RIVERSIDE, Calif. - San Bernardino-based KVCR-TV next year will launch the nation's first 24-hour American Indian television channel with the help of a $6 million donation from the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians.
The channel will air programs on the history, culture and current reality of tribes across the country, said James Ramos, chairman of the San Manuel tribe, whose reservation is near Highland.
Ramos said the channel will be aimed at Indians and non-Indians.
"Once you start to learn about the factual account of Indian history, the atrocities, the different things that have happened, and the accomplishments of Indian people, you begin to build understanding of each other so we can move forward together as one community," he said.
Ramos said the channel will dispel myths and stereotypes about Indians that are often presented on commercial television. It will also help counter misperceptions about modern Indian life and may spur action to more aggressively fight the extreme poverty that many Indians face, he said.
"A lot of people are misinformed and think every tribe is successful in gaming, but that's not the case," said Ramos, whose tribe operates a lucrative casino. "For many tribes, things really haven't changed for 10, 20, 50 years."
The channel will begin airing in the broadcast area of KVCR, the Inland area's Public Broadcast Service station, in Spring 2011, said Larry Ciecalone, KVCR's president. San Manuel's donation will provide the bulk of funding for the first three years, he said.
The station plans to expand the channel to national cable and satellite television in 2013, Ciecalone said.
Ciecalone said he's already begun talking with executives of other PBS stations about getting the channel on their local cable systems.
"They're anxious to pick it up as soon as we can deliver it," he said. "There's definitely a need."
Ciecalone said there are many films and documentaries by and about American Indians that get little exposure.
"We realized there's a lot of unmet need and a lot of great content out there," he said. "There's just not a stage to perform on."
Georgina Lightning, a Canadian actor, filmmaker and producer who primarily makes movies about North American Indians, said many distributors mistakenly believe there's not a large market for films about indigenous North Americans.
"We just need the outlet and the support," Lightning said by phone from Edmonton, Alberta. "We have some really great films that never get distributed. This channel is going to be groundbreaking."
A national Canadian Indian channel, the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network, has been broadcasting for several years.
KVCR operates three channels and has the capacity to air two more. The American Indian channel's board will be comprised of representatives from KVCR and the San Manuel tribe.
KVCR and San Manuel have been collaborating on television programs for several years. In April, KVCR aired a San Manuel-sponsored four-part series on the history of California's Indians. San Manuel-sponsored series in 2006 and 2007 focused on the tribe's history and worldview.