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NDtv trains media students, delights fans

Brian Doxtader | Wednesday, September 20, 2006

NDtv, Notre Dame’s own student broadcasting channel, kicks off its fall season tonight with the season 4 premiere of “The Mike Peterson Show.”

NDtv began as the collective idea of several Film, Television and Theater (FTT) majors. With the help of a faculty advisor, Christine Becker, and a Student Activities advisor, Laurie McFadden, the channel was launched in October 2002. At that time, it was only a half-hour-long show that ran every two weeks. In its initial run, the show featured five distinct segments. By fall 2004 and spring 2005, NDtv had grown into a full channel with two shows – “NDtv News” and “The Mike Peterson Show.” Each was a half-hour-long program broadcast once each week.

In its current incarnation, NDtv consists of four programs – “NDtv News,” “NDtv Sports,” “The Mike Peterson Show” and “The Final Cut,” a movie review show focusing on the DeBartolo Center for the Performing Arts (DPAC) and films shown by the Student Union Board (SUB). What started as a handful of FTT majors broadcasting out of South Dining Hall has exploded into a complex production that consists of 90 members, its own studio and nonstop programming over campus cable.

The programming on NDtv ranges from serious news to sketch comedy, as evidenced by “The Mike Peterson Show,” which is the first show premiering on NDtv’s fall 2006 schedule. The program features the eponymous host in a variety of situations and has been running for nearly two years, though Peterson temporarily took a hiatus while studying abroad in Santiago, Chile.

“It’s kind of like a cross between Conan and Saturday Night Live, but with a very specific topic for its humor – Notre Dame,” said Peterson, a senior FTT major. “We also feature campus celebrities and student musical acts each week.”

Previous guests have included various campus bands and football players like former Notre Dame football captain Brandon Hoyte. The show occasionally broadcasts live from Legends, which allows for a live audience.

One aspect that has made NDtv particularly unique is the high level of student involvement. Students handle every facet of the show, from the technical aspects of pre-production and post-production to the creative decisions of programming and script writing.

“NDtv is completely run by students,” said Melinda Leonard, executive producer of “NDtv News.” “We have an advisor, Laurie McFadden, but she never gives us instructions or orders, only advice or guidance when we ask her.”

This complete technical and creative control has benefited those involved, allowing them to try exciting projects and showcase their enthusiasm for television and broadcasting. Both Leonard and Peterson stress that NDtv provides real-world technical experience for students that often cannot be found in classrooms.

For those seeking a job in the media world, working on the channel gives them a head start in understanding what goes into television production.

Perhaps most importantly for Notre Dame students, the University mandated installation of free cable television in every dorm room makes it possible for almost anyone to watch NDtv from the comfort of his or her home.

“In the past, NDtv has just been too difficult and inconvenient to watch,” Leonard said. “But with cable in the dorm rooms, people can access our programming easily. If they know our schedule, they can easily turn on the TV while sitting at their desks working on a paper.”

And that’s a benefit for the students behind the TV, too – they hope the increased accessibility will grant them greater exposure throughout the Notre Dame community.

NDtv is a unique and rewarding experience for those involved, but Leonard and Peterson emphasize that the programming is for the Notre Dame student body. Not only do they want their content to reach more of a mass audience thanks to campus-wide cable, but they also hope that audience finds their work both informative and entertaining.

“I love that NDtv provides a venue and a community that can’t be found anywhere else at Notre Dame,” Peterson said. “Students who want to be anything from producers to comedians to SportsCenter analysts all come together under our room and really work hard to provide quality programming in a way that only we can – for ND students, by ND students.”

NDtv premieres this evening at 7 p.m. on North Quad. It will feature Robbie Hazen as a performer and will show clips of each of the channel’s four programs. More information can be found at www.nd.edu/~ndtv