January 18, 2010
Idaho Business Review
The commitment of Idaho Gov. Butch Otter to hold tight to the purse strings of the state in a down economy is admirable, as a good leader should do.
But the fact that Idaho Public Television is on the cutting block is too much.
When I heard that it was a consideration, I couldn't believe it. Public television, broadcast across the state from a number of locations, is one of five agencies Gov. Otter targeted in his State of the State address to be phased out by 2014.
Wayne Hammon, the governor's budget chief, suggested the network tap into private sources to offset the $1.7 million it gets annually from the general fund.
But while it receives that money, for the most part it lives on its own fundraising efforts. Support comes from viewers. Management officials with Idaho Public Television recognize how vital it is to provide quality non-commercial programming and that its support comes from viewers. It's the single largest source of funding for the organization.
The Associated Press reported that many people are questioning why they want to take "P-TV" away.
Democrats and Republicans are making a case that public television deserves ongoing support from the state's general fund.
Idaho Public Television offers ample opportunities for viewers to support their favorite kinds of programming through affordable annual memberships, sustaining memberships that offer an array of benefits, to planned giving programs that provide long-term support.
Even businesses can align with a quality audience by sponsoring programming on Idaho Public Television through a corporate sponsorship program.
In previous years, the Idaho Business Review has supported Idaho Public Television, and last fall we met with sales reps to develop new support.
In addition to public support, I think the beauty of the system is apparent to those who don't have cable television. The Treasure Valley has one of the highest "antenna" viewerships in the United States.
With the shift to high-definition TV, it was incredible the number of people who asked, "Why is the government taking away our 'free' television stations?" The answer of course was that it wasn't taking them away, but giving more access to a wider array of channels.
No, we don't get the National Geographic, Discovery or Travel channels, but we do get Idaho Public Television, which provides similar programming.
No, we don't get HGTV, or the other construction/makeover channels, but we do get Idaho Public Television.
No, we don't get C-SPAN, but we get public television that provides great commentary and analysis on local politics.
Here's the station that teaches kids their ABCs, provides Discovery-type programming, as well as access to the Idaho Legislature sessions.
While not everyone contributes or becomes a sponsor of Idaho Public Television, the benefit of keeping "P-TV" on the air is warranted.
Could it cut down on the hours of broadcasting, management or programming changes? I'm certain that an organization that relies on contributions is running on bare bones or as lean as could be expected.
To simply pull the plug on public television is something that should be discussed with the directors. Allow them to give the answer.
So, I have to say, "I want my "P-TV."
Robb Hicken in managing editor of the Idaho Business Review, a publicly traded company owned by Dolan Media. He watches at least eight hours of programming a week on Idaho Public Television.
The Opinion posted here is provided by permission of its original publisher and does not necessarily reflect the views of Idaho Public Television.