Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Q: What is public access television?

A: Public access television emerged over three decades ago in response to the growth of the cable television industry. As cable became a more and more powerful means of reaching mass audiences, local governments and residents sought to reserve a place in this medium for freedom of speech.  In the process of negotiating cable franchise agreements, local city governments negotiated various agreements with cable providers to enable public access services in their municipalities. For more, see:

For a great overview of public access -- how it came to be, why it is important, and what its future is -- watch the following video from our partners at Denver Open Media, the operators of public access in Denver:

Q: Why did public access operations and services in San Francisco change in 2009?

A: Since 1999, public access operations in San Francisco have been funded through a grant agreement with the City's Department of Technology.  These funds are collected from cable television operators who operate within city limits as part of their franchise agreements, and the funds are divided between public access, educational, and government (PEG) television operations.  In 2009, due largely to changes in state of California franchising laws, the amount of funding for PEG in San Francisco was significantly reduced.  The previous operator, San Francisco Community Television Corporation (SFCTC), determined that it was impossible to maintain operations at the reduced funding levels.  While recognizing the immense challenges of operating public access with drastically reduced funding, BAVC hopes, through operational efficiencies and diversified funding and services, to maintain, transform, and grow public access in San Francisco.  More ambitiously, we hope to provide new services and tools that will enable broad participation and increased use of public access.  Read more:

Q: How was BAVC chosen to operate the public access channel(s) in San Francisco?

A: In 2009, the City of San Francisco issued a request for proposals (RFP) to enable eligible entities to compete for a bid for public access operations.  Details of the RFP and bid process can be found on the City's web site: http://sfgov3.org/ftp/uploadedfiles/dtis/PublicAccessTV/NOTICE%20OF%20INTENT%20July%202%202009.pdf.  Five nonprofit organizations submitted bids, and the City's Department of Technology reviewed the proposals. On July 2, 2009, the City announced that it had selected BAVC, issuing a Notice of Intent to Award the bid to BAVC, and setting a public protest period that would expire on July 10, 2009. To submit your comments and questions directly to the City, see http://sfgov.org/site/publicaccess_index.asp?id=82515.

Q: When did BAVC assume management of public access?

A: The San Francisco Department of Technology extended its existing contract with SFCTC until September 30, 2009 in order to allow for a smooth transition of services from one operator to the next. BAVC assumed operations on September 1, 2009.

Q: How does BAVC operate the station?

A: In brief, we envision public access as a suite of community services which include broadcast channels - one traditional public access, the other curated by and with community partners - as well as a robust online service with numerous channels and tools. We also work collaboratively and extensively with local nonprofit organizations, spreading the access, services, and participation widely across the city's diverse neighborhoods and voices. Our plan for operations is ambitious, yet actionable, and there will be many ways for our City's diverse residents and public service organizations to participate.

Q: How do I produce and submit content for public access?

A: Please see our Services and Policies pages, which detail the steps to participating in SF Commons.

Q: How can my organization, company, or group participate in public access?

A: Please contact us to express your interest in participating in public access, particularly if you do not already have a relationship with BAVC. We would like to build a database of organizations that are interested in participating in public access, community media trainings, equipment access, productions, and relationships with public access producers and volunteers. We encourage you to have a representative come to an orientation meeting in order to produce programming for our channels. And join our mailing list to receive related announcements.

Q: What kind of training and additional services does BAVC provide?

A: BAVC offers several services related to public access, including membership, community events, and digital media training. We will continue to offer these services, and have added additional low-cost community trainings for public access producers.

Q: What are BAVC's public access policies and procedures?  How will you determine the broadcast schedule?

A: BAVC operates two broadcast channels as well as a robust online service with multiple channels and tools. Part of our approach aims to provide greater public access services and broader community participation by emphasizing tools, applications, and training that we can deliver online. As outlined in our vision document, we hope to flip the production paradigm, with content submitted through a web interface for broadcast on the channels, community rating and voting tools, rotating channel curation programs, tools for viewers and audiences, various ways for producers to learn, create, and promote their content, and new opportunities for producers and volunteers to engage with our City's diverse nonprofit organizations. While we are committed to maintaining one broadcast channel as the traditional, free speech public access channel, unfiltered and uncurated, we hope that the new model and additional services will broaden participation and enable more San Francisco residents to engage with public access.

Q: What are the services BAVC is required to provide under its city contract? Is BAVC able to meet its deliverables?

This section will be updated when soon.