The production of Youngstown State University’s educational television program Homework Express has ceased — for now.
While Homework Express has experienced relative success, having been nominated for four regional Emmy awards, the show lost its access to a distribution path when Time Warner Cable terminated their educational channel, the North East Ohio Network.
Though production of Homework Express is set to resume this fall with new episodes airing on WBCB: The Valley’s CW, Bill Brophy, executive producer of Homework Express, said he fears that the time spent off-air will damage the program’s funding.
“Funding has been a continuous struggle for the eight years this show’s been on the air. It only reached a tipping point when the university’s finances became so problematic,” Brophy said. “What we couldn’t raise ourselves was being made up by friends within the university, people who could find the money … that was not earmarked for something else.”
Funding for Homework Express was never explicitly included in YSU’s budget. So, when budget cuts were made across campus, Brophy explained, the university money that Homework Express could find “dried up.”
Without a steady stream of university finances, Homework Express must find outside funding sources such as grants, donations and advertisement sales — a difficult task for a program that is currently off the air.
“Part of the problem is ‘out of sight, out of mind.’ When [the show is] not on, it’s off everybody’s plate,” Brophy said. “Worrying about trying to find money is out of everybody’s mind because we’re not spending money now.”
Despite financial challenges, the show’s producers said Homework Express’s quality on-air math instruction remains a valuable asset to the community.
Fred Owens, a professor in the department of communication and project director for Homework Express, commented on the production’s quality.
“When I really feel like feeling bad, I say, ‘Wait a minute; how could the community let go of something the world recognizes as marvelous?’” Owens said. “But, I immediately step beyond that, because it’s not really about letting go of an Emmy nominated program, it’s a cable company that has to do business … and it’s really up to us to find another way to reach homes and to reach young people.”
Owens added that as long as Homework Express continues to provide an educational service, he believes the show will remain successful.
“If we create the content that is valid academically … if [students] call up on our show live and they say, ‘You know, I never understood that, but now that you’ve explained it, now I get it’ — when they have that aha moment — we know that that will be wanted and that we will be supported,” Owens said.
Amy Crawford, associate professor in the department of communication and associate producer for Homework Express, collects data regarding the show’s audience. Crawford said the show especially benefits students who come from low socioeconomic backgrounds.
“We found that the students who called our show were concentrated in some of the areas with the highest poverty rates. … And, I think that our show provided a good alternative to households who maybe couldn’t afford tutoring or other services — things that charge you to prepare for tests. I think we were a good, available, free homework help show,” she said. “We’re looking for the ability to reach those families again.”
Brophy concluded by stating that the show is a valuable asset to the community that should not be left behind.
“This show is too good to let go,” Brophy said. “It doesn’t reach the biggest audience, but it does serve a purpose.”