree,” he said.
“We tuned into the radio to find ourselves and we drove around (Potlotek), the three of us in this little pickup truck, listening to our broadcast to see how far we can get,” Marshall explained.
“We were able to get two miles but that was the original broadcast,” he added.
Marshall said he ran the pirated radio station, called Eel Spear Radio, out of one of the rooms of his house. He started each broadcast day with morning prayers and then played music playlists on a computer.
“I tried to provide for every possible genre, every possible group in my community from elders to teenagers to the people who liked the hip-hop,” he said.
Marshall ran the unlicensed radio station from that room in his home until his family grew and one of his children needed it.
“It turned into a bedroom so we had no place for our radio station anymore at that point,” Marshall explained.
“We need to work on our communication”
While he waits for the CRTC to approve the license, Marshall said the community radio station is already being equipped with a custom-made desk that can accommodate up to six people in the broadcast booth.
He hopes the station will help his community members improve on communicating with one another.
“When we’re having difficulties with different operations and different departments, I always say ‘It’s just a communication problem. We need to work on our communication,’” he explained.
“The idea behind having a radio station, in my opinion, is to help improve the communications within the community so people will have a better understanding of what’s going on in their community and outside their community as well,” Marshall said.