After three turbulent years, BTV, rebranded TheNewBTV, celebrated its official comeback with a grand opening ceremony Friday afternoon.
BTV President Alex Kleiner, a senior double-majoring in computer science and cinema, spoke at the ribbon-cutting ceremony held in the New University Union basement before a crowd that included BTV staff and curious students, as well as Binghamton University President Harvey Stenger and Brian Rose, vice president for student affairs.
“Just two years ago, BTV was nothing more than a basement,” Kleiner said in his speech. “It lacked focus. It lacked motivation. It lacked dedication and it lacked equipment. Despite having the odds against us, by constantly being followed by the stigma of the previous generations of BTV that they endured, and despite having the SA last year cut our funding to just a few hundred dollars, we have successfully completed TheNewBTV.”
Kleiner added that TheNewBTV had been running for some time before the launch party.
“We have had all-day content on our station for months,” he said. “We know it works because we’ve done it for months. So this grand opening is us opening up and saying, ‘We are here, we are ready, we know it, and we are going to run full-scale operations from here on in.’”
It was an important milestone for an organization whose future looked bleak after crushing budget cuts from the Student Association left BTV with only $1,000 for the year, compared to $5,000 in 2011-12 and $15,000 in 2010-11.
“When I first started with BTV about a year and a half ago, they had just gotten cameras,” said Scott Sommer, production manager at BTV and a senior majoring in cinema. “We didn’t have any money for GIMs or for equipment. We could barely keep all the equipment we had from breaking because it was all so old. Our budget was at the point of being cut completely. We didn’t think that we would survive the semester, and that really scared us into shape.”
However, TheNewBTV received support from University administrators. In particular, Brian Rose assisted TheNewBTV in acquiring the necessary broadcasting and production equipment to get the station up and running again, according to Kleiner.
“We actually met with them in the beginning of the fall semester and went through some of their needs,” Rose said. “We helped them make some decisions about what to invest in and helped them develop that plan.”
Rose was not discouraged by how long it took for TheNewBTV to get up and running.
“From our point of view, this is right on schedule,” he said. “We knew it would take some planning and some equipment purchasing and some recalibration of what the station’s production capabilities were going to be. Doing things right sometimes takes longer than people might expect.”
Ahmed Khater, a junior majoring in cinema, serves as the advertising director for TheNewBTV and said the station has already been approached by several local businesses interested in advertising on the network.
Jason Grabisch, a graduate student in the School of Education, attended the kickoff and said he believes having a University TV channel is important.
“I support BTV and what they’re trying to do,” he said. “I think college television is a dying art that needs to be given CPR.”
However, a name change and grand opening were not enough to convince many students that BTV has turned the corner.
“I’m highly skeptical that they’re going to put out anything good based on past history,” said Chris Ertel, a junior majoring in English. “I think BTV has sucked since I arrived, and I have no reason to believe it will improve.”
But President Stenger was enthusiastic, despite being new to BTV.
“Personally, I had never turned on BTV until an hour ago,” he said. “I can’t believe that this is here, and I’m really looking forward to watching Channel 6 on a regular basis. Maybe they’ll invite me to be on one of the shows.”
Next week, TheNewBTV will meet with the SA to discuss their future budget. Alex Kleiner said he hopes BTV will be given more money to work with.
“We’re hoping that because we’ve fully fulfilled our mission statement and have generated so much buzz, that the SA will reconsider what they originally gave us last year and consider upping it considerably,” he said.
But Ravi Prakriya, chair of the Student Association’s Financial Council, expressed reservations about TheNewBTV, although he said FinCo should disregard his opinion to maintain their impartiality.
“I am no longer a voting member [of FinCo] after all, so my opinion should have no bearing on the process or the outcome, aside from informing the group on the proper procedures and historical facts/precedent,” Prakriya wrote in an email.
Prakriya acknowledged BTV’s potential benefits to the University, but said the group continues to fall short of its mission statement.
“They [BTV] provide services to campus … On the other hand, they have not nor are they currently achieving the purpose of their club as stated in their charter and their organization constitution, which is technically grounds to have their organization de-chartered. There’s a lot of complexity to their particular case,” he said. “Do I think it is important to have an independent college TV station? Allow me to phrase my answer as follows: I think it would be important if we had a functioning university TV station.”
Either way, Kleiner promised that TheNewBTV is here to stay and will be broadcasting 24 hours per day on Channel 6.
“As of this moment, today, Feb. 13 of 2013, TheNewBTV is officially open,” he said.