Supreme Court’s hearings to be online
‘Idaho Legislature Live’ to add judicial branch
BOISE – Idaho’s Supreme Court will begin live video-streaming of all oral arguments from its main Boise courtroom next week, in a joint project of the court and Idaho Public Television, which pulled it together despite a dearth of state funding.
Though Washington has long televised its Supreme Court arguments, fewer than a third of states provide such video access. It’s a big step for Idaho, expanding the service that now live-streams all legislative proceedings and some executive-branch meetings on the Internet so folks anywhere in the far-flung state can watch.
“There’s a definite benefit to the citizens,” said Steve Kenyon, clerk of the Idaho Supreme Court.
Among those likely to tune in to the webcasts: parties in appeals to the state Supreme Court, who now won’t have to drive to Boise to see the arguments before the justices; lawyers litigating similar issues in district courts around the state who can see how those issues play out live at the state’s highest court; reporters covering cases that originated in far-off corners of the state; and citizens interested in seeing the highest level of the judicial branch of state government at work.
“It’s giving people around the state the ability to stay in contact with their governmental process, and we’re just proud as punch to be involved with it,” said Peter Morrill, general manager of Idaho Public Television.
Adding the high court’s arguments will expand IPTV’s “Idaho Legislature Live” service, which already streams numerous executive-branch proceedings in addition to legislative action.
“We just find it amazing that we have all three branches of government under ‘Idaho Legislature Live,’ ” said Jeff Tucker, production and creative services manager for IPTV.
As a result, the name of the service soon will change to “Idaho Live,” Tucker said.
“Idaho Legislature Live” launched in 2008, when the Legislature moved out of the state Capitol for two years to allow the statehouse to be renovated. At its temporary quarters in an old courthouse across the street, now dubbed the Capitol Annex, there was no space for the traditional public galleries. A virtual public gallery was created through the live video-streams, which include all sessions of the House, Senate and joint budget committee, plus audio streams of all other committees.
At the same time, the statehouse renovation included the technological infrastructure to allow higher-quality webcasting once the Capitol reopened in 2010. The streaming service has since expanded to include reapportionment hearings, Department of Education sessions on school technology and more.
“Idaho Legislature Live” has an operating budget of $220,000 a year, but the state has put no general tax funds into it. As a result, IPTV has found the money from sponsors, grants and viewer donations.
The Supreme Court paid for the hardware – about $65,000 worth of cameras and fiber – to add its courtroom to the service, and IPTV absorbed the installation, maintenance and operational costs.
Morrill said IPTV will ask lawmakers in January for funding to help support the “Idaho Live” service. A similar request last year was approved by the state Board of Education but didn’t win the nod of the governor or lawmakers.
Donors who help support the service include the Idaho State Broadcasters Association, the Union Pacific Foundation, Idaho Cable Telecommunications Association, Idaho Association of Counties, Association of Idaho Cities, and IPTV viewers.