Frequency TV put on ‘indefinite hiatus’

By Amina Sergazina, Staff Reporter

Frequency TV’s door in the 33 E. Ida B. Wells Drive building remains closed as the program has been put on an “indefinite hiatus.” Valentina Pucarelli

In Spring 2021, as Frequency TV members wrapped up the final edits of Manifest and senior package videos, some staff members were preparing to graduate and leave their legacy to the volunteers they had been training.

But at the last meeting at the end of the spring semester, Janet LaMonica, an adjunct faculty member in the Cinema and Television Arts Department and Frequency TV adviser, announced the station would not be operating in the fall.

“It sucks; it’s your life’s work,” said Chris West, who resigned in 2019 from his role as adjunct faculty member in the Cinema and Television Arts Department and operations manager at Frequency TV. “It was a very powerful thing for the students. It had a positive impact on the college and the department. … The world changes around us, and people make decisions for the betterment of that, and that’s what the administration does. They look out for the students, and sometimes they have to make hard decisions, or easy decisions for that matter, but hard to accept them for different people.”

Frequency TV was a student-operated video media platform that created a variety of broadcast programming for the college that aired on campus TVs, YouTube and other social media platforms. Frequency TV collaborated with a number of departments across campus, including being part of the Media Hub and working with the Chronicle and WCRX radio.

In an email to the Chronicle on Oct. 5, Eric Freedman, dean of the School of Media Arts, where Frequency TV was housed, said the program is on an “indefinite hiatus as we work on the integration of film and television in Cinema and Television Arts, and look to strengthen the curricular ties between Frequency TV and the academic program.”

Freedman said the goal “is to train students to flourish in a broad range of media agencies that we can sustain over the long term.”

LaMonica said when she found out about the decision in the middle of the spring semester, she tried to save the program by proposing a collaboration with various departments and making Frequency TV more accessible to them, but she said minds were already made up.

“What you also have to understand is, I have a very strong television background, where when somebody says the show’s going into hiatus, that’s not good,” LaMonica said.

LaMonica said she was never given a reason for ending the funding of Frequency TV. She said the program benefited both the college and the students who got jobs in California and Chicago using the experience gained at Frequency TV.

“I hope it comes back, not only for the sake of the students, who would be getting an excellent experience there, but for the school because that is a great advertising tool,” LaMonica said.

West said he expected Frequency TV to end in 2015 when the college became “less enthusiastic” about providing a budget for the program and when the merging of the Cinema and the Television Departments began.

“I’m glad that [Frequency TV] made it to 2021,” West said. “For the last several years of my employment there, I was just waiting for the phone to ring and be like, ‘You know what, we’re not going to continue with this.’”

West worked at Columbia for 30 years. He witnessed the beginning of Frequency TV in 2003 as a co-teacher when it was just a class and later as an adviser as it transformed into a school media outlet.

West said “FreqOut” was one of Frequency TV’s best projects. “FreqOut” was a sketch comedy show in which Frequency TV collaborated with comedy majors.

Tobias Toles, a senior film and television arts major, was an employee at Frequency TV for a year and was involved with “FreqOut.” He said the experience helped him land an editing internship at Havas, a Chicago marketing firm.

“Not only did [Frequency TV] build my resume because they gave me a lot of things to show to recruiters and different types of people, but it also gave me confidence in knowing that I can do these different types of things,” Toles said. “Being in a class, you’re working for a grade. And yes, I do want a good grade, but will other people outside of my teacher like it as well? At ‘FreqOut’ and Frequency, you got feedback from your peers and other people.”

Prior to “FreqOut,” Frequency TV created “Debbie’s Got Class,” the 1950s-inspired sitcom that won a New York Film Festival award. The show was filmed in black and white and consisted of three 30-minute episodes and was first uploaded to YouTube in 2010. Frequency TV also provided coverage of the annual Manifest Urban Arts Festival and contributed promotional videos for a number of different departments at the college.

Sarah Thurman, a 2021 graduate from the Cinema and Television Arts Department, was a staff member at Frequency TV, where she worked on “FreqOut” for three years. Thurman said she made lifelong friends at Frequency TV, some of whom she currently lives with in Los Angeles. Thurman, along with other Frequency TV alums, filmed a web show after graduation called “Lazybones” that will be released on Halloween.

Thurman said she got to collaborate with comedy students while working at Frequency TV, and it was a perfect place to make connections.

“My happiest memory from working at Frequency [TV] was when we would have volunteer training days,” Thurman said. “Getting to pass that love, gear and everything was really fun, and to be a student but still be teaching other students, seeing them get excited about it was really fun. I loved those volunteer days a lot.”

Frequency TV students said they were not given a clear reason for Frequency TV’s abrupt end, and they share a feeling of disappointment.

“I was highly disappointed. I was really looking forward to it. I really do hope that the school decides to at least bring it back or bring something very similar to it back,” Toles said. “I think it really does create a lot of opportunities for students that I don’t think that they realize.”