In our land of plenty, where more is more, it’s difficult when a service or product is taken away, especially when it’s something we now call a “traditional format.” In this case, we are sad to see that the University of Washington’s TV station (Comcast channel 27) will no longer broadcast on cable television after Dec. 31. It will also discontinue the 24/7 live stream of UWTV online.
The station will continue to produce its educational programs — including the news magazine UW 360 — which will be available on demand on UWTV.org, YouTube, Amazon Fire TV, Roku, and Vimeo, according to UWTV.org. So if you like to watch TV on your computer or other devices, you are in luck. If you like to watch educational TV on your (non-smart) TV, not so much.
The UWTV website, in the Frequently Asked Questions section, says the reason for the change is “To reallocate financial resources and adapt to the changing television environment. More people are accessing video content on their computers, smart TVs and mobile devices than ever before which has resulted in an increase in viewers for our online programs.”
Because the station is noncommercial and the university is publicly funded, financial considerations must of course drive big decisions like this one. But the station doesn’t elaborate on the state of UWTV’s finances or give viewership numbers. The university has been broadcasting since 1988, when it launched CableLearn, a station that allowed current and continuing-education students to catch up on missed classes or attend classes from home, Seattle Magazine reported in 2012. It also offered medical videos.
In 2009, current station general manager John Haslam was brought on board as a consultant, and UWTV made some significant changes. It instituted a predictable schedule; created more shows; showed more sports, arts and music; made a deal with Comcast for on-demand service, and advertised the station and its programs, Seattle Magazine reported. A full spectrum of university lectures are also broadcast.
With education programming on television in the minority, it’s unfortunate to see the state’s flagship university take its station off television. More access points are always better, especially since people — especially the elderly, and the low-income — are still using the “old” technology. For some it is by choice, for others a matter of money (lack thereof.) And as it turns out, nice television screens provide a perfect way to watch programs.
It’s great that UWTV has seen an increase in viewers for its online programs. It’s just too bad that progress means that other viewers who watch those programs, the ones who made them popular, can no longer watch them as originally broadcast — on TV.