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TV36 -- A Channel of Untapped Potential

Column by Matthew H. Hersch

Opinion Editor

With all the brilliance in the MIT community, you would think that even a handful of talented individuals could put together a pretty decent campus TV station. So why does TV36 programming look like it was produced by two morons who swiped a video camera and can think of nothing better to do with it than take pictures of their feet and play with the white balance?

Not that the station's participants are inept -- quite the opposite. With its innovative, dizzying graphics and often capable, witty hosting, it is surprising that MIT Cable shows aren't better than they are. But maybe because these individuals subscribe to crude ideas of video, or maybe because they just don't care, shows like The Jean and Pablo Show and the now defunct Pet or Meat excuse cluelessness as spontaneity and crudity as humor.

I appreciate the effort MIT Cable people are investing in the community, and I realize that they receive little for their sacrifices. But given the capabilities of MIT students, why hasn't the community taken greater advantage of the resources television could provide?

Televising classroom lectures, especially the boring early morning ones, would be a great idea. Many a cold winter morning I have lurched from my slumber, driven half-mad by the realization that I must walk to class. It's not like I really would miss anything by watching 18.02 or 6.001 on TV -- even when I attended these classes in person I was a mere spectator in the back of the room, often snoozing. It seems as though lectures are much like concerts and Wimbledon tennis -- watching the TV coverage is more interesting than getting bad seats at the live performance. Unlike the French-Canadian music video feed that usually fills the TV36 signal track, some of these classes might even be in English.

Maybe The Tech could sponsor a short community news program. Or how about this: a Kresge channel that would televise all the random flamage in Kresge Auditorium, like the conventions and symposiums that happen under the collective noses of the students, often with no more explanation than those plastic signs on sticks pointing everywhere? Or how about a public service program, that would expose in 60 Minutes fashion the dangers lurking in the MIT community, like the Registrar's Office or the kitchen at Networks?

Departments could run "infomercials" to coax freshman into signing up for certain majors. Campus Activities could run entertaining announcements for upcoming activities. In the tradition of courtroom TV, how about televising Committee on Discipline proceedings? We could even be open-minded and let Chuck Vest and some of his administration buddies say something once in a while.

We could use Cable TV36 as a forum for independent filmmakers in the community, as well as give Media Lab hackers a chance to show their stuff. Students in film classes would certainly appreciate broadcasts of the films in the syllabi, something TV36 used to do. For those impoverished students (such as myself) who don't have VCR's, such a service would really ease the task of writing papers, and might even help (gasp!) our education.

MIT is badly in need of a TV station, and Cable TV36 seems desperately in need of a mission. The two were made for each other.

TV36 honestly needs some work, and not just in improving its signal-to-noise ratio. I like my Musique Plus as much as anyone, but the MIT community can easily come up with more than an hour of original programming each week.