Syracuse University Magazine


The Orange Television Network (OTN) provides students with numerous opportunities to explore the TV industry. Here, students work on a production in the Citrus TV studio, Menschel Media Center, Watson Hall. OTN broadcasts a variety of Citrus TV productions.

Photo courtesy of Orange Television Network

Campus TV Goes HD

Syracuse University has been a home to innovative television technology since General Electric installed a five-kilowatt transmitter on campus in 1948, enabling one of the first master's degree programs in television production ever offered. Another milestone was reached this fall when the Orange Television Network (OTN) became the nation's first fully digital high-definition (HD) collegiate TV operation. With studios in the Newhouse complex, OTN serves the campus via broadcast on digital channels 2 and 2.1 and via cable as part of the package provided to subscribers in residence halls. Students living off campus—and the rest of the world—can view OTN's online stream at "There's lots of student interest in television—both producing it and watching it," says television production professor Andrew Robinson '77, OTN's general manager and faculty advisor. "With so much video equipment out there these days, many of our students are TV savvy before they get here, which is a real advantage for us."

Last year, OTN employed some 25 students, and about 350 more worked voluntarily for Citrus TV, the student production studio supplying OTN with many of its programs. Among its prominent contributions to the OTN schedule are Citrus News, offering half-hour newscasts three days a week and news capsules on other days, and the weekly Citrus Noticias, the only Spanish-language news telecast produced in Central New York.

OTN's student-made programming lineup features entertainment shows, with an emphasis on comedy and music; movie presentations, including indies, oldies, and international flicks; and an array of current affairs, cooking, exercise, and informational series. First Year, an original six-part drama, was produced for OTN by faculty, students, and staff at the video unit of SU Information Technology and Services. Set at a fictitious college, it explores smoking, drinking, unsafe sex, and other behavioral issues through the lives of its characters. First Year (episode 2) was recognized with a 2010 Telly Award in a national competition honoring excellence in regional television. OTN's Humor Whore took home a Telly as well. "I thought the program lineup was suffering from a few too many talking heads, and we needed to lighten things up a little," says creator-producer Andrew Graham '12, a television, radio, film major. "So I went to Andy Robinson with an idea for inserting comedy sketches between shows, and Andy does not say 'no.' That's the great thing about OTN. You get a chance to try out new things. If something doesn't work, so what? If it works, you can put it on your reel." A sampling of OTN's unique programming mix includes Improve Your World, a SUNY ESF coproduction spotlighting student innovations on the green front; Orange State, a news roundtable coproduced and simulcast with WJPZ-FM/Z-89; and Campus Crush, a game show pitting students vs. faculty in a battle of the SU Brainiacs.

Nena Garga '12, a broadcast journalism and political science major, began volunteering for Citrus TV as a first-year student and is now executive producer of Citrus's Friday night newscast. She also works for OTN as a coordinating producer. Garga feels both organizations have provided experiences valuable to her career goal of producing news or talk programming. "Citrus gave me hands-on experience in putting together a newscast," she says. "At OTN, I've gained an understanding of the concerns of a news director and what it might be like to go into management."

Robinson, an industry professional for more than 30 years, is proud of the level of technology at OTN, but says digital HD is just the latest in an unending series of upgrades. "It's my responsibility to watch where technology is heading and plan for equipment that serves at least two purposes: educating the students who work with me and running a TV station that has something for everyone on campus," he says. What's next? OTN begins airing 3-D programming this spring. "Have you ever seen golf in 3-D?" Robinson asks. "It's amazing." —David Marc