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Administrators shut down campus TV station indefinitely

November 17, 2005

CALIFORNIA — A one-night hiatus for the student-run television station at the University of California at San Diego has turned into an indefinite suspension.

Student government officials, worried the station was planning to air live or unscreened material on Nov. 3 in violation of a recent amendment to the station's charter, asked the university to pull the station off the air for the night, according to The San Diego Union-Tribune.

School administrators would not turn the station back on when student government officials asked them to a day later, said student government president Christopher Sweeten.

"This wasn't a situation that the administration needed to step in on," he said. "This was a student issue."

Sweeten said he met with administrators to discuss returning the station to air, but he was told the station would remain off the air until "no harm will come" from the situation.

Station manager Tiffany Rapp said the school was "uncomfortable with the content."

"They just want control," Rapp said.

Rapp, who said the station provided 14 hours of original content a day with shows encompassing the spectrum from music videos to animation to talk shows, said she believes the school is restricting the station's rights.

"It's completely censorship," said Rapp, adding that students now see this as an issue of free speech. The university also took down the station's Web site, forcing the station to open a new one under its own domain.

"This is not about censorship," school spokeswoman Stacie Spector told The Union-Tribune. "This is about ensuring student safety, security and the effective enforcement of rules and regulations."

An altercation occurred between student government representatives and station managers on Nov. 3 that involved students knocking on the door of the television station and station officials refusing to open it, Sweeten said. But he said the administration's claims of a physical altercation are "way out of proportion" and an "excuse to keep the television station off the air."

Rapp said she agreed that there was no physical altercation. The studio has an access code, she said, and the delegates from the student government did not have the proper code to enter the studio.

Student government leaders stepped in to control the station after explicit sexual content appeared repeatedly on one of its shows, prompting outrage from some students. Explicit material was permissible under the student government charter, but student leaders attempted to ban sex and nudity on the station after a television show broadcast sex between its host and an adult actress.

The television station should not face censorship from the student government or the school, Rapp said.

The station is entirely funded by student activity fees, thereby falling under the jurisdiction of the student government rather than the school, Sweeten said.

No timeline is set for the station's return, Rapp said.

— by Kyle McCarthy, SPLC staff writer

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