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SF Commons

SF Commons

SF Commons2021-09-01T07:11:18+00:00

TV for
the people.

SF Commons’ mission is to offer San Francisco public access to local broadcast without barriers to the training and equipment they need to get their message out. We support multimedia and multiform storytellers who can catalyze social change and curate a diverse, creative local community TV channel that represents a diverse spectrum of voices and forms.

SFC 29 Schedule
SFC 29 On Demand

SFC 76 Schedule
SFC 76 On Demand

How To Get Started

Public Access television has a vibrant and storied history in San Francisco. Would you like to contribute your work as an artist, journalist, storyteller, activist, teacher, community member, to public access TV? No show is turned away, and we offer our services to help you develop the skills to create broadcast-ready content. We are always excited to host new faces and voices to support broad and diverse communities in our city to tell their stories. Want to learn more or sign up? There are only 3 requirements: 

Once you sign up for an orientation, you’ll watch a video on your own time, and then join us for a live Q&A session online (or in person if we’re open). 

That’s it, all you have to do after that is email us a link to your show! 

Not quite ready to send us a video? After your orientation, we are available to help you start your show and walk you through sending us your video for scheduling on TV. Staff is available to support you with production, editing, and uploading.

For more information, contact Javan Jiles, SF Commons Producer Relations: javan@bavc.org or 415-558-2125.

SF Commons offers a wide variety of services to its members, including a regularly-scheduled timeslot on local cable channel 29, access to the equipment and services it takes to create a television show, and membership to a community of unique and gifted local producers.

Sign Up For An Orientation

If you are a San Francisco resident interested in becoming a public access Producer, attending an SF Commons orientation is your first step. Orientations are held twice monthly, and are mandatory beginning in 2016 for all new Producers.

SF Commons is San Francisco Public Access television, housed at BAVC Media since 2009. Through a grant agreement with the City Department of Technology, SF Commons is able to provide access to video equipment, a television studio, low-cost trainings and a time-slot on cable TV for any current city resident who wants to produce a show. In conjunction with SFGOVTV and EATV, we provide public, educational, and government television services for San Francisco residents, ensuring that locally-produced, non-commercial media remains an essential component to free expression and engagement at a local level.

Public access television emerged in the 1970s as a response to the growth of the cable television industry, and its use of public right-of-ways for profit. In the process of negotiating cable franchise agreements, city governments negotiated various agreements with cable providers to enable public access (as well as educational and government access) services in their municipalities, collectively known now as PEG TV. Public access television has come to be known as the only place on television where truly independent, local, unfiltered individual voices still have a place. Access stations are also a place where individuals with no television experience can get the training, professional & community support, and access to equipment they need to create their own television programs.

For more, see:

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, educational, and government access (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. Though faced with the challenges accompanying this drastic funding reduction, BAVC Media continues to maintain, transform, and grow public access in San Francisco–a new model for how public access television can thrive with the help of an established community media center, even in the face of continued budget reduction trends in municipalities around the country.
Pleases see Facilities and Services for detailed information about how BAVC Media operates SF Commons.
The channel designations 29 and 76 apply to Comcast subscribers within the City of San Francisco. City residents who subscribe to Wave (formerly Astound) Cable can watch on Channels 29 & 30, respectively. AT&T offers PEG television coverage on Channel 99. SF Commons is only available on cable channels inside San Francisco city limits. Subscribers at any level of cable package have SF Commons in their channel lineup.

For viewers without a cable subscription, or outside of the San Francisco city limits, streams of both SF Commons Channels 29 & 76 are available on the BAVC Media website, and are mobile-compatible. You can navigate to the streams under the “Watch & Listen” section of our site, or by using the URL shortcuts 29.sfc.tv and 76.sfc.tv.

Channel 29 is public access television in its purest sense–individual Producers give their completed shows to SF Commons staff, and we program the shows to Producers’ designated timeslots. We have no say or control over the content, format or any other aspect of these shows.

While we show many of the Channel 29 reruns on Channel 76, this second channel is also the place where you can find programming that is curated, and sometimes produced/co-produced by BAVC Media and its partners. This is the case with our original arts and culture series, Transmission. Non-profit member organizations, such as the Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts, also have regularly scheduled shows on 76. Finally, Channel 76 is where you can catch LIVE call-in programming from the SF Commons Studio, Tuesdays through Fridays 5pm – 7pm.

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. Five nonprofit organizations submitted bids, and the City’s Department of Technology announced on July 2, 2009, that it had selected BAVC Media, issuing a Notice of Intent to Award the bid to BAVC Media, and a public protest period was announced to take plan up through July 10, 2009. The Grant Agreement between BAVC Media and The City and County of San Francisco Department of Technology was renewed for an additional three years in October 2013.
The only requirement for having a show on Channel 29 is active membership with BAVC Media/SF Commons, and verified San Francisco resident status. All active Producers are allowed two hours of programming time per month on Channel 29. Most choose to use this time to program a half-hour show every week, or a one hour show every other week. Producers may create their shows in-house in the SF Commons studio & Access Lab, or remotely, using our rental gear or their own camera equipment. Some Producers sponsor shows created by non-residents.

Once a timeslot is assigned it belongs to the Producer for the duration of his/her membership, given that the Producer submits content regularly. Should a period of three months pass with no new content for the timeslot, the Producer will be contacted with a warning that he/she will lose the timeslot if no new content is submitted. After six months of inactivity, timeslots are considered relinquished. As long as membership is paid and valid, Producers remain eligible to claim new timeslots (or re-claim the lost timeslot, should it still be available) once he or she is prepared to submit new content again.

SF Commons will never preview a show before it airs for the purpose of censorship. Public Access Television is protected by the First Amendment, and we are committed to providing a place on the dial for you to exercise your right to free speech.

Producers themselves are solely responsible for adhering to decency guidelines defined in the Grant Agreement with the City and County of San Francisco Department of Technology: Programs containing infrequent profanity, mild violence and/or brief nudity of a non-sexual nature must be scheduled between 10pm-4am. Programs of a “mature audience” nature containing persistent depictions/uses of profanity, violence or nudity are to be scheduled from 11pm – 4am.

Producers are also responsible for understanding various form of constitutionally unprotected speech, and refraining from submitting shows that contain such material. Such material can include pornographic/obscene media, and media that are threatening and inciteful. There is much room for debate and interpretation within each of these definitions. Ultimately, it is up to SF Commons Producers to understand their First Amendment rights, and exercise judgement in whether their media falls outside of the scope of “protected speech.” Violation of or blatant disregard for any of these policies could result in suspension of services, loss of timeslot and/or termination of membership. Refer to our Policies & Procedures for more detail on content restriction.

Producers own the rights to their shows. By participating in SF Commons, you agree that we archive copies of shows in order to use clips that will allow us to promote your program, SF Commons and public access in general. Our goal with this is to educate the public regarding the function and availability of public access television, and the relevance it maintains today in promoting free speech and localism. BAVC Media/SF Commons will only reuse clips for promotion of a non-commercial nature.
Producers are encouraged to promote their shows in any and all ways possible, including via social media, fliers, and participation in PSA Day. All promotion must adhere to non-commercial guidelines specified in the Policies & Procedures. SF Commons will occasionally host events educating Producers on outreach, promotion & social media, and we encourage you to connect with SF Commons via social media to enhance the visibility of your show.

SF Commons hosts a number of group productions on a rolling basis. The most popular of these are Open Mic Night and #SFCommonSense. Open Mic Night is a San Francisco public access television tradition predating SF Commons–active Producers are encouraged to participate in this show (televised quarterly) by performing, volunteering or simply as an audience member. #SFCommonSense is a Producer roundtable discussion show, telecast live on Channel 76 from our studio each Fourth Friday of the month at 7pm. Each month, a random panel of 4-5 Producers is chosen to discuss a predetermined topic, with many questions coming from the audience via Twitter. Please contact staff if you have any interest in appearing on the #SFCommonSense panel! The #SFCommonSense show is always preceded by a free workshop for Producers at 5pm on Fourth Fridays, so be sure to check out our upcoming events at the end of each month.

Producers can also volunteer as crew members for other Producers’ shows. Check the Producer Resources page on the BAVC Media site for crewing opportunities, or to announce your volunteer services. If you will be volunteering as crew for another Producer using SF Commons gear or the Studio, you will need to have taken a Certification Workshop.

Active Producers may also join the Community Advisory Group (CAG), a dedicated collective of Producers seeking to give direction to staff on programming, provide input relating to the channel, and form committees to help plan and execute events.

Frequently Asked Questions

Meet the Producers

At SF Commons, any resident or organization can receive free or low-cost training, access to equipment, and studio space to make a show and get their message out there. 

Our local producers create media that matters to them and their communities covering a wide range of issues, topics and interests. Content is broadcast locally on cable channels 29 and 76, and streamed online. Anyone can make a show about anything they want. Learn how you can get started →

See The Producer Directory

Services

Services for Individual Producers

The Producer community is the heart of SF Commons. Many of our veteran Producers have been making television for 20-plus years in San Francisco. Some of the services available to active Producers include (some services may be suspended due to COVID-19 closures):

  • Access to production equipment and postproduction facilities
  • Free certification trainings for full access to this equipment
  • A dedicated time slot on Channel 29
  • Community and staff support to grow your idea into a television show
  • Occasional Producer workshops on various topics
  • Access to audio recording/podcasting booth
  • Access to live studio 

One free public class at BAVC Media per year and 50% off three more 

Services for Nonprofit Organizations

San Francisco-based nonprofits (NPOs) that join SF Commons are eligible for timeslots on Channel 76 to show regularly-occurring episodes, PSAs, or specials showcasing their organization’s work. NPOs also have the following opportunities available through membership with SF Commons:

  • Public access television is a community service for local nonprofits
  • Get your message out on local cable television and the web
  • Create public service announcements to promote events and issues
  • Low cost video training for your staff and volunteers
  • Access to training, production and postproduction facilities, and support
  • Participation in an annual “PSA Day” to produce public service announcements for your nonprofit

Workshops and Certifications

SF Commons offers four free workshops specifically tailored to helping Producers get started with their shows: Production & Equipment; Live Studio; Audio Booth; and Adobe Premiere (postproduction/editing).

You must be certified in order to check out equipment or book time to use the studio or audio recording booth.

Production Gear Rentals

Camera kits, audio equipment, tripods and light kits are available for check-out by active, certified Producers. Reservations may be made up to one month in advance, for up to three consecutive days. Producers may hold up to three reservations at a time. To extend a current reservation, you must obtain written approval by staff before the equipment is due, otherwise it will be considered a late return. Three late returns will result in a suspension of check-out privileges.

Timeslot Programming

Staff can accept your show submissions in a variety of digital formats, including MPEG-2, MPEG-4 and MOV file formats. This may be done in the facility at one of the dropoff stations (Front Lobby station or Access Lab workstations). Staff can also accommodate email dropoffs if special arrangements are made.

ALL shows, no matter the dropoff method, must be received by staff 48 hours in advance of your timeslot. For Producers with timeslots during our non-program hours (Sunday & Monday), we MUST receive your shows by Friday & Saturday respectively in order to guarantee playback of your show during its proper timeslot.

Access Lab

All active Producers may work on materials for their shows in the Access Lab, a computer lab with five edit stations running Final Cut Pro 7 and X, iMovie, and Adobe Premiere Pro CC. There are two additional DV/mini DV dubbing stations available for use (appointments encouraged). Access Lab hours are drop in, first come-first serve, during SF Commons Program Hours. Producers in the lab during peak hours who are not working on content for SF Commons shows may be asked to give up their station to others if needed.

Though no training is required for use of the Access Lab, staff can only offer limited assistance to Producers. Post-Production Training & Certification workshops are highly recommended for all Producers editing shows in the lab.

Facilities

SF Commons Program Hours

COVID-19 UPDATES: As of March 8, 2021, you can now book limited times in the studio or check out equipment! The Access Lab will also re-open for 2-hour time slots later in March (check back for updates). Accessing the facility is by reservation only. Email javan@bavc.org for more info or to book.

  • Staff is available during COVID-19: Monday – Friday 10am – 6pm by emailing commons@bavc.org or the relevant team member directly.
  • Dropping off media: In-person dropoff is suspended during COVID-19 closures
  • Use this email address specifically for uploading a link to your show: shows@bavc.org
  • Important reminder for submitting programs: All shows for playback on SF Commons Channels 29 & 76 must be received by staff 48 hours in advance of your timeslot. This means that programs submitted (both physically and via email) during weekend non-program hours may not play during Sunday/Monday timeslots. Please plan dropoffs or uploads accordingly.

SF Commons Studio: Live & Pre-taped Shows

The SF Commons Studio is a single-operator studio with three cameras, lights and audio equipment that can be used for live call-in programs, live-to-tape recorded shows or for simple, single-operator recording. Producers must be trained and certified to utilize the studio. There are no drop-in hours for the studio; please make a reservation with staff at least two days prior to your desired session.

  • Live Shows: 5:00 – 7:00pm, Tuesdays through Fridays are reserved for the live programming block on Channel 76. No other studio reservations are accepted at this time. Please contact us to express your interest in producing a live show.
  • Live-to-Tape Recording: Producers may reserve the studio for recording during any SF Commons program hours when the studio is not being used for workshops or live shows. All recording sessions must conclude by 4:30pm Tu – F.
  • Live show Producers may not miss more than five live shows per year, within the guidelines of our cancellation policies.

Production & Event Space

Members may reserve our multipurpose room for show production once per month for up to four hours. This multipurpose room is not a fully functioning studio, but can be converted into a studio space using field gear and light kits. The space can also be used to host events, presentations and production meetings for up to 40. To reserve the multipurpose room, contact staff. Please note: Because of limited soundproofing, productions and events involving loud and/or amplified music cannot be accommodated.

The Policies and Procedures contained in this document are subject to change at the sole discretion of SF Commons and Bay Area Video Coalition (BAVC Media). SF Commons is a program of BAVC Media; throughout this policies document, the names SF Commons and BAVC Media are used interchangeably. The most recent version of Policies and Procedures can always be found on the BAVC Media website (bavc.org/sfcommons). By utilizing SF Commons facilities and services, you agree to be bound by the most current version of these Policies and Procedures. Please carefully review this entire document and review it from time to time, as Policies and Procedures may change.

SF Commons Policies and Procedures

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