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IdahoPTV Celebrates 40 Years of KUID

September 26 2005 by Peter Morrill

Peter Morrill's Prepared Remarks
IdahoPTV's 40th Anniversary Celebration of KUID
KUID Studio, University of Idaho, Moscow, ID
September 23, 2005

I've been with Idaho Public Television - for the most part - since 1979, and it's been fascinating watching it grow and mature.

A very quick history lesson.

As you know, Idaho Public Television is celebrating 40 years of service this month.

Public television in Idaho started back in 1965, with KUID at the University of Idaho's School of Communication, now known as the School of Journalism and Mass Media. Several years later new stations started in Pocatello and Boise.

They remained separate entities until 1982 when a statewide public television system, Idaho Public Television, was created by the state legislature and licensed to the State Board of Education.

You know, during those early years nationally in public television we took some well-deserved potshots - after all, it was a bold experiment - and we know about bold experiments!

One of my favorite barbs from those early days came from Chicago Tribune columnist Mike Royko.

In one of his columns he said, there are only four things you ever see on public television - and he named them:

* two insects making love
* the second was a lion walking around with a zebra in its mouth
* the third was a nicely dressed British man sitting in a mahogany paneled room
* and the fourth thing was someone in a studio saying, if you WANT to see the other three things, then send money now.

Well, Mike Royko never came to KUID because if he had, he would have found a vibrant and unique place that challenged its students and cherished their work.

In the early years something special was created here in this studio that has reverberated down through the years.

Professionals and students working side-by-side, creating a stunning diversity of programming that sought to tell the story of our communities.

Their hopes, their dreams, their challenges, some solutions, and yes, even some University of Idaho Vandal ballgames!

But through it all, one goal remained steadfast: give our next generation of professionals that chance, that opportunity to create programs.

Well, we've all come a long way since those early days, but some things have remained constant - especially, a quest for excellence.

This is seen today at Idaho Public Television:

* in the awards we routinely win: 59 national and regional awards for our locally created content last fiscal year alone

* in the audiences we've generated over the years: last year alone, Idaho Public Television was the most watched per capita PBS station in the U.S.

* and in the financial, and emotional, support we receive from across the state.

We offer more actual local programming than many public t.v. stations twice our size, and all of it is supported from our communities, not some big government grant in the sky.

That's a good thing for this state because, as legendary Idaho writer Vardis Fisher used to say, it's a state parceled from many.

I think Idaho Public Television does a great deal to break down the barriers that have hindered us over the years. We are a united state, even if some folks think of us as a state with three capitols - Boise, Salt Lake, and Spokane.

I think Idaho Public Television is one of the unique forces that link our far-flung reaches together.

Last I checked, Idaho Public Television gets a larger percentage of voluntary private support than any other state licensed, statewide public television station in the country. That's pretty impressive when you think about it.

It suggests a level of connection with our audience that many stations could only hope for in their wildest dreams.

We now cover almost the entire state through our series of transmitters, translators and now satellite systems. And we're entering the brave new world of digital television in pretty good shape, thanks in part to the Idaho Legislature and our ability to procure large grants for the hardware that's required. We're also now producing our documentaries in digital wide-screen format for high definition broadcasting; providing extensive web services including video and audio streaming; high quality, downloadable videos; and coming in October, podcasts of many of our local programs.

But there's still much more work to be done.

Last month, the State Board of Education approved our request, as part of a multi-phase, multi-year conversion of our statewide infrastructure, to make this studio all digital, multi-format - including high definition - so that our next generation of students will get the hands-on experience with the tools they need to get a job.

Over the years, we've created the unique ability to be Idaho's town hall, where our rugged terrain is no longer a deterrent.

In the fractured media marketplace of the 21st century I believe public television, and Idaho Public Television, really stands apart from other media outlets.

Idaho Public Television now is the last locally owned and operated network television station in our state.

As the acclaimed filmmaker Ken Burns recently said:

"In our brave new world of cable systems and other developing technologies - digital this and digital that - all straining under the weight of a seemingly endless, almost tyrannical choice of stations and options, PBS stands out because . . . we are . . . about something. We have content, and that can not be taken lightly."

But enough preaching.

I want to take this opportunity to thank all of you and the work that you done on the foundation that has made this organization what it is today, and what it will be tomorrow.

You all have a lot to be proud of. This little station that could - it really did some top notch, investigative journalism and that, like Ken Burns said, cannot be taken lightly.

This organization has been sustained, and has succeeded, because of your work.

And today, the staff of Idaho Public Television strives everyday, in your footsteps, to be a trusted and valued institution that puts our viewers needs, and dreams, in the forefront of our mission.

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