Tucked away on the first floor of the Students’ Union building, you can find the University of Manchester’s very own Hollywood. If the question is ‘where can I get hard hitting news, entertainment updates, and a biting satire of the student experience all in one place?’, Fuse TV is the answer. The TV station is part of the Manchester Media Group family along with The Mancunion and Fuse FM.
From its humble beginnings in the Students’ Union basement in which it had “one computer”, Fuse TV has risen through the ranks to become the place where high quality video-based content and inclusive access to production meet.
In their toasty new office, Station Manager Annie Costello and Deputy Station Manager Jenna Brannock recount the history of the station. “Last year not a lot of people knew about Fuse TV, who we were, and what we could do so it was a very small membership base.
“This year we’ve moved upstairs, we haven’t got any windows, [but] the SU invested some money in us and we’ve got some new equipment. We definitely pushed harder in a good way and believed that we could achieve more, we spend a lot of time trying to help and develop people and their ideas and their abilities.”
In their new home, the two explain how a TV series can come to life. “We start with some kind of light bulb moment,” Jenna explains. “You’ve got to create the vision from beginning to end, the visuals, the character of the programmes, titles, also locations and boring stuff”.
“Jenna is good at the light bulb moment,” adds Annie. “At two o’clock in the morning she’ll shoot up with new ideas and come in the next morning and expect us to do it. So it starts with the idea and we take it through, see how feasible it is and try and recruit a team who’s interested in it as well.”
One of Fuse TV’s principal productions is the weekly Fuse News, “a campus-based, student-based” news programme that this year’s team have continued and expanded. “We’ve created a little news brand at Fuse TV,” says General Secretary and Head of News, Hannah Wardle. “Now we have our entertainment news, which is The Hot Take and we also have a news show which has gone through a bit of a refurb. It’s now turned into a politics panel show called The State of It.”
But the seemingly serendipitous creation of video-based content does not come without hard work, and Fuse TV stress the importance of collaboration and the freedom to dabble in any and all aspects of video production. “[We cater for] anyone who wants to do anything. If they want to do a bit of camera work, a bit of editing, a bit of presenting, a bit of background running they can do whatever they want, they can swap, they can change, just give it a go,” Annie explains.
“You can come to Fuse TV with anything, you can just come to have a bit of fun, or make a funny video, or you can come and build a portfolio and set your CV up with all these skills.
“We are dedicated, we stick around.”
The group explain that team spirit is at heart of Fuse TV, particularly because it necessitates a lighthearted attitude. “Everything has to be a team [effort],” says Jenna. “It’s really hard to make a TV show by yourself. Fuse TV is all a team so you have to make sure it’s somewhat enjoyable.”
This includes Fuse TV’s drunken debate show, Slurred Lines, in which its participants get drunk and discuss the moment’s most pressing topics. “I just thought we should do a programme with ordinary people in it to get more views,” says Jenna. “Everyone is entertaining when [they’re] drunk so we added that in and we went with the very basic principle of arguing about frivolous things. And that was Slurred Lines. The title came and then I was convinced.”
In the next semester, Fuse TV will have more to come, including an “unscripted comedy decoration show” which sees Hannah and Jenna parody the home improvement genre, going into students’ homes and setting themselves the challenge of doing it up with whatever meagre budget their victims give them. “It’s a whole new genre,” Jenna explains. “There’s some bold new characters coming to Fuse.”