TV Santa Barbara’s Pandemic Pivot

Simply 805 by Sara Caputo: Reimagining to Assist the Community

When TV Santa Barbara started in 1974, TV sets were as big as crates, the equipment was bulky, and the mission was to provide the community with an outlet for self-expression.

Nearly five decades later, a lot has changed in the world of public access TV — but not that core mission.

“We’ve always been the one place where every member of our community can make themselves heard,” says Erik Davis, TVSB’s executive director.

One of my favorite things about working as a consultant is that I get to discover and uncover so many cool businesses and resources that I otherwise wouldn’t have known anything about. 

TVSB is one of those clients. Erik and I worked together from the top down with his team to create more structure and systems within their current model of organization: systems that will better fit the world we are living in post-COVID. TVSB is a community gem, and I was thrilled to learn more about all the ways they support Santa Barbara through their services. 

In addition to running a television station where local producers create and edit programs, TVSB carries programs 24/7 on two channels, 17 & 71 (TVSB Voice and TVSB Culture), and it provides and helps to train kids in media.

But when the COVID-19 pandemic struck a year ago, Erik and his team found that their old way of doing business needed a big rethink.

“We were a reactive, open community access organization where members came to us to create media and our model was to support them,” he says. “I knew we wanted to be of service and give back to this great community. But we needed a pandemic pivot.”

One big way to pivot was to provide free services to local cultural institutions that wanted to go remote. Last year alone, SBTV helped the Avocado Festival and Old Spanish Days Fiesta transition to online events. They were there when four area high schools needed virtual graduations, helped connect hard-to-count populations in the 2020 Census, and worked with the United Way on an online summer camp.

“Last year we produced over 25 new shows and featured over 200 nonprofits in our programs,” Erik says. 

Here’s more from my Q&A with Erik: