From high atop South Quad Residence Hall, a small studio, well stocked control room and cubicled office are broadcasting news, sports, and entertainment to about 10,000 channel-surfing students living in University residence halls. Whether it’s sports, news, sex or fitness, it’s likely that WOLV-TV has something to please all viewers.
That wasn’t always the case. Now in its 11th year, WOLV-TV was originally conceived during the 1993/1994 school year for the purpose of airing Michigan hockey games. Not until 1996 were other shows added to the schedule, over time building up to the eight shows that the network currently tapes and airs. Two more shows are in development, and should be airing by the end of this semester.
Even those who no longer live in the residence halls may have caught a glimpse of WOLV-TV during its one-hour spots which air every night on UMTV channel 22. WOLV-TV also provides coverage of the hockey games to Fraser’s Pub in Ann Arbor. Efforts at updating and re-tooling equipment during 2004 have improved WOLV-TV’s quality of programming. The station now feels it can keep up to par with the production quality of national broadcasting studios. The higher quality of picture and sound enabled by this upgrade was especially necessary for those sports and news shows that are broadcast to the larger Ann Arbor community every night.
During the past year, WOLV-TV has been getting increasingly more exposure in the national media. “ABC World News Tonight” contacted the station before the 2004 presidential election and asked it to create a package of students’ reactions on election issues. Although the package was ultimately not run, the offer was no doubt exciting, as it showed the station’s potential for a national audience.
But this coming weekend, WOLV-TV is getting another chance for exposure outside of the Ann Arbor area. FOX Sports Alaska has contacted WOLV-TV and will be picking up their feed from the Michigan men’s hockey games both this Friday and Saturday for broadcast to approximately 600,000 viewers in Alaska. “This is probably the biggest event we’ve had yet,” said Michael Ostrander, a School of Education senior and co-general manager of WOLV-TV.
Although the live hockey games remain among the station’s most popular programs, according to the large amount of responses the station receives about them, those Alaskans are missing out on other shows that appear only on channel 70, such as “Giddy Up!” (formerly known as “Turned On”), a call-in sex question and answer program patterned after MTV’s Loveline. Another hot show, according the to student e-mail response, is the aerobics show entitled “The Big House Beat: Everybody ‘n da Club Gettin’ Fit,” as well as sports talk show, “You Say Maize … I Say Blue,” modeled on ESPN’s “Pardon the Interruption.”
WOLV-TV was, is, and intends to always be a student-run organization. “We don’t sit here and think, ‘Oh, we want to have this type of show,’ ” said LSA senior and co-general manager Laura Averitt, “Who are we to limit (the students)?” While support and advice is provided by faculty, the day-to-day operations of the network are in the hands of its student members.
The basic process of creating a show was followed last semester by LSA sophomore Stephanie Mansour. “I originally joined WOLV-TV to do the news, but they were looking for new shows,” she said.
Mansour had taken an aerobics class before and enjoyed working out to songs, so she brought up the idea of an aerobics program before the producers. The next step involved meeting with the executive board and pitching her idea for the show to them. Apparently the board liked what they heard, and Mansour taped a pilot episode. When taping a pilot, the managers and producers working at WOLV-TV are looking to see that the student creator’s idea is feasible and that any technical difficulties arising during the taping can be solved. They received positive e-mail feedback after the pilot episode, and “The Big House Beat” was picked up, going on to tape five more episodes last semester. “We were shocked,” said Mansour, but “it’s been so much fun!”
Training is also provided for all new students. “It’s great when you have someone new in December, and you see a person who was new in September offer to teach them how to use the equipment,” Averitt said. “We’re all friends. It’s a really good organization to join for someone who is new at the University — it’s a good family.”