Andrew Hamilton-Smith, former News Editor with The Medium, wants to create a campus-wide TV station. His project, UTM/TV, will likely launch in January. The Mediums Editor-in-Chief and for- mer colleague of Hamilton-Smith sits down with his new collabora- tor/competitor to talk about UTM/TV, the campus, and increasing student participation.
When did you first think of creating a TV project for UTM?
It came up last year. I noticed, along with Matthew Filipowich [The Mediums photo editor] that TV screens were not being utilized properly. At the time, we were wondering how we could use The Medium to put content up there. And nothing came really came off it because it wouldve required video editing and video cameras, which we didnt have at the time. There was a lot of additional work to be done. But over the summer I found myself with a lot of time on my hands. No job. I was watching my son all day. When he was nap- ping, I would have a lot of free time, and I ended up putting together this proposal—basically this station that could create the content to go on these screens and collect and facilitate as much cre- ative and news content.
When you say TV screens, are you talking about the ones in the Student Centre?
Also the ones that used to be up in the common areas in the South and the North Buildings, and also therere screens in the RAWC, therere screens in the residences. Theyre all separate and theyre all owned individually. And the ones that came down in the North and the South were an advertising companys. The ones in the Student Centre are owned by the Student Union.
You must have knocked on a lot of doors.
I actually tried to get the Student Union to support [the project] for a long a time. They didn’t really seem to know what to do with you, you know? They were like, Why are you coming to us? And then after talking to some more people, someone suggested I contact the Media Generator, which we did, and they were actually very supportive.
Will students be paying for this through levies?
Again, well be looking at different sources of funding. We have a little bit of funding from the Media Generator right now. Were look- ing into everything from film grants to the Ontario Arts Council to departments within the school that might be willing to support us. We havent quite nailed down how well receive long-term funding.
Given that we have a media pro- gram at UTM, how difficult has it been to find students who are trained [in TV production]?
I dont want to say its been diffi- cult, because we havent made extraordinary efforts to contact the various programs and the pro- fessors. Weve spoken to some professors here and there, but were focusing on the demo right now. If we get too many people responding and we dont have enough for them to do… We have enough people right now to do what we want to do. We do have some people who are trained or qualified. We have own facilita- tors who are training us […] on an ongoing basis.
How has the experience been so far?
One of the biggest surprises has been the amount of work. I mean, its fun work, and theres so much standing around while this or that is set up, it take five or fours to shoot half an hour of usable footage, and its exhausting. At the end you cant even go out and celebrate.
How many volunteers have you gathered?
We have a regular core of volun- teers of about 20 to 25. In terms of part-time volunteers, therere probably 30 to 40 of those.
I have to confess something: when I first heard about UTM/TV, the print person in me felt threatened, like Im sure many newspaper workers feel threatened by TV. As you know, many people barely read papers anymore. I worried that your project would detract from our readership. Then I realized, not much I can do anyway, and Im happy that youre involved in this project.
I don’t think it will, I should add, because the nature of television is superficial, whereas the newspa- per—you still see newspapers. Their share of media has been declining, but theyre still there and I think the reason is because people want more in-depth stories sometimes, and you can only do that in a newspaper, whether online or print.
What will be the nature of UTM/TV? Will it be entertain- ment-oriented?
We have on creative producer who works with writers, actors (usually English-and drama-associated) who have ideas for sketches or series. We also have news and sports producers who are working on getting kind of a speakers cor- ner set up somewhere, and theyre basically going to create this fac- tual kind of spine for UTM/TV. We could show just creative stuff, but I feel this way we will be more in-depth, more multidimensional. There is definitely going to be a news element to it.
Do you think being the UTM NDP president will present a conflict when you run UTM/TV?
I seriously do not. Among our volunteers we also have the president of the Green party on campus, the vice-president of the Liberals, we have covered Justin Trudeau, which was a Liberal- friendly event, and he was bashing other parties, and as much as Id like to take part and spin with that, I feel its improper. I know my staff feels the same way. The production team is not going to let me abuse my position. I dont think anyone would admit,
Yes, Im going to abuse my position, but I want to keep those two aspects separate.
How do you plan on operating? Will you have a constitution or Board of Directors or set of guidelines, and what would those be?
Were planning on incorporating, primarily for accountability rea- sons, but I feel that would enable us to attract more funding. Having the oversight of a Board I think is the way were going to go. Its an expensive process, not overly expensive, but were work- ing on it.
Im glad to see someone is taking this initiative. Its also a bit surprising that no one in, say, the CCIT program, would be actively involved in this. Do you find it hard to get people on board?
The Media Generator people were just as happy to see us as we were to see them—and we were pretty happy to see them. They said, We can give you equipment and train- ing, but cant get you people and money. We said, We can take care of that, we can get people. They had tried to set this up, but they only looked within the CCIT program. They asked us, You guys are poli-sci and English and environment and all these differ- ent non-CCIT area of study, and that seems to confuse them. Like, Whats your interest in starting a TV station? And I think its because for us, we just want to tell our stories and the TV station is secondary to that. The CCIT stu- dents, I think, want to have a TV station for the sake of having that structure there, but then would have no content there.
I sometimes feel its a lack of direction. People have no one to guide them. And professors—not to blame them—but I think some- times they could guide students to do stuff within our campus.
Many people seem nervous to contribute. They come and ask, Can I contribute? Theyre almost submissive. And I say, Come here, contribute! What do you want to do? and theyre like, Is there an application form? Is there a process? Do I pass? And I say, Why are you prejudging yourself already?
Students interested in UTM/TV can go to room 3143 in the CCT building or email Hamilton-Smith at [email protected]