MIT Cable To Receive Channel Changes
By Apoorva Murarka
Major changes to MIT Cable are on the way with Comedy Central, the Sci Fi Channel, and the Discovery Channel replacing C-Span 2, Bloomberg Television, and MIT Weather When You Want It. Additionally, mtvU will be upgraded to the “real MTV,” according to UA Vice President Ruth Miller ’07. The first of these changes will be implemented in the next two weeks as MIT Weather When You Want It is replaced by the Discovery Channel. However, it may be a while before Comedy Central and the Sci Fi Channel hit the campus television screens.
According to Gerald E. Dalley G, GSC Housing and Community Affairs Committee co-chair, the Discovery Channel is offered free of charge so MIT Cable can act right away.
The decisions were made by representatives from the Undergraduate Association, Graduate Student Council, Dormitory Council, MIT Cable Television, and Housing after reviewing the results of the survey that opened late this summer and ran through Sept. 30. The purpose of the survey was to determine the least watched channels in the current MIT Cable TV lineup, and to determine the channels that could act as replacements. The representatives are collectively known as Cable-storm.
“MIT Cable is capable of making the changes that the Cable-storm group is requesting,” said Randall W. Winchester, team leader of MIT Cable Television.
“It may be between a few weeks from now and next September [to replace the other two channels],” Miller said.
The reason for the delay is that graduate students have already signed their housing contracts, and only channels for which the funding comes through Housing are currently eligible for replacement, according to Natalija Z. Jovanovic G, a member of Cable-storm, in a September interview.
Comedy Central and the Sci Fi Channel are included in packages with subscription fees of $1.00 and $0.50 per resident per month, respectively. Since the latter package also includes MTV, mtvU will be upgraded to MTV. The other channels included in the packages cannot be aired on MIT Cable due to infrastructure limitations.
“Housing has to wait for new housing rates to come out before changes to the cable service can be made,” said Dalley. “At the moment, we are seeing if there is a way we can enact the changes without direct costs to students during this academic year.”
“It’s a shame they didn’t do this a couple of years ago,” commented Greg H. Belote ’07, a senior, since the Class of 2007 might not be able to benefit from the changes to MIT Cable.
“I’m slightly sorry to see C-SPAN  go but not in reference to what I’m getting,” said Allen Bryan G, a Sidney Pacific resident who participated in the survey.
A final survey will be opened in a week or two in which the students will have the option of selecting four out of six channels that they would like to see in the MIT cable television lineup, according to Miller. The six channels are WGBH World, WGBH Create, Univision, TeleFutura, FX, and ESPN. The first four channels are already part of MIT Cable’s current lineup. FX and ESPN, which are not currently offered by MIT Cable, garnered a significant number of votes in the initial survey.
The cheapest option to broadcast ESPN to everyone on campus would cost between $225,000 to $500,000 a year, Dalley said. In order to broadcast ESPN to specific segments of the on-campus student population — individual dormitories for example — the subscription fee is $10 per person per month.
“There is no feasible way of paying for ESPN and billing for it is a big challenge, in addition to setting up a billing system,” said Dalley. “A chunk of students wants it very much so we are trying hard to find a way to implement it.”
According to Miller, 29 percent of on-campus graduate students and 43 percent of on-campus undergraduate students participated in the most recent survey. Only 29 off-campus students voted. East Campus had the highest number of undergraduate participants, with 63 percent of its residents voting. Among graduate students, Eastgate Apartments had the highest percentage, with 51 percent of its residents participating in the survey.
“Speaking for the undergrads, I’m very happy with the number of people who took the time to complete the survey … and I appreciate the level of discussion that is taking place around this issue,” said Miller.
Preliminary reactions to the survey results and the subsequent decisions made have been mixed.
“I’m glad that they added channels that people will watch. However, I’m upset that I’m going to have to pay for them even though I’m not going to watch them,” said Denise Ichinco ’09, an East Campus resident who participated in the survey.
Some students were excited about the possibility of watching channels like Comedy Central and Sci Fi on MIT Cable TV in the near future.
“You mean I can stop downloading Battlestar Galactica torrents every week? Hells yes!” said Krzysztof E. Baranowski ’09, when informed of the inclusion of the Sci Fi Channel in the future cable television lineup. Battlestar Galactica airs weekly on the Sci Fi Channel.
Students can expect the results of the final survey to be out by mid-November.