BYU Broadcasting Creating Wholesome Content for Worldwide Audience
The new BYU Broadcasting Building — dedicated August 12, 2011 — allows BYU to share its message and improve lives around the world. Construction of the state-of-the-art building was funded by alumni and friends of the university.
A modern structure of red brick, glinting metal, and curved glass stands adjacent to the Marriott Center. Its sleek exterior catches the eyes of passersby on University Parkway, but what goes on inside captures the attention of viewers worldwide.
The five television channels and two radio stations that emanate from the newly dedicated BYU Broadcasting Building inspire people everywhere to see, do and be the good in the world. After more than 10 years since its founding, BYUtv’s reach is higher than ever — with enough viewership to show up in TV rating systems. And members of the Church aren’t the only ones watching.
Accordingly, BYU Broadcasting is creating original content that appeals to audiences hungry for wholesome material. Derek Marquis, managing director of BYU Broadcasting, says that other cable channels produce around 400 or 500 hours of new programing each year; BYU is aiming for 1,000 hours.
All the time, effort, and money involved in such a huge undertaking — not to mention the construction of a new 100,000-square-foot building — is justified, says Kevin J. Worthen, vice president of advancement at BYU. “People will continue to watch TV and consume media,” he says. “If it enlightens and edifies them and makes them better — rather than the opposite, which happens so often — it’s clearly worth it.”
Looking back, stepping forward
In 2000, Dish Network offered BYU Broadcasting its own satellite channel with more time for original content. For nearly 40 years BYU had broadcast KBYU, a local PBS channel. Thrilled with the prospect of a nationwide audience and more airtime for BYU-related content, the university began broadcasting BYUtv out of an old warehouse in south Provo. Without facilities or staff to create much new content, BYU loaded the channel with preexisting BYU- and Church-related programs, from devotionals and general conference to concerts and sports. It was refreshing content that was warmly received by Church members and others nationwide.
However, some, like alumni and donors Rex and Ruth Maughan though the channel had potential to reach and inspire a broader audience — it just needed more compelling content. But better content could only come with better facilities.
President Cecil O. Samuelson asked the Maughans to head up the fundraising efforts for the construction of a new building “We thought this could go all around the world,” Rex says. “This is the way we’re going to spread the gospel.” Elder M. Russell Ballard presided over the groundbreaking for the building in May 2009. “I don’t believe any of us really realize what we’re starting here today,” Elder Ballard said before the shoveling began.
“In my vision and my feeling, this broadcasting effort from Brigham Young University has the potential of being the voice of the Lord that will take head-on the contest that is going on in the world between good and evil.”
For all the world to see
Less than two years after the groundbreaking, the Broadcasting Building came to life with the buzz of media and technology. The building’s blueprints actually underscore the channel’s new See the Good tagline: designed with a theme of transparency and visibility, the structure invites visitors to see the good work going on inside.
The entrance opens up into a three-story atrium with a sleek staircase extending up in the space. Through a rounded glass wall to the right sits the master control room, where signals for BYUtv, BYU Television International, BYU Radio, and others are broadcast. Patterned after the Discovery Channel’s circular control room, it has become the fishbowl of the building, allowing visitors a glimpse of the building’s heart.
Stephen M. Jones, dean of the College of Fine Arts and Communications, says, “There’s something exciting about coming in the entrance and figuratively seeing the exit of the product at the same time.” Similarly revealing windows are found throughout the building, exposing recording studios, production control rooms, and production studios.
BYU sports broadcasts are a big deal for BYU Broadcasting and its audiences. Owing to the new facilities, athletic conference changes, and a 51-foot-long HD production truck (which sleeps in a customized three-truck garage attached to the east side of the building), BYU fans and opponents will have unparalleled sports-viewing access. BYUtv will feature around 100 live sporting events in the next year, plus sports rebroadcasts (including ESPN-carried games) and sports-related content.
All that BYU Broadcasting is doing would be impossible without its 250 student employees. They are secretaries, security officers, interns, camera crews, and film editors. The building was especially built with these students and their mentoring in mind.
Dedicated for good
In the early afternoon of August 12, the Broadcasting Building’s Studio C filled quickly as donors, employees, and friends of the university gathered for the combined dedication of BYU’s Information Technology Building and Broadcasting Building. BYU built the studio with retractable stadium seating to accommodate live audiences up to 250, with the intent of bringing a sense of vibrancy and interaction to whatever is occurring on the stage. As the program began, several camera operators moved discreetly on the set. Video and sound technicians and other crew
members worked silently in a booth above the seating and in a control room down a back hallway. The dedication was broadcast to another room in the building and to a large audience in the Information Technology Building, an 81,510-square-foot building situated a half-mile to the west on University Avenue.
Onstage with President Cecil O. Samuelson were President Henry B. Eyring, First Counselor in the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and Elders Russell M. Nelson, former BYU president Dallin H. Oaks, and M. Russell Ballard, each a member of the Quorum and the BYU Board of Trustees.
President Samuelson spoke about the good that will come from the new facilities. “The emergence of BYU Broadcasting has been dramatic and positive for the university but also for the Church,” he said. “In addition, it has become an important blessing for millions throughout the world who yearn and search for media content that is decent, praiseworthy, and uplifting.”
At the end of his pre-dedication talk, President Eyring spoke of a responsibility and challenge that comes with new technology, especially for BYU: “If our information technology and our broadcasting equipment does not improve the lives of others, serve to [advance] God’s children’s education in both temporal and spiritual knowledge, and help bring them home to Him, we have missed the mark.” With the help of Brigham Young University’s newest beacon on a hill, BYU Broadcasting aims to do just that — dispel myths while helping viewers see the
good in BYU, the Church, and the world. President Eyring echoed that objective when he said the BYU Broadcasting Building has been built “to take advantage of the wonderful and miraculous technology that will allow the university and the Church to reach the hearts and the minds of members and friends across the globe. Technology can and does bless lives.”
This article is based on “Beacon On a Hill,” written by Lena M. Harper for BYU Magazine. Read more at: magazine.byu.edu/article/a-beacon-on-a-hill/.