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NUTV Executive Director Kevin Allen in front of some of NUTV's awards.
the Gauntlet

NUTV in dire straights

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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.

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Comments

NUTV is as relevant to creating quality television programming as the Gauntlet is to starting the careers of writers and journalists.
I was involved with NUTV as a community volunteer assisting in creating some interesting programming, with some of the best students that are dedicated to television and film. Sometimes it is not about the results but about the process. This process includes those writers that choose to create stories rather than report controversy.
NUTV has a positive reputation for developing great works that will appear at film festivals across the country.
The people that created these stories are the future of film in Canada. We need these people to stay in Canada to ensure that we are not completely overrun by the American style of film and Television.
NUTV is the incubator for allowing those interested in expressing themselves in a visual way that opportunity. NO OTHER OPPORTUNITY EXISTS. U of C drama students are given the opportunity to participate in the film process. This is exremely valuable to them as part of their development.
NUTV covers sports as well. There is more to life than sports.
I know of one NUTV student that has been employed on two made for television films this year.This student also created a short film that a number of NUTV members were involved.
I have also been employed as a Locations Production Assistant on two films over the past couple of months.
Working long hours has prevented me from continuing my volunteer efforts at NUTV. However it will be my pleasure to assist on a film in November with NUTV members both past and present.
It all started at NUTV.

I have been involved with NUTV at both the volunteer and board level. I can confirm what was already said in the article that the organization is student run in every sense of the word. Also, as mentioned by Mr. Leckie, itís not so much the outcome as it is the process. Students learn a variety of skills while volunteering at NUTV that they could not receive in any class on campus. With that said, NUTV produces plenty of high quality programming and itís sad to see that this yearís Studentsí Union does not recognize this.
It is probably true that NUTV has a small audience, but this is through no fault of their own. Their content cannot be accessed as easily as that of the Gauntlet or CJSW. Aside from the closed circuit TV, which cannot be heard in noisy MacHall, students must have a cable subscription. Even with that NUTV is hidden away on channel 78 and only broadcasts every few days. The organization does not have the budget to provide for advertising like CJSW does and they cannot hold a large-scale funding drive because they do not have a large enough audience. It is a vicious circle and it is deplorable that the Studentsí Union is making broad-based accusations without offering any real solutions.

...and once again, an SU member opens their mouth and stirs trouble where it's not needed. Again.

NUTV, like the Gauntlet, is a springboard. Perhaps Mr. Clayton should spend a month working at any member of the Tri-Media alliance (including CJSW and the Gauntlet) before he makes such an unfounded accusation. And perhaps in the process he can learn a thing or two.

I'm curious what prompted Clayton to write the letter in question. Did the SU receive complaints about NUTV from any students-at-large? Was the letter the result of a formal operational review? As described in the article, it seems like a completely arbitrary communique, something off the SU's "Let's look like we're doing something" project list.

If the letter was prompted by a student complaint, the SU should perhaps weigh that against the experience of the hundreds of student volunteers who make up NUTV's base every year. I'm quite certain they'd say they're educated, informed, listened to and included in NUTV's operations every day and what better measure is there of student-relevance and accountability? The SU spits out dozens of cynical and embittered alumni each year, but NUTV grads seem to go on their way with nothing but fond memories and practical skills that they never would have gained in a U of C classroom. Since when was enriching the university experience a "disregard" for students?

Seems strange to me that the SU is complaining about accountability and student-relevance when, every year, it has its share of members who wouldn't recognize either quality if it tap-danced nude through council chambers...

it seems that only people who have worked at NUTV recognize it for having any value. the average student doesn't watch NUTV, let along feel it provides value for over $200K. the letter is full of suggestions and NUTV, rather than taking a look in the mirror decided to bite the hand that feeds them and refuse to change. NUTV is bad. Worse, it's not as good as it was 5 years ago. If students (average ones, not members of the NUTV clique which numbers in the dozens, not hundreds) wanted NUTV, they would watch. That they don't is proof enough of its irrelevance to warrant concern.