Public television is a bargain, and it enhances life in Idaho

Peter Morrill
July 12, 2009
Idaho Statesman

Great Caesar's ghost!

Ronald Reagan, Big Bird, Dr. Who and a call to eliminate state funding for Idaho Public Television - all in one recent column, with the provocative title, "State should end taxpayer funding of Idaho Public TV." I wanted to take a moment and add some thoughts to Wayne Hoffman's recent column (Statesman. July 5).

Thirty years ago, Ronald Reagan re-instilled a quality that had been missing in our country, one of optimism and self-improvement. Public television, a service that his administration supported, continues to provide a valued service to our country and our rural state.

In this age of proliferating channels and Web sites, we offer compelling free content, on-air and online, that is designed to help our viewers and users navigate these complex times. To paraphrase filmmaker Ken Burns, public television is about something, and that cannot be taken lightly.

Idaho Public Television started more than 40 years ago as three independent university stations serving our three regions. In the early 1980s, the state Legislature unified us into one network with the mission to provide service to viewers across the state - not just to big cities like Boise. We now serve virtually every Idaho community with educational and informational programming and emergency alert services such as Amber Alert.

The state's funding is directed toward the maintenance and administration of the statewide delivery system. It provides us the ability to serve communities as diverse and distant as Bonners Ferry, Salmon, Glenns Ferry and Montpelier. Not bad for a little more than $1 per citizen of state support.

There are few other state-funded programs that touch as many Idaho taxpayers each day as Idaho Public Television does. The Legislature's budget committee vice chairman, Rep. Maxine Bell, recently said, "In a state like ours, you can't just have roads and bridges, you need something that inspires, and that is what Idaho Public Television does."

Each year, the quality of our services inspires viewers to voluntarily contribute more than 62 percent of Idaho Public Television's operational funding, among the highest percentage of any statewide service in the country. This support, combined with an annual grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, allows us to acquire programs such as "Masterpiece," "Nova," "Live from the Met" and our valued educational children's programming like "Sesame Street." We also produce award-winning local programs and Web sites such as "Outdoor Idaho," "Dialogue," "Idaho Reports," "D4K" and "Idaho Legislature Live." This kind of educational programming complements immeasurably the offerings of local commercial television stations and, ultimately, the quality of life in our rural state.

Many of you have experienced our new digital programming, which includes four free, over-the-air channels: the Idaho Channel, HD, Learn and World. Our Web services have expanded to include enhanced services at, where many of our programs can be viewed online.

We're even available on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. In fact, this fall we launch a new PBS program online video player. Check out a free preview at: .

These are exciting changes, but we continue to focus on quality programming and content for the people we serve. Over the past 12 months, we've received more than 50 national and regional awards of excellence for our local programs and Web sites, including an Emmy, an Edward R. Murrow award and New York Film Festival awards.

I believe the state has invested wisely into the services of Idaho Public Television. It benefits virtually every Idahoan, at minimal cost with great educational benefits.

We help tie a far-flung rural state together, and we enhance its quality of life. That's something even Ronald Reagan could support. In fact, he did. During his administration, he championed a 31 percent increase in federal support for public broadcasting. It made sense then, and it makes sense now.

Peter W. Morrill is general manager of Idaho Public Television.

Wayne Hoffman: State should end taxpayer funding of Idaho Public TV (July 5, 2009)

Originally posted at

The Opinion posted here is provided by permission of its original publisher and does not necessarily reflect the views of Idaho Public Television.

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