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Sam Steinhardt, chief financial officer, Learning Technology and Extended Education, (650) 724-7618

Stanford's Channel 51 to go off the air Oct. 31

The Stanford Channel, the university's educational cable television channel that debuted in 1995 as Channel 51, will go off the air on Oct. 31 as a result of budgetary constraints. The decision to cease operations was made by University Provost John Etchemendy.

The Stanford Channel, which began as a one-year pilot project, reached an estimated 60,000 households in Stanford, Palo Alto, East Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Atherton, Portola Valley, Woodside, Sky Londa, Los Altos and Cupertino.

Although the Stanford Channel's viewership increased steadily over its years of operation, surveys indicated viewers did not watch more frequently than they did when the channel debuted. In addition, only about 50 percent of cable television subscribers said they viewed the channel at all.

The channel's other challenges included trouble attracting private and corporate sponsorship for programming. The university committed more than $500,000 per year over the last several years to subsidize the channel -- a cost it is no longer able to afford, according to Sam Steinhardt, chief financial officer of Learning Technology and Extended Education. Particularly daunting, Steinhardt says, has been the cost of purchasing and maintaining equipment capable of producing high-quality programming.

"Over the years, the Stanford Channel has produced some remarkable programming," Steinhardt said. "Its staff members were truly pioneers in televising university courses that could be taken for credit. They also produced documentaries that will stand the test of time, including an amazing piece on the university's history called 'Becoming Stanford.' They did everything they could to make this a successful venture. Unfortunately, we could not find a way to make the channel self-supporting, and we couldn't continue to subsidize its high cost."

When it began in 1995, Channel 51 was one of the few cable broadcast outlets in the nation owned and operated by a private university. The university started the station as a result of encouragement from Palo Alto's cable television franchise, Cable Co-op, and as a pilot program under the university's Commission on Technology in Teaching and Learning, which was headed by Etchemendy. The commission was charged with creating initiatives that expanded the university's educational boundaries through technology.

A review of the Stanford Channel and other extended education programs was performed this past year by David Brady, the Bowen H. and Janice Arthur McCoy Professor in the Graduate School of Business a professor of political science and acting vice provost for Learning Technologies and Extended Education (on leave). That report recommended that Etchemendy terminate the Stanford Channel’s broadcast operations



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