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TV Santa Barbara on the Fritz?


The public media network TV Santa Barbara is tightening its belt. Last week, talk circulated that the staff of seven would be laid off and asked to reapply for new positions with new responsibilities — some with pay cuts. But after backlash from the staff, executive director Matt Schuster reconsidered and opted instead to reorganize employees — reducing hours and leaving one position unfilled — which cut expenses by $60,400. “I find the situation to be very disheartening and embarrassing after working there for so long and excelling,” said Creative Media Specialist Oscar Gutierrez, who has won several awards and has worked at SBTV for 10 years. “But to be completely fair, I do appreciate what [Schuster’s] done for the organization because he does work hard.”

Schuster has a dense background in public media. “Things are shifting in the industry,” he said, explaining the intention is to “move the media center forward in a direction that better serves the community.” Last fiscal year, the nonprofit media center — which is funded by Santa Barbara county and city, as well as by Carpinteria— had an operating budget of $495,800. For fiscal year 2015, the network will reduce its budget by about $96,000. The cuts can partly be attributed to a mishap in the fine print: Schuster said he had been informed the county cable franchise agreement expired in 2015, but the contract had actually been extended until 2017.

This isn’t the first time the station has cut back. Last October, SBTV officially relocated and opened its doors at a Salinas Street location, saving approximately $7,000 per month in rent. SBTV has received money from various area foundations in the past, and currently Union Bank Foundation and the Diana and Simon Raab Foundation help pay for production costs. “I consider myself very lucky,” Gutierrez added, explaining not everyone gets paid to do creative work. “Companies are forever changing,” explained longtime boardmember Deirdre Hanssen. The organization is continuing to look for ways to reduce costs.

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