Fate of NIU’s Channel 8 uncertain

By Sylvia Phillips

Student-produced television broadcasting faces an uncertain future if NIU signs a contract for an additional cable network.

NIU is negotiating a contract with the Black Entertainment Network which is a national cable company, NIU’s Housing Office Director Don Buckner said.

“We’ve had a request for more minority-oriented programming, and this seemed like a good source,” Buckner said.

Philip Gray, communication studies associate professor, said, “The housing (office) owns the cable system that comes into the dorms. We would assume they base decisions on the perceived interests of their customers.”

The addition of another cable network complicates the broadcasting time for currently scheduled programming.

NIU’s campus cable system has 12 channels. Adding new programming might mean canceling existing services or moving scheduled programs to other times and stations. But many of the cable companies sign three-year contracts whose terms have not expired, Buckner said.

“Channel 8 is the only space left on the network,” Buckner said.

Channel 8 features programs such as the Financial News Network and the Campus Bulletin Board. It also airs student-produced programs, including TV-8 News, Newsbriefs, Paragon and Viewpoint.

NIU’s TV-8 News’ slot on BET would be guaranteed in the terms of the contract, Buckner said. “We’re negotiating to show less than 24 hours of BET. They seem open to that,” he said.

But some journalism and communication instructors expressed concern BET might not welcome as many programs as students prepare.

“When all we (student productions) were interrupting was the bulletin board, no one complained,” said Robert Miller, assistant professor of communication studies. “A network that promotes a specific schedule of programs might pose greater problems in generating viewer complaints,” he said.

Student-produced programs could be shown at various times and stations, Buckner said. Another possibility is NIU student programming being broadcast on the city cable system but not on the campus cable system, he said.

Adding more channels to the campus cable system is another alternative, but it would require students to use cable-ready television sets or converter boxes, Buckner said.

Miller said, “It’s less trouble to add more stations than to cancel existing ones because people used to watching a particular service may protest.”