Union sell out

So on Monday when I was in the Leeds University Union “Old Bar” for the fortnightly karaoke event they call Old Bar Idol I found something out that I really have to pass comment on. Aside from the the fact the night was in fact great fun this post focuses on my realisation that the union have recently sold out to a media company, sadly not for the benefit of its students.

Students who use the union can’t have failed to notice the large number of plasma TV screens that have been installed around the union. Now we were led to believe that these were for the union and its societies to advertise their events across the union to interested students as well as showing LS:TV and other television channels when appropriate.

This sounds great, but there is a catch. A big one. The union couldn’t afford the system its self and so entered into a contract with a company called subTV to provide the system in exchange for, yes you’ve guessed it, targeted advertising being displayed on the screens from outside the union walls.

Shameful though this is it gets worse. In the Old Bar we used to have a jukebox that allowed us to pay a small fee to select the music we got to hear. Now for those of us who favor 70s and 80s rock while drinking their pint this was a nice touch. In order to secure the contract for the TVs however the union had to consent to the TV screens being installed in the old bar, removing the jukebox and allowing the TV system to provide the music and not only visual ads but audio ones as well, meaning your peaceful pint and indeed the conversation that invariably goes with it is regularly interrupted by adverts for taxi firms and property agents. I’m sure you can see that this is obtrusive and quite frankly damn right annoying.

The union argue that they couldn’t have afforded the system without subTV but you have to ask if they couldn’t afford it or justify the expenditure to students, do we really need or want it? Essentially they are missing the point. They failed to consult with students and they’ve forced upon us something we don’t want. If I want audio and visual advertising while I sup my beer I can buy a crate of the stuff and sit on my sofa at home with the TV on. I go to the union bar to meet my friends in a relaxing atmosphere away from the rest of the world and that includes the advertising contained therein. Surely any idiot can see this? Not only that but we’ve lost the ability to choose the music and seeing as we all have different tastes surely its only fair that we all get a say in what we listen to by voting with a pound coin and a few buttons.

For a union thats supposed to act on behalf of students this is totally shameful. I’ve written to those in the union responsible for this disaster to ask that they reconsider polluting the old bar with loud advertising but I doubt I’ll get any joy out of them. After all, I only pay their wages and spend my money in the union every day, I don’t deserve a say do I.


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  1. Niall Said,

    February 12, 2007 @ 8:43 am

    ours has the noise off, we still have our jukebox as well, so your union is lying to you if they’re telling you otherwise.

    SubTV do give your union a very good deal, and if used properly — allows your union to advertise their own events as well as showing TV, and SubTV’s own adverts.

    Your union gets to keep the screens and broadcast system after three years, which means that they can use it then however they like, i.e. no more ads.

  2. Kieran Said,

    February 12, 2007 @ 9:21 am

    I was told by someone who works at the union that removing the jukebox was a condition of installing the system and he’s a friend of mine so I’ve no reason to disbelieve them. It may have something to do with the size of our union – we needed a huge number of TVs so perhaps subTV needed to impose more conditions to cover costs and make a profit etc.

    Yes, they do allow the union to advertise their own stuff and I never said this wasn’t a good idea or that they didn’t, but in our case it involves interrupting your pint and removing the choice of music which is what I was objecting to. The idea of sharing visual only ads from outside with the unions own stuff (and that of societies) in order to fund the system sits fine with me.

    As for the 3 year thing, thats nice, but in our case only for students who arrive in 3 years time – the rest of us have to put up with loud ads in the bar and will have graduated by the time we get the jukebox back.

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