University of Alaska Anchorage currently has a television channel dedicated solely for their free use. GCI Channel 9, “UAA Tele-Campus,” has existed since 1972, when a mandate by the Federal Communications Commission started requiring large television markets to dedicate a channel to educational access.
Yet, “television channel” is a loose term for many students and staff who stumble across channel 9 while flicking through the entertainment selection. Most of the time, UAA’s Tele-Campus broadcasts a floating UAA logo that resembles a screen-saver.
When the channel was originally created, UAA used it for distance education course delivery. But with the recent technological advances that introduced Illuminate Live and Blackboard, the channel is no longer needed for this purpose, said Kristin DeSmith, Assistant Vice Chancellor of University Relations.
Commencement and sporting events have been broadcasted on the channel in the past, but despite these special events, Channel 9 remains widely unused. Under the mandate by the FCC is the provision that such channels be “public access,” meaning content is under the discretion of those administering the channel. With a channel at no cost and freedom of content, the question of what to do with it has been on the minds of several departments within the university over the past few years.
“University Advancement has been in conversations with the Department of Journalism and Public Communication, IT, A/V services and Student Life and Leadership to try and develop a structure, context and sustainable UAA-centered content that would allow student and departmental access to programming,” DeSmith stated.
Yet it is the JPC Department that has been most anxious to gain access to the channel in a way to display student work and develop new forms of education, such as broadcast journalism. The past five years have been spent in sporadic conversations with University Advancement, and while some progress has been made, JPC still struggles in their venture.
“I think that University Advancement is leery of student putting things on Channel 9 that would be baring and possibly challenging to the University’s image,” said JPC Department Chair Paola Banchero.
Advancement is also wary of the amount of resources that would have to be invested in order to open the channel back up again for wide use.
“Running a television station requires a significant commitment of time and financial resources,” DeSmith explained. “As media has changed so drastically over the past few years, we’ve invested our limited resources in developing our new media capabilities.”
Douglas Kellner, a Professor at the University of California Los Angeles and author of several books highlighting issues with media culture, expresses similar sentiments to the future of television as an education resource.
Kellner believes that deregulation of television could “threaten the continued survival of [public] access, as do the Internet and other new communications technologies,” as stated in an article he wrote for the Museum of Broadcast Communications.
UAA’s new branding efforts might have an influence on the overall decision of how to utilize the Tele-Campus.
“We are open to ideas on how to more fully utilize channel 9,” stated DeSmith.