Idaho Public Television has been named the No. 1 most-viewed PBS station in the country, based on Nielsen ratings, IPTV general manager Peter Morrill told lawmakers this morning.”This is news,” he said to appreciative murmurs from lawmakers on the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee. It means a higher percentage of the population watches IPTV, and watches it more, than that in the viewing area of any other public TV station. IPTV won 53 national and regional awards in 2012, Morrill said, including an Emmy and an Edward R. Murrow Award, and compared to its peers, it has a higher percentage of donors per capita – 1.1 percent vs. 0.5 percent – and a higher average gift amount, at $72, compared to $52.
Also, he said, “Antiques Road Show is coming to Idaho on June 29. Now why is this important? Antiques Road Show is a monster of a program,” with a huge following, both in Idaho and across the nation. “They will be taping three one-hour programs from Idaho and will be airing about a year from now.” That, he said, will be a “big thing for the state,” not only bringing publicity, but “there’ll be some economic development going on too.”
IPTV has a “highly efficient design and infrastructure,” Morrill told lawmakers. “The business model is lean to provide high value.” Its staffing is at half the level of comparable statewide public TV systems around the nation. “We are very, very lean and mean,” he said. “It does require support from the general fund to sustain the rural statewide infrastructure.”
Said Morrill, “We have a very efficient statewide delivery system,” but he added, “We have some aging equipment,” bringing big maintenance challenges. For next year, Gov. Butch Otter has recommended a 2.6 percent increase in state funding for IPTV to $1.6 million. The agency’s request, largely because it included more equipment replacement items, was for a 78.2 percent boost to $2.8 million. Morrill described IPTV's maintenance challenges as a "whack-a-mole situation."
JFAC Co-Chair Maxine Bell, R-Jerome, complimented Morrill on the “InSession” service IPTV provides that live-streams legislative proceedings out to the public over the Internet. “When I think about what you’ve done since we came back in this building and the way it’s wire, and the way everything flows and how transparent it is, we are truly grateful for what you have done,” Bell said. “It’s a nice thing for the citizens.”
IPTV’s total budget figures are changing for next year because, through a joint effort between the agency, the Division of Financial Management and the Legislature, donated funds and federal grant funds, which make up the majority of IPTV’s funding, are now being included in the total appropriation. That means the total-appropriation figure will show a big jump, to $7.7 million, but Morrill cautioned that it’s not new money, it just reflects what already was coming in from donations and grants.