Election funding row: Candidates did not call for media cash cut, footage confirms

Credit: Jack Western (L to R: Bev Rogers, Greg Dyke (chair), Harriet Gibson, Chris Wall)
Credit: Jack Western
(L to R: Bev Rogers, Greg Dyke (chair), Harriet Gibson, Chris Wall)

No YUSU Student Academic Officer candidate said they would cut media funding during the YUSU Election debate, it has emerged.

Third-year contender Harriet Gibson became embroiled in a row over society funding after she was accused of saying she wanted to ‘cut the media grant’ during the Monday debate.

But a recording of the event, released by YSTV, shows that the James College student actually said she wanted to “address the society funding issue” and “definitely” does not propose closing down a campus newspaper.

She told audience members: “Certain societies get a lot more money than others do. There are some societies for example, some media societies, which have a very limited number of members – like less than 100 people – between a couple of societies, but get upwards of £8,000 a year in grants, whereas there are certain other societies, like one of the dancing societies, which has 400 members, and only gets less than £1,000 a term, and therefore has to self-fund, and they compete on a national level. They have to pay for their own transport, their own shoes, their own uniforms, and I think that’s something that really needs addressing.”

When asked by Chancellor Greg Dyke if this would mean ‘killing off’ a campus newspaper, she added: “I’m definitely not saying that. I think we need to look into the societies review and look at how society funding is allocated, and if I’m elected I want to address that pretty much straight away once I’m in office. Just make sure it’s a lot fairer.”

The former chair of YSTV Chris Wall, who is also vying for the role, added that he thought media societies were getting “huge, huge amounts”. Speaking at the event, he said: “I think that society funding is a massive issue for societies across the board.

“At the moment there are a lot of societies that are still woefully underfunded and some of the media societies are getting huge, huge amounts.”

Mathematics competitor Bev Rogers said she didn’t know a lot about how campus media funding was assigned but said that University Radio York and YSTV get “less exposure” than the two main campus newspapers.

She added: “If we have YSTV on the big screens and URY in bars then that could do more for those societies perhaps.”

She also said she was aware that the Lemon Press, the University’s satirical magazine, had funding “they couldn’t access for months”.

A spokesperson for the Lemon Press said: “I think any detailed analysis of society funding should be welcomed as it’s clear at the moment from my perspective that it’s not always apportioned as efficiently as possible.”

Angus Quinn, the editor of York Vision, added: “The grant we receive is nowhere near £8000. YUSU only fund us for 6 of our 9 issues a year and we have to make up the rest ourselves through advertising. We would welcome a review nevertheless.”

Bev, Harriet and Chris said on Tuesday that they did not want to cut campus media funding after the YUSU Election debate, held at the Roger Kirk Centre, was plagued by technical and sound difficulties.

Speaking at the Glasshouse, the candidates reiterated their position of wanting to see society funding allocated more fairly.

But on Friday, candidate Bev Rogers questioned how Chris Wall ‘got away with this one’.

Speaking on University Radio York’s Candidate Night, she said: “I’ve never said cuts to media funding. I don’t know how Chris Wall got away with this one because he’s never said it either. I think it’s important we look at funding and the allocation of funding. That in no way means cutting media funding.”

Harriet added: “No point during the debate on Monday did I or any of the other candidates ever say the phrase ‘cut media funding’. In fact, I think it was Greg Dyke that said ‘will you cut media funding?’ and we all outright said no.”

Candidate Chris Wall was not at the URY event to respond to the comments, but has stated he wants to support “award-winning media”.

University Radio York Station Manager Al Riddell said: “Any opportunity to improve society funding should be grasped with both hands. However, if any changes made are detrimental to York’s award winning and widely respected student media outlets, it is clear the university needs to get its priorities in order. We are grateful for our funding, naturally, but there is no fat to trim in our budget. Students have built URY, literally, and we do a frankly amazing job with the somewhat scant resources at our disposal. If a review of fund allocation comes to URY’s doorstep, I think the only logical move would be to increase our funding.

“We are the joint most awarded student station in the country, providing fantastic output and creating an immersive and enriching experience for our members- imagine what we could do with even a little more financial help! Just a glance in the direction of other successful student radio stations shows how poorly funded we are, in comparison. The fact we are so successful makes me immensely proud. I will be fighting the cause of my station, and for student media in general, through the appropriate channels of course, to make sure any such review is both fair and sensible.”

The editor of Nouse, Rosie Shields, added: “I think fairer funding is a good thing but due to the nature of some societies they do just need more funding. Nouse does well in getting a lot of funding for itself but printing costs would never be able to be covered by us alone. However, some society funding is low and they should get more help. Also the argument that the some societies get less money but manage it is crazy – often they have paid events which can help cover the costs – with a free newspaper we fund it all and often we’re stuck with the number we print due to contracts with our sponsors etc.”

A spokesperson for YSTV declined to comment.

Student media grants are among the largest in the student union societies.

They are used to pay for printing costs, website maintenance and general media upkeep such as new cameras and computing software.

Aside from funding, the YUSU Student Activities’ Officer candidates have also stated they want to look into the issues of volunteering, Freshers’ Fair and Refreshers’ Fair – which was recently criticised by a number of societies who said that the fairs were “poorly managed”.

Voters will go to the polls in the latest students’ union elections during Week 8 to decide their new YUSU team for the next academic year.

The results will be announced on Friday 28 February.

You can view the candidates and the positions by clicking here.