A Step in the Right Direction

CUTV Getting Back on Track After a Year of Uncertainty

Graphic Graeme Shorten Adams

For some, hearing the words “Community University Television”—as it’s now known—or “CUTV” first brings to mind the abundance of footage produced by the station during the 2012 student strike.

For others, the first thought is remembering the station’s state of turmoil that led to the suspension of its executive director and the resignation of its entire board of directors before shutting down last October.

It became clear at the most recent meeting held between CUTV members and the station’s board last Thursday, however, that those who are involved with the station are working harder than ever to get things back on track.

Things seem to be moving in the right direction, and if all goes according to plan CUTV might be able to rebrand themselves as the campus and community television station they want to be.

At the meeting, a handful of working groups were formed, ranging from one that will see a group of individuals work to raise awareness about CUTV in general, to a policy committee that will work to resolve daily issues as they arise.

Policies still need to be drafted, and it was suggested that a future meeting would be held to pass the station’s new regulations en masse. But there are significant reasons to be hopeful that this marks the dawn of a new era for the Concordia television station.

Perhaps the largest cause for hope is that the new board is making no secret of CUTV’s tumultuous recent years.

Up until recently, the station had a reputation marred by altercations with police and instances where it was difficult to differentiate between the protesters and those manning the CUTV cameras.

Rather than trying to sweep its history under the rug, the station is now being upfront about the actions of past members in what seems like a genuine attempt to move forward.

While it is somewhat shocking that the station does not already have an ethics policy, there was mention that one is in the works, something that would go a long way towards ensuring that CUTV members behave in a way that is appropriate and professional, even when covering issues that are close to their hearts.

The need for an ethics policy became particularly evident during the discussion about press passes. Concerns were raised about the fact that station members are currently without credentials identifying them as members of campus media, which can lead to unfair treatment at the hands of police during the protests that CUTV regularly covers.

While a press pass is far from a get-out-of-jail-free card (and should not be treated as such), it certainly can help to reduce the risk of unjust arrest or detention—a risk particularly of importance for student media, who are often not treated as true members of the press by Montreal police.

Board Chair Emily Campbell was adamant—and rightly so—about the need to draft an ethics policy before issuing press passes.

“If we are trying to rebrand CUTV, then there needs to be some sort of code of ethics,” Campbell said during the meeting.

Given that the press pass policy that was read aloud during the meeting included points about removing political symbols, as well as the promise to adhere to the yet-to-be-defined ethics policy, it seems as though the days of the station’s stridently partisan news coverage could soon be over.

If CUTV hopes to rebrand itself and turn the station into a space where members of the Concordia community can take advantage of their equipment and resources, it’s imperative that it first moves to distance itself from the behaviour of its camera people and reporters during the student movement.

After all, one cannot yell at police and engage in protests and then expect to be treated as a member of the press. It simply does not work that way, nor should it.

By establishing a clearly defined ethics policy, one that would result in a press pass being revoked if the individual possessing it behaved contrary to the policy, this rebranding would be more successful, and CUTV could become the station it wants to be.

Whether or not that involves an agreement with telecommunications company Vidéotron—which is looking to launch its own English-language community television station—is still in discussion.

Another reason to be hopeful is the formation of the budget committee working group. With this committee’s inception, certain financial powers will be removed from the executive and placed in the hands of the station’s members.

Given the well-documented history of concern for the station’s finances—such as when the station’s internal account, which contains the money received from a $0.34 cent-per-credit student fee levy, was frozen for a period last year given the unstable state CUTV found itself in—greater oversight is of huge importance.

While in the past there were up to 10 paid employees at a time, restructuring over the past year has made it so that there are now only two, meaning that situations like the one at this time last year, where the station was paying $1,000 each day to approximately 10 employees, will be avoided and financial issues will be less of a concern.

Given the station’s history, it’s not unreasonable for students to expect CUTV to be as transparent as possible as it tries to rebuild. Publishing the most recent audit on their website is a good start, and if things continue in the right direction—as they have been—CUTV may be able to reboot.