By Darlene Seto
Hostility is brewing between the Students’ Union and the University of Calgary’s television station, NUTV.
Last week, a critical letter from the SU was sent to the executive director of NUTV, Kevin Allen, questioning the station’s focus and direction. The letter declared that NUTV “to a large degree disregards its student constituency” and has an audience “rank[ing] in the dozens.”
Allen, though initially reluctant to speak, responded on behalf of NUTV.
“[The problem] seems not to be what we are doing for students, but what we are not doing for the SU,” said Allen, who was shocked by the letter. “I feel the station has been doing really well–there has been lots of growth.”
NUTV’s financial statistics support his claims. In 2000, the percentage of annual revenue derived from the student levy was 97 per cent. In 2004, the percentage of annual revenue from the levy was 65 per cent, resulting from growth in activities such as fund-raising and grants.
The SU sees things differently.
“There is no student focus [to NUTV],” remarked SU Vice-President of Operations and Finance, Greg Clayton, noting that students provide $200,000 a year in levy fees to the station.
Clayton maintains that the station does not place any significance on events or issues important to students.
“There are no Dinos games or anything in residence,” he said. “It seems to be more for people in the arts.”
Clayton echoed the ideas in the SU letter, which drove the point home that “closed-circuit programming is irrelevant to students among campus,” suggesting new ideas such as making broadcasting in residence a priority over the wider community.
The faculty representative on NUTV’s Board of Directors, professor Dr. Rebecca Sullivan, was very passionate when speaking about the letter, describing it as “autocratic and highhanded.” Sullivan was particularly animated when describing some of the SU’s demands, such as broadcasting film studies course materials as “arbitrary, ill researched, and absurd.”
Allen claims NUTV does present different sports, arts and entertainment and campus programing.
“There is an idea that the staff directs content, but students decide what they want to produce,” he said. “The staff are really careful not to introduce content–only quality.”
“There is a lack of awareness about NUTV [by the SU],” he added.
The station has previously contacted Dinos Athletics about televising games. It seems the teams themselves are resistant since it may cut into ticket sales.
Previous animosity between the two parties may have a role in the current situation. Last year, the Gauntlet reported tensions over the SU’s plan to install plasma-advertising screens in MacEwan Student Centre. The plan went forward despite NUTV protests. This year, NUTV did not produce the SU’s annual video for U of C 101. And when it came to a question of NUTV’s leadership by Allen, Clayton was quick to deflect attention, saying that a change of personnel is not on the SU’s agenda.
“We are not trying to replace Kevin Allen or any of the leadership,” said Clayton. However, he added in the same breath, “There is no accountability to the students by the station.”
An NUTV board meeting later this week will attempt to sort matters out.