When Artsweek first heard about mtvU taking over the airwaves here on our campus, our first thought was: “What do they want from us?” I figured by this age we were too old to be sucked into the traditional MTV programming that has plagued twentysomethings their entire lives, and too young to fit into the core VH-1 age slot. Not once did I consider that the MTV networks might actually have launched the network to thank college students for their years of devoted viewership, but, after much consideration and a reaffirming conversation with Ross Martin, vice president of programming at mtvU, we here at Artsweek think that might just be the case.

Traditional MTV started as a strictly music station in 1982, but soon spun into not only a cultural mainstay but also a mind-numbing cornucopia of shows that have little or nothing to do with music, but everything to do with bitch fights, thong shots, dumb blonds and people who can’t sing but have their own shows anyway. Though entertaining on a base level, most college students have grown out of their “Real World” obsession circa Hawaii and no longer relate to much of MTV’s programming. That’s where mtvU comes in. “mtvU is all about all things college. It was created to super-serve the college audience and really create programming that’s about the microcosmos college life, which is so distinct from any other life experience,” Ross said.

The fledgling mtvU, a MTV station dedicated to the life and times of university students, launched nationwide over a year ago, but just landed on this campus Fall Quarter. The network is available on channel 83 on all on-campus televisions, including in the dorms. What makes mtvU different is that it is not available through the cable company; it is only available on campus.
The 24-hour station is not just a music station as the name would suggest, but a meld of new and upcoming music, as well as shows geared specifically to a college crowd, like “The Opening,” which gives viewers a look at a recent college graduate that landed an awesome entry-level job. Viewers can then go online and apply for the same job next year. Other shows, including “Campus VJ Search” and “Best Film on Campus,” bring mtvU right to your campus and other campuses nationwide. “‘The Best Film On Campus’ contest, where the winners won pitch meetings at CAAA and at MTV Films, won a job over the summer working at Paramount Pictures on a movie, and won a trip to Sundance. It was judged by Joel Schumaker and Gus Van Sant, and the winners walked the red carpet with Joel Schumaker for the premiere of The Phantom of the Opera.’ [It was] an unbelievable opportunity for those filmmakers who are college students at an mtvU school, just like you guys,” said Ross.

Although not exclusively a music station, mtvU still takes its music very seriously. “mtvU is really a proving ground for new music. So, first and foremost, this is where you’ll find emerging artists, usually before you find them anywhere else. Artists like Joss Stone, Franz Ferdinand, the Killers, Taking Back Sunday, Akon and Modest Yahoo,” Ross said. In fact, nearly three quarters of its program on a given day is dedicated to music videos geared toward the college-radio crowd, something you won’t find on MTV or VH-1.

Surprisingly, mtvU’s involvement in the student realm does not stop there. Following the lead of MTV’s Rock the Vote campaign, mtvU dedicates a large portion of its programming and website space to student activism. The channel’s online arena mtvu.com or mtvU.com even provides $1,000 grants for student projects, programs like “STANDFast,” which give students ways to get involved in the Sudan conflict, and forums for students to exchange activist ideas.

Monikers aside, mtvU works hard to establish itself as a legitimate resource for students around the nation, offering up hearty servings of job, internship and volunteer ideas as well as a filling dose of good, old-fashioned musical entertainment. If only all stations lived up to the hype.