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Forget Oscars, TVSB Awards Show Rocked

TV Santa Barbara celebrated in grand style Saturday night, hosting a sold-out awards gala at the Alcazar Theatre that honored nearly a half-century of enabling and empowering ordinary people to tell extraordinary stories on television.

From red carpet interviews to big screen, slick clip highlights of the winners, TVSB’s 45th anniversary party was an entertaining and high-energy production, saluting past and present personalities and programs from the rich history of the non-profit, community media access station.

The event drew a crowd of 200 to Carpinteria’s classic, 1928 theater, a cross-section of local media, arts and political types that included Mayors Fred Shaw of Carp and Cathy Murillo of Santa Barbara; city council members Kristen Sneddon of SB and Stuart Kasdin of Goleta; Supervisors Gregg Hart and Das Williams; the ubiquitous John Palminteri, alt-rock musician Glen Phillips and world-class fundraising auctioneer Geoff Green of the SBCC Foundation.

The station saluted more than a dozen current programs, in a host of categories, with translucent blue blown glass statuettes bearing a vague resemblance to Oscar (the Hollywood award, not the city councilman and TVSB producer).

The Founder. The evening’s highlight, however, was a presentation by pioneering television producer Ira Opper, who co-founded the station in 1975, and led the audience on an hilarious excursion through its early days, illustrated with a series of black-and-white photos and short segments of primeval videotape.

Cable TV was brand new in 1975 – 12 channels! (Several of which you could actually receive on your TV) – when Opper and co-conspirators produced their first scoop. They recorded a local speech by Ralph Nader on the dangers of nuclear power, then paid Cox Cable fifty bucks, cadged from UCSB, to show some of it.

It was the last time they paid to air content.

Having boned up on FCC regulations, they enlisted city council member Leo Martinez to help pressure Cox Cable to provide and finance a community channel, studio space and crew and a van -- at risk of losing its monopoly franchise in Santa Barbara.

“That’s the inflection point,” Opper said, “After that, the kids took over the candy store.”

Shocking! Along with programs like local political debates; “Meet the Mayor,” with Opper interviewing the late David Shiffman and "Women's Spectrum" with the great Lois Phillips, who on one show hosted Jane Fonda ("I am enraged" about the status of women), the cable merry pranksters in the mid-1970s also triggered an only-in-Santa Barbara community scandal.

Recruiting Rich Procter and Mark Ward, then popular as the comic team of “Procter and Ward” on KTYD morning drive time, the station produced a “Worst Parade Coverage” program to cover Fiesta’s El Desfile Historico, featuring several hours of stoner commentary, speculation about naked parade entries and suggestive observations about mounted members of the Native Daughters of the Golden West, who were decidedly not amused.

Amid outraged demands from conservative Fiesta fans that City Hall sack Opper and shut down the station, the stunt drew widespread attention, with the L.A. Times and TV Guide, among other far-flung outlets in those pre-internet days, reporting on the political controversy. Eventually, cooler heads prevailed at City Hall and the station won a big national award from the cable industry.

There were no injuries.

And the winner is...To our delight “Newsmakers” was among the programs honored this year, as was the documentary about the Montecito disaster co-produced by our Hap Freund and the indefatigable Melinda Burns, as well as a second doc, about the first responders to the catastrophe, by Phyllis de Picciotto and Stan Roden.

Mega-kudos to TVSB executive director Erik Davis; Community Engagement and Advancement Coordinator Courtney Frazer; Creative Media Specialist J.P. Montalvo and the whole crew at TVSB for a terrific bash.


Here is a complete list of award winners.

Community Hero: Gary Dobbins

Founder Award: Ira Opper

Entertainment Award: Ken Boxer

Best Series: Animal Zone

Influencer Award: Rebecca Brand

Mission Awards: Bob Lovgren and GiGi Amour

Innovation Award: Daniel Bollag

Creator Awards: Eric Durak, Lea Welles, Arlene Stepputat, Chuck Reed

Legacy Award: Lorrie Hull Smithers, Ph.D,

Member of the Year: Reavell Orr

Partnership Award: City of Santa Barbara

Journalism Award: Newsmakers with Jerry Roberts

Community Impact Awards: Hap Freund & Melinda Burns; Phyllis de Picciotto & Stan Roden

Community Presentation: UCSB Economic Forecast Project

Santa Barbara Award: John Palminteri

Community Achievement: Las Noticias

Youth Programs: Leslie Sokol

Youth of the Year: Sinjin Mongold

Non Profit Partner of the Year: United Way: Fun in the Sun

Images: The marquee of the Alcazar Theater; Cathy and Kristen accept the Partnership Award; Ira Opper narrates the early history of TVSB; Opper in 1974; The loot; The winners. (All photos by Fritz Olenberger, except Opper '74, via Encyclopedia of Surfing). For more photos of the event, see TVSB's Facebook page here.

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