Watson to seek TV policy clarity

    In response to multiple communication conflicts last year with student-run media, Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Joseph W. Watson has created a committee to coordinate policies of closed-circuit television stations on campus. The decision has in turn raised concerns among some students and A.S. leaders.

    Closed Circuit TV Stations Governance members will “review the mission, governance and operations statements and guidelines for the college and ASUCSD campus television stations and discuss, with those responsible for each of the stations, changes in the guidelines needed to make [them] explicitly clear,” according to the committee’s official description.

    “My vision for this committee is that it clarifies what are the governing structures for the closed-circuit television stations and determine how content is governed,” Watson said. “I think this is extremely important. We often end up in circumstances in which there is controversy over content, and there’s not clarity over who was responsible.”

    One such circumstance occurred in May, when UCSD Healthcare shut down the broadcast of Student-Run Television for almost four days in response to patient complaints that obscene material was aired on Thornton Hospital televisions.

    SRTV managers said they still do not know whether the material was part of regular programming or if a break-in at the station occurred because hospital administrators refused to explain what they saw.

    “The fact that an entity outside of UCSD shut us off was disheartening,” said Chelsea Welch, programming director at the time. “We never got a clear answer as to what was aired, so we can’t solve the problem.”

    The decision to pull SRTV off-air in May was made by Director of Student Policies and Judicial Affairs Nicholas S. Aguilar, who has been appointed as chair of the new committee.

    Also serving on the committee is Warren College Resident Dean Claire Palmer, who shut down the Warren College television station last year after a video of American Nicholas Berg’s beheading was broadcast. Palmer stated that because students and the university run the station jointly, it was subject to rules that warranted her decision to shut it down.

    Watson said he hopes the committee will be able to clear up such ambiguities brought up by last year’s SRTV and WCTV blackouts.

    “What occurred last year raised a number of questions, which could not always be clearly answered,” he said. “This is an effort to get the answers before other issues come up.”

    The committee consists of five UCSD administrators from various campuses and one A.S. representative, raising concerns among some student leaders that students will be underrepresented.

    “Each campus media [outlet] is run very differently,” A.S. President Jenn Pae said. “I would hope that there would be more student representation on the committee so that there is a better understanding of how student-run media works on campus. I don’t think that is an accurate representation at all.”

    According to A.S. Vice President Internal Cat Yapyuco, she received several applications for the single student representative position.

    “Relative to other committees, this one is definitely a high-interest committee,” she said.

    Out of the applicants, Welch was appointed as the A.S. representative to the committee on Oct. 19. Pae plans to ask Watson to include additional students on the committee in order to better represent the campus television stations.

    “This one student is not only supposed to represent the A.S. student-run television station but all of the colleges, which makes it extremely difficult,” Pae said.

    Watson said he would entertain requests for more representation on the committee.

    “If the A.S. wants to have more representation, I would welcome it,” Watson said. “I have absolutely no problem with more representatives.”

    However, Watson said the committee’s task does not seem to require multiple student representatives, as it is charged to review the clarity of campus television stations’ guidelines and determine who is to be held responsible for content.

    “When you say you want lots of representation, you’re implying that there’s going to be deliberation and some type of policy decision,” Watson said. “The only thing that is going to be voted on here is ‘Do you believe this is clear?’ and ‘Do you understand what this means?’”

    Student leaders have also expressed concern that the committee may be used to limit free speech rights.

    “I would hope that this committee expedites or makes the process clear, rather than inhibits our free speech rights on campus in the media,” Pae said.

    In response to the concerns, Watson said the committee will in no way modify television station policies, but will merely review them to evaluate clarity.

    “The one issue that I felt was important is there not be any sort of interpretation of things by the members of this committee,” Watson said.

    Watson also said he hopes the committee will submit a report of its findings by Nov. 10.

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