College TV network fishing for students who want to see the president re-elected


August 29, 2004|By Lynn Smith | Lynn Smith,Los Angeles Times

Shane Walker has some counterintuitive plans for the new network he's trying to launch on college campuses.

"One thing we're not allowing on our programming is cursing, gratuitous sex or violence," says Walker, a 38-year-old indie film producer whose U Network is set to launch Sept. 8.

What the network will have, though, is The W Show -- a weekly program devoted to the president's re-election campaign.

The small, Muncie, Ind.-based network is banking on the theory that at least some college students want their own conservative television news.

Walker, a former fashion designer who raised money and wrote promotions for the Santa Monica, Calif., production company Cineville, says that after he moved to Indiana to raise a family, he saw a TV business opportunity. "MTV is doing a fair job of covering [Sen. John F.] Kerry," Walker says. But he says he did not see as much coverage of the Republican ticket. "Hopefully, we can fill that niche with the president."

Sharon Castillo, a spokeswoman for the Bush campaign's youth coalition, says the campaign is "thrilled" to learn that a weekly show devoted to President Bush will be targeted to the 18-to-24 demographic, but she said the U Network will be subject to the same rules as any other network and will not receive any special access.

"We hope that once they see we're doing a good job that he [the president] will be available to us," Walker said.

Walker won't divulge the individuals who are bankrolling the U Network. He says his small company is not trying to compete head to head with MTV, a division of Viacom, which earlier this year launched mtvU, a campus network that broadcasts round-the-clock programming to 6 million students on 700 campuses. However, he notes, he is "going after the same demographic," a captive and lucrative student market known to spend more than $200 billion annually.

An MTV spokeswoman would say only that the network covers both parties equally.

Walker says he has contracts with, among others, the California Community College system's 109 campuses, Pepperdine and Brigham Young University. The network plans to use the cable systems of each university to distribute its programming.

Walker says he is not bent on pushing a conservative agenda, though PR for his network is being handled by the Atlanta firm 815 Communications, run by conservative author Phil Kent (The Dark Side of Liberalism: Unchaining the Truth).

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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