Nation's first Native American television network now on the air in San Bernardino
SAN BERNARDINO - The country's first Native American television network went on the air this week, fulfilling a dream the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians and San Bernardino-based KVCR television have been working toward for years.
First Nation Experience TV - which shows documentaries, news and other programs focusing on Native American culture around the clock - turned out to be the dream of so many others that it needed to be almost instantly expanded, said KVCR President and CEO Larry Ciecalone.
"As we worked on putting this together, especially in the last eight months to a year as things really picked up, we found a huge appetite for this," Ciecalone said. "So many non-natives told us they wanted to appreciate the
wealth of the culture, the lessons of sustainability that we're trying to learn now, in 2011, but Native America has been doing forever."
And so First Nation Experience - which since Sunday has been available on the air by tuning to 24.2 but can't yet be found on cable - plans to reach nationwide by next year.
Still, it's fiercely local.
"People here seriously love their community, at a time when the only thing local (on TV) anymore is the weather," said Charles Fox, the network's executive director and chief operating officer. "That really comes out on this network, and it's why San Manuel was such a great partner."
The tribe was a founding co-partner, committing to $6 million in donations over the next three years as the network works toward what it hopes will be a $27million-per-year budget.
"The power and influence for the good this channel will achieve cannot be overstated," San Manuel Chairman James Ramos said in a statement. "Becoming a partner with KVCR supports the tribe's mission of eradicating stereotypes that often stem from inaccurate depictions of American Indians in commercial television."
So far, the channel shows six-hour blocks consisting mostly of documentaries of various tribes four times per day, produced by a staff of 13.
That should expand to become the biggest part of KVCR's operation, said Ciecalone, ticking off some of the station's achievements, including becoming what he said was the first public TV station in Southern California.
"(The network) is in my mind the biggest thing we've ever done," he said.