Don’t touch that dial, Georgetown, because the GUTV renaissance is just ahead.

For GUTV, the student-run television outlet currently working to expand its standing and respectability on campus, the weeks are filled with all-nighters and unanticipated mishaps culminating in 16-hour production days. Add to that its current efforts to breathe new life into its programming and activities, and staffers have some of the busiest schedules on campus.

GUTV was the 1998 brainchild of John Collier (MSB ’01) and Juan Pablo Liska (MSB ’00). Its first broadcast aired on Feb. 22, 1999.

Following its launch, GUTV rose to increased prominence within the Hilltop community. The station focused much of its efforts on its news coverage, which included everything from post-Sept. 11, 2001 developments to an exclusive interview with former White House correspondent Helen Thomas. The coverage won GUTV the Center for Student Program’s Outstanding Student Organization award – given to student organizations that have had a particularly strong impact on the campus community – in 2003.

Aside from its home broadcasts on HoyaNet Cable’s Channel 20, the station’s behind-the-scenes influence includes its annual film festival and tape sales at senior week, graduation and convocation.

But the course of the past few years has been a challenging one for the station, under the guidance of different leaders with different visions. Over time the station lost its momentum and some of its strong presence on campus.

“A lot of GUTV left when those who spearheaded much of it graduated,” said General Manager Eric Strauss (COL ’07), who is also a contributing editor at THE HOYA.

Brittany Bassett (MSB ’08), the current news director and a co-anchor on GUTV’s current daily news show, Hilltop Headline Hour, still considers GUTV an essential asset to the Georgetown community.

“I think it provides opportunities for creativity, exploration and, as far as news is concerned, knowledge,” she says.

Not to mention fame. “I was in Acapulco last year in spring break, and we were in the hotel lobby at 5 a.m. after coming back from a club,” she said. “I was in a huge sombrero and a random guy comes up to me and goes, `You’re the girl from GUTV!'”

Last semester, Strauss and station manager Kevin Murphy (COL ’07) decided it was time for a GUTV renaissance. But if the station really hopes to rebuild, it will have to overcome its internal difficulties – technical and production challenges include malfunctioning DVD players and a lack of members.

With the second semester underway, Bassett, Strauss, Murphy and others have begun a large reorganization effort. Along with Despina Pitsoulakis (COL ’06), a former general manager, Strauss revised the GUTV constitution, acquired more storage space, began transferring archived programming from VHS to DVD for re-broadcast and added several DVD players to GUTV’s newly-installed broadcast router.

“We have essentially tripled our programming capacity,” Strauss says. “With only four players hooked up before, we could only put four DVDs on constant rotation. Now we can broadcast more shows without people changing DVDs all the time. Twenty-four-hour programming is very attainable this semester.”

Still, the renaissance remains a work in progress. Strauss said a lack of space is persistent problem. “That’s the scarcest commodity at Georgetown,” he said.

But this is a renaissance nonetheless, and progress is already noticeable.

For one, viewers can look forward to new visual aids in the daily news show. Bassett is particularly enthusiastic about giving her program a more professional look.

“I want to focus more on the professional dynamics of the show and even little things like lighting and backdrops,” she said. “All that can make a big difference in the overall production.”

As can the exciting advent of a new type of program.

“One of the biggest things that’s coming about that is virtually unprecedented in GUTV history is a new sports show hosted by Dan Long (COL ’07), in which we hope to have interviews with Georgetown coaches and players during the season,” Strauss said. With Murphy’s help, GUTV taped every Georgetown home football game of the fall season, with Long as commentator.

“I think what will replace our old news image is going to be, in the short run, sports,” Strauss said. “But in the long run, it is going to be our overall programming presence, including news, sports and the movies that come through our Student Film Festival.”

In its sixth year, the Film Festival consists of two nights of movies, Friday, April 21 and Saturday, April 22, with awards presented on Saturday night. The student film submissions, which have tripled since the festival’s birth in 2001, are usually under 20 minutes and are sent to judges, many of whom are Georgetown alumni. The winners’ ceremony has traditionally been followed by an after-party at the Peacock Cafe.

To keep its programming prominent on the Hilltop, GUTV will also launch a substantial marketing campaign.

“We’ve never had a shortage of ideas for marketing,” Strauss said, “but we couldn’t market anything until we had something to market – until we fixed the technical snafus and found a way to fit programming into easily organized 30-minute timeslots. Once we have a schedule up and running that includes sports, news, movies and other programming at a set time each week, then we can go out and just litter the campus with flyers. We’re going to make it a big marketing rollout.”

Some marketing ideas include showing GUTV on TVs around campus, like the ones in Lauinger Library and Yates Field House. Additionally, Strauss hopes to have debates with large live audiences in Sellinger Lounge. Another opportunity for growth is a TV production class to be offered this fall by Estel Dillon, a producer-director with NBC. Strauss said he hopes that this class will add to the pool of GUTV membership. By aligning the station’s main production hours with the Monday-night class time, the students would be able to get training and experience and create productions of their own to broadcast on GUTV.

Still a third possibility rests on the horizon: GUTV is about to go online. As soon as the middle of the semester, Strauss said students and alumni will be able to watch select student programming and GUTV-taped special events on the Web.

“At the end of the day, we don’t want GUTV to be run by students pulling all-nighters all of the time,” Strauss said. “We need it run by a stable, solid recruitment membership effort that can replenish itself. We’re looking forward.”

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