From Studio Cue to Queen’s TV
Name change, revised hiring process and emphasis on news content re-define student-run TV show—again
Queen’s Television, formerly known as Studio Q, struggled with a lack of structure, viewers and an unofficial hiring process that went unnoticed by the AMS. The television broadcasting service is back with a new image and is looking for a niche on campus.
After starting out as Studio Cue in 1980, the show went through several content changes—shifting from news to talk show to sketch comedy. It was incorporated into the AMS in 1985-86. Initially, the show imitated a satirical talk show, but adapted more of a news feel when it went through a redesign in 1989.
A Journal article published on Sept. 22, 1989 reports that the premiere show covered “the city’s new recycling program, improvements in Frosh Week, and the standards of education at Queen’s.” “The resuming problem with Studio Q was that it was constantly shifting—the format shifted and there wasn’t much consistency,” said Greg McKellar, AMS chief information officer. “That’s inevitable with high turnover.” After it lost its broadcast slot of 6 p.m. on Cablenet 13 in 1997, the timeslot kept changing, making it difficult for the station to gain a following.
“[Studio Q] wasn’t always policy-driven, or always strategically driven,” McKellar said. “It often functioned on the personality of the students running it.” McKellar said funds for Studio Q have often been precarious throughout the years.
Because of the ephemeral nature of broadcast TV, attracting advertisers was always a challenge.
“Studio Q couldn’t always generate revenue as easily as other media outlets on campus,” he said.
The name of the show changed at the end of last school year. Then-executive producer Jess Lindal, ArtSci ’08, had a professor who kept referring to Studio Q as “Queen’s TV.” After discussing with Dan Jacob, last year’s media director, the Studio Q executive decided to change the name and the logo in September.
With the re-branding of the station, Lindal, now AMS communication officer, hopes to generate instant recognition of the TV station at Queen’s.
“It’s a much better branding: Studio Q isn’t exactly self-explanatory,” she said.
QTV’s 30-minute weekly segment airs on CKWS channel 10 every Sunday night at 11:30 p.m. They are also available on YouTube, as well as their website at queenstv.ca.
QTV won’t be seeking a longer timeslot on-air.
“A half-hour slot is feasible to us right now,” said executive producer Alex Verdurmen. “We’re crippled in a technological sense; we have no equipment to handle [a longer segment], and only two computers to edit the whole show.” Verdurmen, ArtSci ’09, said viewership is “tough to gauge,” but online viewer numbers on the QTV’s YouTube segments are in the thousands, with one clip (“Sex in Res”) having about 12,000 viewers.
Of the $17,996.58 the campus television show received through opt-outable fees last school year, $10,000 of it went towards rent and administrative fees.
That left the Studio Q executive with just $7,065 to spend on new sound equipment and microphones.
Most of QTV’s funding comes from an opt-outable fee of $2.16 from each student. The fee hasn’t been increased since 1998. There’s also some revenue from the independent video production company, Video Factory—for $25/hour, any student group or faculty at Queen’s can use a video camera, which comes with an operator, to record an event. Editing costs an extra $25/hour.
“We have no budget; we cover our costs as much as possible,” Verdurmen said. He added that everyone working on the show is there as a volunteer. Verdurmen also expressed that QTV will be seeking corporate sponsors this year.
John Manning, vice-president (operations), said all AMS services pay the AMS administrative fee.
“The fee goes into funding the general office, pays for the executive salary as well as the support staff salary, and office supplies.” Verdurmen chose to get involved with the show during his first year at Queen’s.
“I thought that it was a great venue into TV business, where I could get hands-on experience,” he said—while Lindal was drawn in even before she moved in.
“Studio Q was the reason I came to Queen’s,” she said, citing her friendship with Pete Carr, executive producer in 2000-01, as a motivator for getting involved.
But after her first year, problems arose in the group’s internal organization—in September 2005, the elected executive producer resigned without hiring any of the executive members. A few members of Studio Q asked Lindal to take charge, and she was approved by the Board of Directors later in September.
“I had no staff to begin with, and not many people in general. We didn’t hire staff until October,” Lindal said. “We missed prime recruiting time, like Frosh Week.” After hiring, Lindal re-launched the show in January 2006.
“I’ll be honest, it was a little low-budget,” she said. “But we had a very committed group and interested volunteers that kept the group together, and generated a lot of interest.” The next executive director, Tristan Moran, ArtSci ’07, expanded the volunteer base from a dozen to about 30.
During 2007-08, while Lindal was business manager at Studio Q, she started rethinking the hiring process. During Lindal’s time with Studio Q, all hiring of the new executive was done through an informal election, where all volunteers were notified of an election taking place. The candidates would then announce their intention of running for executive positions and give an oral proposal of their plans. They stepped outside and a voting process took place by counting raised hands. The outgoing executive conducted station’s election procedures.
“I don’t think any of us knew that there was a formal [election] policy in process,” said Lindal. “That level of training was never passed on, and the [service] directors and the [Commission of Internal Affairs] never questioned the process.”
Lindal said the informal election process prevented Studio Q from getting a wide pool of applicants.
“Some volunteers had been afraid to step up,” she said.
The new hiring process includes a hiring panel made up of AMS members who conduct interview sessions.
“The numbers [of applicants] prove that it was successful,” Lindal said.
Verdurmen said that the former hiring elections were more like “a popularity contest” in the past.
Along with its name change, the show is changing the nature of its content in at attempt to be more relevant to students.
Instead of the split focus on news and satirical sketches written by students, it will turn its attention exclusively to campus news.
“The acting skits in previous years are no longer a focus,” said Verdurmen. “We will be directing content to students and cover issues that matter to students.” Verdurmen said the main reason for the change in content came from viewer feedback.
“Our volunteers wanted to take a different direction. They want to head in a direction that was more legitimate, that could credit us as a proper source of information on campus,” he said.
Dan Wallace, ArtSci ’07 and associate producer at QTV, is glad about the change to news content.
“Our goal is to ensure we’re covering news, student related events, and [generating] content that’s relevant to Queen’s community as a whole,” he said. The station will be reporting on issues such as Queen’s clubs, sports, and events happening around campus, and divide them up in categories such as campus news, entertainment, and shows, so the viewer knows what to expect when tuning in. To encourage viewers to tune in, QTV volunteers are working hard to promote the show’s new brand on campus.
“I saw them putting up posters in rezes today,” said Gillian Wheatley, AMS media director. “The name change has allowed them to take ownership and they’ve really gotten behind it.” Over the summer, Wheatley oversaw the archiving and cataloguing process of all the previous footage of Studio Q at the Queen’s Archives.
“We want to digitize everything and create a video library,” she said.
Aside from preserving the past, Wheatley is hopeful that the station’s redesign will be a positive change.
“Really, I would like to see them be more relevant to students.”