Matt Hansen, Contributing Writer

MTVU is a channel that Viacom created to extend the reach of its artists and advertisers into the hearts and minds of college students. It is the Student Union’s one and only choice for entertainment on four different 42″ flat screen TVs in the downstairs cafeteria. It broadcasts throughout the day, offering a mix of music videos, news updates, and original programming. The televisions were given free of charge to NEIU, and the channel costs the university nothing to broadcast. The free televisions, however, can only show MTVU. No 24-hour news channels, films, or student-produced content may be shown while students eat. For the price of four 42-inch televisions, MTVU has bought the exclusive right to advertise directly to a captive audience that is the promise land of age demographics: the free-spending college student.

Ever since the opening bars of “Video Killed the Radio Star” by The Buggles debuted on MTV in 1981, cable subscribers have had a place to turn for their music video fix. However, in an era of Jersey Shore and pregnant pre-teens, what was once a pioneering force for the music industry has evolved into a petty annoyance for the newest generation of NEIU students. Opinions have been sharp about MTVU’s presence on campus. WZRD, the student-run radio station, actively campaigns for its removal from the Student Union. Complaints about the service have ranged from the offensiveness of the music to the relevance and timeliness of the news briefs displayed between videos. “I don’t like it,” said Dan Wilson, a sophomore enjoying his lunch in the Golden Eagles Nest cafeteria. “The music is lame and the news is usually a day old. It’s not even loud enough.”

However there are students that find it neither intrusive nor interesting, and not worth much attention. Lauren Smith, a junior who spends her lunch every day at the Golden Eagle’s Nest, expressed what seems to be the general attitude towards MTVU: “It’s not something I really notice. If there was something on that interested me, I might watch, but usually I’m just talking to my friends or studying.” NEIU didn’t always live in an MTVU-run dystopia. The Student Union made the decision to pick up MTVU in 2004, when students had grown tired of the previous incarnation, Nvision. Felicia Keelen, Director of the Student Union, shed some light on how the implementation of MTVU came to be. “During the 2003-2004 academic year, one of the SGA representatives to the Student Union Advisory Committee (SUAC) suggested that we look at alternatives to NVision. After looking at what was available when it was decided to go with MTVU.”

The move came with tangible advantages, including the free televisions and other perks. “Being an MTVU campus makes our students eligible for MTVU sponsored programs and activities such as grants and contests. In the past MTVU has provided giveaways such bags, small notebooks, and tickets to local concerts that we’ve given to NEIU students.” A few years ago the Student Union Advisory Committee looked into making a change. A video on demand service called Akoo generated some interest among committee members, but Keelen stopped short of making a change. “I opted to keep MTVU and to continue looking at other options. Right now, I’m looking at options for running news (through cable or satellite) in parts of the Student Union.”

Keelen acknowledged that the MTVU experience may have run its course, saying “I think MTVU was our best option in 2004 because it gave background entertainment in our food court at no cost to us. There weren’t many other options at the time. I’m not convinced that this program is the best option for NEIU in 2012.” Looking to the future, Keelen implied that a lot of options are available to offer a cost-effective entertainment service while still valuing the content that NEIU students are capable of creating. “We are in the process of implementing a new system for NVision. Once the implementation is complete, we will look at the possibility of including student run content.”