IdahoPTV General Manager Peter Morrill laid out his succinct case for maintaining state support for the station, emphasizing that without state funding it would not be able to maintain 41 of its 42 rural transmitters (the Lewiston transmitter could potentially be supported). Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter has recommended a four-year phase out of state funding for the station (currently at $1,659,800 despite the various rounded numbers you might read elsewhere at boiseweekly.com). But JFAC co-chairman Sen. Dean Cameron, a Rupert Republican, indicated after the meeting that the committee may not vote to support IdahoPTV phase out, or the phasing out of five other small commissions that Otter placed on the chopping block.
"You may see this committee not taking a stand on the phase out," Cameron said. "All of us are in support of public television, all of us want to see public television continue."
Where the hell is Rogerson?Sen. Bert Brackett, a Republican from Rogerson, after criticizing the Idaho Reports program for perceived self-promotion, told citydesk that he has gotten a flood of e-mails from public-television supporters, first from Boise and now from within his large, rural district.
Brackett said he's not a regular viewer, but saw a legislator on the show advocating for continued public television funding.
"It's not appropriate for them to use state funds to fund their cheerleading effort," Brackett said.
IdahoPTV has been cautious in covering its own legislative adventure, and several public television officials said they did not recall the episode to which Brackett referred.
Morrill made the point that Idaho has no statewide newspaper, no state radio or commercial television and is the statewide provider for the emergency alert service, for which they have an agreement with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
He also shared numbers with the committee:
14,000 people logged onto Legislature Live during the first week of the session to watch parliamentary debate, including 7,578 to the budget committee hearings. That's alot. And last year, IdahoPTV provided 13,000 hours of children's programming, Morrill said.
Sen. Jeff Siddoway, a Terreton Republican, questioned whether the station could attract commercials or other large grants.
Morrill responded that they cannot sell airtime or use state equipment to make ads for private companies (though they do pump major corporate sponsors, following recently loosened FCC rules) and that, yes, they apply for every possible grant they might qualify for.
Earlier in the day, the budget committee accepted a report from the Legislature's revenue setting committee, but declined to accept the numbers. Cameron said they'd wait to see what January revenues look like before setting a budget target.