HISD May Leave City's Public TV Station Amid Fears That Nobody's Watching

Categories: Education

HISD TV archives
A view from the 1990s when HISD TV was funded to the max and people watched TV, not streaming videos.
What if you put on a show, with heart and soul, with pizzazz, with stretching your declining resources as far as they could go - and nobody showed up to watch it?

That's the situation the Houston ISD administration has reluctantly concluded it is in as regards the television channel it has been operating on one of the City of Houston's public access channels since 1986. As a result, the district will probably give notice this summer that it will not renew its contract in another year and a half.

"We know that the current staffing doesn't allow us to do the kind of content for production that would be needed to make it a viable channel and we're not even sure it's the way people watch today," said Tiffany Davila-Dunne, HISD's chief communications officer. "Viewership habits are changing."

Representatives of the city and HISD have met in recent days but were unable to come up with any additional funding sources that make it feasible for the district to continue its TV channel, according to Davila-Dunne.

HISD TV live screen grab
With scintillating shots like this, why wouldn't kids and their parents be watching?
"It's a channel that once was a very viable channel. There's no viewership data or analytics. It's basically kind of a black box," said Davila-Dunne who made a presentation in January about the TV station to the school board, pointing out the difficulties of producing a high-caliber product considering the staffing cuts and spending limitations that have occurred in recent years.

Originally, HISD partnered with the University of Houston to broadcast college courses at night. It broadcast 12-15 hours a day. It started with a staff of nearly 15 full and part-time employees and ran a homework hot line and a half hour magazine show.

By the 1990s the staff had grown to more than 20 full and part-time employees and added a monthly show for the board president and a Spanish language show.

In 2004, the channel moved to 24 hours a day broadcasts, while at the same time, because of automation, the staff was reduced to 14 full time employees. In 2009 monthly board meetings were broadcast live on HISD-TV where (when it worked) reporters and the public could watch the proceedings in the comfort of their offices or homes without making the trek to the Hattie Mae White administration building.

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