Gov. Butch Otter as recently as 2010 proposed discontinuing state funding for Idaho Public Television (IPTV). What a difference a few years make. For the coming fiscal year, the governor is recommending a general fund expenditure of $1.6 million for IPTV, a 2.6 percent increase from the current fiscal year.
“When I consider these things, my motto is ‘less government, more opportunity,’” Sen. Sheryl Nuxoll, R-Cottonwood, told IdahoReporter.com. Nuxoll sits on the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee (JFAC), where she and the other committee members heard a budget request presentation from IPTV General Manager Peter Morrill Friday. “I will be reviewing their budget requests in detail,” she said after the committee hearing, “but I’m left wondering why we have public television, and why we cannot leave it to private enterprise to meet these needs.”
The IPTV budget for 2014 will likely look much different than in past years. The governor has requested $1.6 million, IPTV is asking for a total of $2.8 million to fund a number of capital equipment requests, but the final budget will be in the range of $7.7 million because all donated funds and federal grants will now be calculated as part of the budget unlike like is past years.
Morrill told IdahoReporter.com that state and federal taxpayer dollars are important revenue sources for IPTV, but noted that those funds actually comprise only a minority of the operation’s annual budgets.
“It is effectively a flat budget recommendation,” Morrill told IdahoReporter.com of the governor’s proposal.
“Sixty-five percent of our budget generally comes from voluntary private donations,” Morrill said. “This includes pledge drive donations, grants from private foundations and underwriting from some corporations.” Approximately 20 percent of the agency’s operating budget is funded from the Idaho state general fund, while the remaining 15 percent comes from federal government grants, according to Morrill.
Morrill told IdahoReporter.com last November that during the past several years, IPTV experienced an approximate 27 percent decrease in its funding from the state. However, the Legislature voted to increase the agency’s funding by about 15 percent in the last legislative session. Morrill also notes that IPTV withstood an effort from Otter to discontinue state funding in 2010.
“In 2010 the governor proposed the idea, but the Legislature did not agree with him,” Otter spokesperson Jon Hanian told IdahoReporter.com. “The governor nonetheless recognized that public television is unique among agencies that receive state funds, in that they have the capacity to solicit for private donations,” he added.
“I’m a supporter of Idaho Public Television,” said Rep. Rick Youngblood, R-Nampa, a member of JFAC and a former member of the Friends of Idaho Public Television advisory board. “I will review their budget request, and Gov. Otter’s budget request very carefully,” he told IdahoReporter.com, “but I know there has been interest in Idaho Public Television functioning more independently, as is the case with most other government agencies as well.”
But Nuxoll sees it a bit differently. “Private enterprise is where innovation comes from,” she told IdahoReporter.com. “I believe the private sector could fulfill the niche that Idaho Public Television currently fulfills.”
IPTV broadcasts statewide from transmitters in Pocatello, Twin Falls, Moscow, Boise and Coeur d’Alene, with each transmitter providing four separate digital HD sub-channels. While central studios are located in Boise, remote studios are operated on the campuses of the University of Idaho and Idaho State University, where students can earn college credit for working at the studios.