Effects of Governor's Recommendation to Eliminate State Funding for Idaho Public Television

On January 11 Governor Butch Otter announced his recommendation to eliminate state funding for Idaho Public Television over the next four years. IdahoPTV receives one of the lowest levels of financial support of any state-licensed statewide public television network in the country. If IdahoPTV loses state funding totaling approximately $1.6 million annually and moves to a market-based public television service model, it will have profound impacts on the services available to users statewide, especially in rural communities.

The $1.6 million in current state funding pays for:

  • Engineering and maintenance of statewide broadcasting equipment including Internet and emergency alert services
  • Utility costs for transmitters and translators
  • Lease of the Network Operating Center and other facilities statewide
  • Core administrative services such as financial management, statewide supervision, required financial audits, and inventory control

The total loss in state funds over the proposed four year transition period is approximately $4 million. In order to achieve financial stability at the end of the four years, Idaho Public Television must take immediate steps to reduce its staff and services. The Governor and others have suggested that we can replace the lost funding with private and federal funds. Idaho Public Television already performs above our peer group for the amount and percentage of contributors. Achieving long term funding from private and federal sources at a substantially higher level would be extremely challenging.

We believe these are the steps Idaho Public Television must take to remain viable:

  • To save approximately $1.2 million annually, eliminate at least 19 full-time positions and approximately 37 part-time positions across all fund categories, beginning Spring 2010
  • Concentrate services in SW Idaho where 82% of IdahoPTV's $2.9 million in annual individual donations and corporate contributions originate
  • Close our regional studios located in Moscow and Pocatello
  • Close the studio and technical center at the JR Williams Building in Boise, which provides support for Idaho Legislature Live
  • Eliminate our cooperative professional training programs with the University of Idaho and Idaho State University
  • Cease maintenance of 39 of 40 rural translators and translator relays (Lewiston service will be maintained due to its large population base - the 5th largest in the state)
  • Eliminate the Learn/Create Channel, the World Channel, and the IdahoPTV Kids Channel (a cable service)
  • Eliminate some locally produced programming (Idaho Legislature Live and the Idaho Debates series)
  • Reduce locally produced programming by 50% (Idaho Reports, Outdoor Idaho, D4K - a children's science program, and Dialogue)
  • Eliminate purchase of numerous programs that fall outside the core PBS programming package (i.e. dramas, Lawrence Welk, and British comedies)
  • Refuse and/or return federal grants totaling $1,204,212 that we were recently awarded to maximize our signal in SE Idaho and to add 6 fill-in translators
  • Cancel/renegotiate purchase orders and pending financial transactions totaling approximately $590,000 related to the returned federal grants
  • Repay the federal interest in equipment purchased using federal funds for any equipment that is no longer serviced and ceases functioning (during the past 10 years Idaho PTV has received federal equipment grants totaling over $4 million)
  • Provide due diligence and repay private funding earmarked for eliminated or reduced programs
  • Invest approximately $254,000 in new equipment to meet expected 2010 federal mandates (Emergency Alert System, program guide software, and "loudness" initiative)

Furthermore, since our Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) grants are based on the amount of state and private funding we receive and how much rural coverage we provide, these grants (which currently total approximately $1.2 million) will decline substantially and our funding base will be further reduced.