Certainly the hardest working man in (local public access) television, the
Santa Barbara Channel’s executive director Hap Freund took some time
out of his busy day to talk media matters with Noozhawk’s Leslie
Leslie Dinaberg: How did you get started in public television?
Hap Freund: I moved to Hawaii in 1980, with my wife who had a clerkship in the Hawaii
Supreme Court … I got a job with the mayor’s office. I was in the office of human
resources and I was in charge of special projects in social services but I wasn’t supposed
to spend any money and all I had to do was monitor a bunch of federal grants and it was
totally boring. … Somehow it came to me that there was this access channel that if you
produced television for it you could get your programs on TV.
…. I got together with some friends of mine and we did a documentary on homeless in
Hawaii. And after I made that documentary I then went to the Junior League and I got a
$50,000 grant to produce TV programs, to do the video training and to produce local
documentaries on social issues. … Over the course of about two years we did 18 half
hour documentaries. So I did that through my job working for the mayor’s
…It was kind of a back door. I had never done television. I had been a lawyer, and a
community organizer and done a lot of work in social issues, but because the mayor
didn’t want to spent any money. …I could do anything I wanted pretty much in social
services as long as I didn’t spend money. So I did this and didn’t cost her a cent.
So that’s how I got into it. Then I moved to Ashland, Oregon when our son was about a
year and a half and I did independent work. I did a documentary for NOVA that took a
year. I wrote an article for Sports Illustrated on a wildlife forensic lab in Ashland … it
was in the swimsuit issue, so the joke was it was in the most widely read Sports
Illustrated of the year, except nobody read my article. (Laughs) But part of that, I took
that article and I wrote a grant to do a film on wildlife forensics.
LD: And you were in Seattle before you came to the Santa Channels when it switched
from belonging to Cox to being a nonprofit.
HF: Yes. We became a nonprofit in January of 2003 and I started up a couple of months
before that to set up the bylaws and the policies and personnel plan.
… One of the things I really like is what’s happened in video is it’s democratized, even
more so now because you can shoot a video with your phone. It’s been an incredible
leveler and it’s just democratized so much, and You Tube helps too. You can get the
word out. What we do is so you don’t have to have a network to get the word out. And
that’s one of the things I like about this (public television) is it’s a vehicle for people to
have their opinions. … I think that’s the cornerstone of democracy is having diverse
opinions and people hearing things that are uncomfortable.
… I always think we feel a real niche with cable. Channel 17, that’s the public access
part, with Channel 21 … I have a very broad definition of education, so I look at anything
that’s culture or arts also as educational.
LD: You are also doing things with nonprofits.
HF: Now we have a grant from Orfalea Foundation to do short spotlights on nonprofits
that are out in the field and we’ve got a grant from the Santa Barbara Foundation where
we’re trying to focus a lot on doing production work for nonprofits. I think if there’s a
direction we want to go in, we really see ourselves as being the media arm for nonprofits.
LD: That’s great. Especially because I know everybody is struggling with money to
spend on things like that.
HF: Yes and we’re inexpensive and we give them something they can multipurpose
because it isn’t just going on TV, we have a video-sharing site called SBChannels.net,
and we have all these videos. … They can link to it, they can send emails out.
LD: I hear you’re moving into the old Univision buildings in Goleta?
HF: Yes, it’s very exciting. I mean I love to be downtown but the Univision building in
the long run and even in the short run saves us money and it’s a bigger facility for less
money. And it’s a better studio. … We can have an audience of 49 people and so one of
the ideas I have is … we want to market this to nonprofits and say if you’ve got an event
if you want to have a town hall or a forum, why don’t you do it at our place because you
can put it on TV live, you can have people calling in and interacting.
… Also the other part is that I think our major mission is to facilitate and make it easier
for people to get their content out. So we look at that in terms of both the media that we
offer, …it’s both the production and the distribution. Because a lot of people just bring us
content more and more … they don’t have to produce it here to get it on the air. I am
happy to have all of that stuff.
LD: Do you have any favorite moments since you’ve been here?
HF: I could write a novel about this place. (Laughs) It’s never dull … My favorite
moment was we were producing something in the smaller studio for the film festival with
the film festival people and the police were getting ready to do a program in the other
studio and they brought some drug dogs, drug sniffing dogs in who went nuts. I saw all of
these people looking around kind of nervously and what it was was they had also brought
in some marijuana to hide behind the couch to show the dogs off, but I think a lot of
people were starting to get nervous.
… But really one of my favorite things is just knowing that people watch. When
somebody comes up to me and says, “thank you so much for showing the youth
symphony. It was so wonderful for all those kids to see their hard work on television.”
That appreciation that goes a long way.
LD: That’s great. With print media struggling, do you see an expanded or different role
HF: That’s a good question. I think the print media people who are sending the reporters
out with cameras, like the Ventura County Star or something, I think they get it. I don’t
think we compete with print media. I think the more information people have the better.
… I think there’s going to be some convergence. But I think what we need is more good
reporting and so I think the people who do print media, it’s really different than bloggers.
Bloggers can just repeat rumors. With journalists you get both sides of the story and I
think we’re losing some of that. That’s what I worry about the Internet, you can have an
opinion and people treat it as fact. … I would hate to see print journalism gone, but I
hope that what we need is good reporting. I think unbiased reporting, both sides of the
story, get the facts straight and let people make up their mind. I think that’s what’s most
LD: What else do you do when you’re not working?
HF: I like to spend time with family, watch basketball, exercise, and travel though it’s
getting harder to afford. I’m a huge basketball junkie, especially Duke.
LD: If you could pick three adjectives to describe yourself, what would they be?
HP: Enthusiastic, issue-oriented, and upbeat
Vital Stats: Hap Freund
Born: July 31, 1943 in St. Louis, Missouri
Family: Wife Claudia Chotzen, sons Zach (age 22 and a senior at Stanford) and Willy
(age 18 and a senior at Laguna Blanca).
Civic Involvement: “This takes a lot of my time. This is not a 40-hour a week
commitment, so I would say that my civic involvement really is through work and trying
to get organizations in the door and caring about what they do.”
Professional Accomplishments: Executive Director of the Santa Barbara Channels,
former lawyer and community organizer, award-winning documentary
Best Book You’ve Read Recently: “Shining City,” and “The Story of Edgar Sawtelle.”
Little-Known Fact: Freund was once one of the leading experts in the country on lead
paint poisoning in children. He also holds the patent on a design for a carrot-shaped