To most channel surfers, WilliNet is just a brief stop on the way from NBC to MTV. Broadcast on channels 15 through 17, WilliNet has been providing Williamstown residents with local programming for decades. It has a number of weekly programs, but most of the time it functions simply as a community bulletin board. Though WilliNet has been around for quite some time, it was not recognized as a station until 1993.
In 1993 Williamstown television provider Adelphia Cable signed a contract with WilliNet, providing it with three channels and an annual budget. This was an important step in giving WilliNet funds to establish an actual station. With the money from the Adelphia deal, WilliNet was able to purchase cameras, tripods and editing equipment as well as rent space from the College.
Located on Spring Street, the WilliNet office is essentially at the center of its audience. But there is no way of telling how big its audience is, or how many people actually tune in. Currently WilliNet has only a few weekly shows; noteworthy examples include Math Chat, hosted by professor Frank Morgan, and The Susan Conklin Show.
WilliNet manager Russ Carpenter has been looking to add more original programming for the last couple of years. His and WilliNet’s attempts to reach out to the students of Williams College have gone largely unnoticed. “There is plenty of room for new shows and [we] need to increase the number of programs,” Carpenter says. There is not very much student-based programming despite WilliNet’s expressed interest.
One of the students who is involved is Jeff Herzog ’00. Herzog got interested in WilliNet when taking the Winter Study class “Leadership in World Affairs,” which set him up with WilliNet and Carpenter. Herzog learned the ropes of the station in a month and is now a fixture there. Like Carpenter, Herzog sees no reason why more students are not involved in the station.
Getting involved in WilliNet is rather simple, and only requires a few training sessions. The first involves learning how to set up and use the video cameras. Once someone completes the first training session, he or she has access the station’s camera. The cameras can be used for a school-related film or it can be for a personal project of some sort. Carpenter and WilliNet would also be happy to have people cover local news events. After the footage has been shot, there is a training session in the editing room. Editing by nature is more complicated, and the training sessions are a little bit longer and more in-depth.
One of the bonuses of WilliNet’s cable access status is that there is no censorship, meaning students are free to do or show anything. Creativity is of course a huge asset in making any television show. Carpenter has some basic ideas for student programming, “news shows, a ‘One in 2000’ TV version, a live broadcast of student council or any original story or show idea.”
Carpenter boils down what WilliNet needs to three things: “programming, volunteers and publicity.” There is no reason why all three of these things cannot come from Williams students.