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NIU closes 1 of 2 broadcast TV studios to cut costs

Northern Television Center alumnus saddened by shift

DeKALB – Northern Illinois University’s Northern Television Center is changing homes this fall in a move that one alumnus says is heartbreaking.

The NTC production will move from its traditionally known location at 123 Stadium Drive to its second studio in Watson Hall in time for the fall semester. Jorge Rodas, an NTC alumnus and a reporter at WWMT in Kalamazoo, Michigan, said he is disappointed by the move, but hopes the NIU communication department is putting the needs of students first.

“I spent countless nights there deep into the night, and sometimes over-night, working on projects, learning how to edit, working with the camera, just trying to learn as much as I can,” Rodas said. “I love that the place had the freedom to do so. It breaks my heart.”

He said NTC gave him and other journalism students the hands-on experience to seamlessly transition into the professional media world.

Mehdi Semati, acting chair of the Department of Communication at NIU, said the decision to move the center was made to reduce costs and because of falling enrollment in the classes that used the studio.

“The current enrollment in broadcast journalism classes does not justify maintaining two sets of production facilities and the cost of dedicated staff to manage NTC,” Semati said.

There are 17 students enrolled for the fall semester in the classes that use NTC production space, compared with 88 who were enrolled in the spring of 2015, Semati said.

Along with the consolidation of the two studios, NIU will not renew the contract for NTC general manager Beni Enas, NIU spokesman Joe King said. Existing faculty will take on the duties of the general manager position, he said.

As far as cutting costs is concerned, Semati said the Watson classroom where production is moving will be cheaper to maintain. The old production building is prone to leaks and flooding, and an unpredictable power supply has led to the loss of servers and other equipment over the years, he said.

Money and resources saved from the consolidation will be devoted to hiring more faculty and proposed data journalism and new media classes. The NIU communication department has already proposed a course called “Content for Emerging Media” and has been teaching automation in journalism as well, Semati said.

“We would like to increase emphasis on emerging media, not at the expense of broadcasting classes, but in addition to that area,” he said.

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