After a decade prospecting, Ivor Barr hopes his natural resources channel will strike carriage gold
|February 17, 2012|
By John Bugailiskis
Canada was built on its rich natural resources and it’s largely what keeps us in business today. Why then can’t a nation which airs hundreds of channels support one based on our huge natural resources industry? That’s the question that Ivor Barr, CEO of IDNR-TV has been asking for nearly a decade and he’s hopeful that a recent groundswell in community support will be the difference in finally getting the answer he’s been seeking .
“We’ve been approached by a major carrier and we are in talks. I can’t provide more details than that right now.” Barr told Cartt.ca
After years of working to create interest for a natural resources channel through his web-based programming (www.idnrtv.com), Barr was awarded two category digital channels for the Mining Channel and for Natural Resources TV (IDNR) in 2004. He’s been seeking a major carriage deal ever since and says that everyone he speaks with sees the need and value, everyone but the cable and telco executives he’s spoken with over the years.
Natural Resources TV programming is devoted to the coverage of natural resources including industry related and social issues programming. The station’s programming says Barr focuses on the latest trends affecting the natural resources sector, market news, coverage of industry events, educational programming, and more. He managed to get the channel launched on October 2, 2006 on Persona Communications in Sudbury (now EastLink), and in early 2007, the channel was launched on Cablevision du Nord. But that’s as far as he’s managed to negotiate carriage up to now. In fact, in 2008 he decided to pull the channel from Persona, due in part from its refusal to distribute the channel in Timmins and other surrounding areas.
“It was a tough decision, but at the time we decided it was in our best interest not to work with somebody that was still asking us: ‘What's the connection between airing a mining channel and Sudbury?”
Currently the channel can only be found on Cablevision du Nord (in Fermont and Abitibi), owned by Bell Aliant. As a result, Barr now operates the station’s studio out of Val-d'Or. “I don’t understand how we now have more sports channels than we have sports, but I still can’t get carriage. How is it that we can have an ichannel [political and social issues network], but not one for the natural resources industry?”
Barr continues to dig up support for the channel through an extensive community letter writing campaign to carriers and through organizing special events such as the annual Mining Film Festival in Cinema du Parc, Montreal.
Recent support for the station includes letters from Tom Laughren, Mayor of Timmins and the Port-Cartier Chamber of Commerce. Despite the lack of carriage the station’s web site is becoming increasingly popular. In fact, too popular for the site’s servers which crashed recently. Barr vows to have the site up again soon and blames the crash on the long-form programming available on the site that eats up bandwidth. But don’t complain to Barr about not being able to see the station’s programming.
“I get people coming up to me all the time asking me ‘why can’t I see you.’ Don’t complain to me. Tell Rogers, Bell and Cogeco. You need to start writing and calling them.” He adds that mining companies across Canada have been lining up to support IDNR’s programming, but without carriage guarantees they can’t get the funding for more programming.
He maintains that while he has the broad support across the mining industry, the station would continue to retain its “editorial freedom” even if it receives further funding. “We will not become an info-commercial for the natural resources industry,” but an impartial voice on the resource sector insists Barr.
Given that Canada is still struggling to recover from the last recession, Barr believes there has never been a better time to tell Canadians about the importance of the natural resource industries to our livelihoods. “I’ve had people come up to me with tears in their eyes after they have seen our documentaries saying ‘I just saw my grandfather in your story, thank you. ‘ It’s time all Canadians get the chance to see how the natural sectors have built our country and will shape our future.”