When Alex Kleiner took over as president of Binghamton Television this year, the station was outdated. It was lacking essential equipment like digital cameras and had slow computers with poor editing capabilities.
“Our E-Board felt that at the beginning of this year, BTV was in no way functional,” said Kleiner, a junior double-majoring in computer science and cinema. “BTV did not have the technology, skills or expertise to produce good TV.”
Kleiner said a lack of content on the station caused the SA to slash BTV’s budget from $15,000 in 2010-11, to $5000 in 2011-12. The new executive board made the decision to pull all content from its station and upgrade the studio on its smaller budget, purchasing new cameras, refurbished computers and software.
“Our goal this year was to completely finish a brand new workspace, which we have done,” Kleiner said. “We made sure we got the cheapest and most efficient equipment, where it’s incredibly easy to crank out high-quality videos. On a small, small budget, we have gotten this place to the point where anybody could walk in and have everything they need to make something great.”
However, rebuilding the station took longer than BTV’s E-Board had anticipated. Getting approval from the Student Association to use their budget to purchase a single piece of equipment took anywhere from weeks to months, according to Kleiner.
Michael Zagreda, BTV vice president-elect and a sophomore majoring in computer science, said purchase requests were frequently denied or were sent multiple times before they went through.
“Definitely with a television studio, it was tough to convince the SA that we needed these things because the equipment costs are astronomical,” Zagreda said. “It took a long time for things to get approved, set up, and delivered.”
According to Kleiner, by the time BTV’s studio was fully functional, the E-Board decided to wait and launch its new content the second week of fall, instead of premiering this semester as originally planned.
“We are completely put together now, and we decided at this point, why have a big grand launch at the end of the year?” he said. “We have a whole bunch of shows ready to go, but we don’t want to throw them up now during the last weeks of school.”
With this in mind, Kleiner said BTV approached its annual budget meeting with the SA’s Financial Council feeling confident. They requested their 2010-11 budget of $15,000. However, FinCo allocated BTV a $0 budget because of the lack of content on Channel 6, according to Kleiner.
“This was supposed to be a make-or-break year,” Nick Valiando, FinCo member and a senior majoring in political science, explained at the budget hearing on Monday. “They were told they needed to get their stuff in order, and they didn’t.”
Eric Larson, future SA vice president for finance, said there was concern by FinCo over BTV’s focus.
“We were really looking for expenses we could see from year to year that didn’t include equipment costs,” Larson said. “When it came down to programming, we could not get an answer for approximately how much it would be per show.”
According to Kleiner, BTV turned to the administration and BTV alumni for support, which included 10 letters of recommendation. Among the supporters were Binghamton University President Harvey Stenger and Donald Nieman, dean of Harpur College, who both worked with BTV on their TedX event this year, as well as alumni who were given tours of the rebuilt station.
In response, FinCo increased BTV’s budget to $250. BTV appealed this decision at the SA budget meeting on Monday, and was allocated a budget of $1,000 by the Assembly.
“Recently, through the appeals, they gave us information, so I’m a lot more confident in the direction they are going,” said Valiando, who argued on behalf of BTV despite being a FinCo member. “I wanted to give them one last shot.”
Zagreda said their $1,000 budget is not ideal, as it will not allow BTV to replace its broadcasting equipment, which is from the 1990s. Still, he said the funds will be enough for BTV to launch productions in the fall and generate revenue from advertising.
“It was great seeing so much support from the SA,” Zagreda said. “We’re always going to want more for that next big step, but at the very least the SA was willing to support us for our first shows, and hopefully that will spark a chain of events that will lead to more funding in the future.”
Kleiner echoed that sentiment.
“We believe we can at least function with a budget of $1,000. It will give us some security,” Kleiner said. “But with our minimal budget, we have no room for anything to go wrong, and there are still things that we would like to do to make BTV fantastic.”
In addition to the SA, BTV also received support from Brian Rose, vice president for student affairs. Before the budget meeting, members of the BTV E-Board met with Rose to discuss the possibility of BTV receiving funding from the administration.
“We spoke with Brian Rose about the situation, telling him we are not sure how the appeal process is going to go,” Kleiner said. “We’re not only looking into support from the SA, we’re also hoping the administration can find ways to support us as well, whether it be through funding or helping us build community support.”
Rose told Pipe Dream that he and BTV leaders had discussed providing one-time minimum operating support to BTV, giving them one more year to demonstrate to the SA that they can satisfy funding criteria.
“The existence of student broadcast media is an asset to the campus community that once lost, would be difficult to re-establish,” Rose said in an email. “It is with that in mind that the VP for Student Affairs is willing to discuss with BTV options to operate for one year so that BTV might have more time to seek restoration of regular funding.”
Kleiner said he is looking forward to working closely with the administration next year.
“It seems that a lot of people on the administration really believe that this campus television station is unique for the campus and something that could be really great,” he said.
With the year coming to a close, BTV is looking towards the future and its launch in the fall. According to Zagreda, the station has plans to air a daily morning news show, a weekly evening news show, a game show, and member productions like comedy series “The Bro Code.”
“We want to film different events on campus and broadcast those events,” Zagreda said. “It was tough for the campus this year because we had to fix everything. We were afraid that the campus would lose their faith in us, but we are convinced with next year’s productions, they will appreciate what we have accomplished.”
However, some students, like Doug O’Donavon, a junior majoring in philosophy, politics and law, may find it difficult to forget the past. O’Donovan said he is sick of seeing nothing on TV when he flips by Channel 6.
“If they are not airing anything, their budget should be cut,” O’Donovan said. “I think everyone deserves a second chance, but if fall rolls around and they’re still airing nothing, then they should lose their budget. They’re not credible right now.”
Kleiner said BTV’s launch the second week of fall is a guarantee.
“It is not a matter of something on the cusp of falling apart,” he said. “That was the case a year or two ago. At this very moment, this place is ready to launch as a mainstream production factory. All we are waiting for now is the right moment to say ‘hello.’”
Zagreda encouraged students to stay tuned.
“BTV is coming soon,” Zagreda said. “And we mean it this time.”