Stu­dents may soon be able to enjoy college events from the comfort of their own dorm or from any of the 697 cable con­nec­tions Hillsdale pays for in their “bulk-bill” agreement with Comcast.
The expanding media department at Hillsdale College is in the midst of bidding and con­tract nego­ti­a­tions with cable providers to create their own high def­i­n­ition Charger Channel.
“We want folks to be able to see what’s going on,” Hillsdale Media Pro­duc­tions Spe­cialist Scott Pienta said.
The Charger Channel is a way to show prospective stu­dents, donors, and other campus vis­itors how much is hap­pening at Hillsdale College while also keeping stu­dents in the loop and pro­viding another way to be involved with on-campus happenings.
“I could see a day where, with our mon­itors if we were con­nected, you could push out infor­mation that stu­dents would be inter­ested in and vis­itors would be inter­ested in,” Chief Admin­is­trative Officer Rich Péwé said. “It’s a com­mu­ni­cation tool.”
The department cur­rently has the capa­bility to create two channels that could be reached on campus tele­vi­sions much like a local access channel. The fiber equipment already on campus was tested last week to determine if it’s func­tioning properly, and issues that were dis­covered will be resolved in the coming weeks.
Pienta said he is looking into tech­nology improve­ments for the fiber optic lines and also for some of the older tube TVs on campus that would need addi­tional hardware to output the high def­i­n­ition signal.
Issues with the school’s current cable provider, Comcast, include an inability to have live events on the channel. For Comcast’s system, events would need to be filmed and sent to the company to then be put out onto the channel.
Depending on Comcast’s abil­ities, Charger Channel may be broadcast to the entire Hillsdale com­munity, some­thing Pienta said he is con­cerned about due to lack of staffing in the media department.
Broad­casting to the com­munity is some­thing that Pienta said he sees as a pos­si­bility for the future of this project, but it is not a venture he wants to make right now.
Pienta said he is looking into options for Hillsdale to have its own equipment that receives and dis­tributes tele­vision signals for cable channels, the cable headend.
“We would be able to insert our own infor­mation, our own channels, our own whatever we want,” Pienta explained. “We could stream whatever content we wanted to.”
Another aspect of the Charger Channel beyond streaming live events is replaying past events. The media department films many campus events which could be made into an edited and pro­duced product to be re-run on the Charger Channel.
“We could compile a bunch of videos and stream that infor­mation 24/7 to our donors’ hotel rooms and/or to anyone on campus,” Pienta said.
One important con­sid­er­ation Pienta and Péwé both high­lighted was the fear of decreased crowd sizes at college events.
“We want the stu­dents here,” Pienta said.
Péwé echoed Pienta’s sentiment.
“We’d have to be careful about that, you know,” Péwé said. “You wouldn’t want to do CCAs and film them and have people not show up.”
For college events hap­pening off campus like at the shooting range or the Allen P. Kirby Center for Con­sti­tu­tional Studies and States­manship, however, the Charger Channel would provide an oppor­tunity for stu­dents to watch an event they may not be able to attend.
“The vision is that at some point, we’re going to be putting a lot more out there, and if we’re going to make it good enough to go to the external audi­ences, it might be things that you’d want to watch on your Hillsdale pro­gramming,” Péwé said.
Pienta and Péwé are working to find the most cost-effective plan that will allow the department to create the most value for the campus. They are working on pro­posals and cost-benefit analyses to determine what makes the most sense for campus.