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Pisaneschi named general manager of Idaho Public Television

Ron Pisaneschi, a 28-year veteran of Idaho Public Television, has been named its new general manager by the State Board of Education, to succeed Peter Morrill, who is retiring; Pisaneschi will start Aug. 5. “Idaho PTV is fortunate to have someone with Ron’s passion for public television and expertise in programming and operations ready to step up and lead the organization,” said Don Soltman, state board president. “We are confident that Ron will provide the vision and leadership needed to ensure that Idaho PTV continues to provide people with excellent programs and high-quality learning opportunities.”

Pisaneschi’s current title at IPTV is director of content; over the years, he’s served as director of programming, director of marketing, director of public information and more. He was named 2005 Programmer of the Year by his colleagues in the PBS system. He holds a fine arts degree in film and photography from the University of San Francisco, and has also worked in educational filmmaking, radio programming, public relations and marketing.

“I am privileged to work with an amazing group of people who are dedicated to serving the public by providing engaging, educational programs and resources,” Pisaneschi said. “This is an exciting opportunity, and I look forward to building on the successes and strengths of Idaho Public Television.” Click below for the state board’s full announcement.

New film will chronicle how Idaho’s ‘Bluebird Man’ helped recover the state bird

Idaho’s “Bluebird Man,” Al Larson, is now 91 years old, and he’s the topic of a new documentary about how he helped recover the population of Idaho’s state bird, the Mountain Bluebird. Larson, a World War II vet who grew up in the Owyhee mountains, saw his first Mountain Bluebird in 1936 while riding fence on a ridge near Jordan Valley; in 1978, while looking for a hobby after retiring from his sawmill job, Larson read a National Geographic article about the decline of bluebird populations across North America. That year, he set up 25 nest boxes and began monitoring the birds. Eventually he had 350 nest boxes in five southwest Idaho counties, and over the years he has banded more than 27,000 bluebird nestlings.

“Al has been joined by many other citizen scientists across the continent who have set up bluebird trails in an attempt to boost bluebird populations by providing additional nesting habitat,” says Matthew Podolsky, producer of “Bluebird Man,” the film, who is with Boise-based non-profit production company Wild Lens. “These efforts have been hugely successful, resulting in the dramatic recovery of this enigmatic species.”

The half-hour movie began filming in April and will finish production at the end of the year; Idaho Public Television plans to air it when it’s completed. Now, Wild Lens is in the midst of a Kickstarter campaign to raise the final $15,000 needed for production and distribution costs; it’s raised nearly half that amount already, and is offering those who contribute DVDs, original artwork, a vote on the movie poster design, birding trips and more. The Golden Eagle Audubon Society and the North American Bluebird Society also are partners in the film; there’s more info here.

When Morrill was behind the camera…

Marc Johnson’s “Johnson Post” has a wonderful article today about retiring Idaho Public TV general manager Peter Morrill, complete with stories from back in the old days – when Johnson was in front of the camera, and Morrill was running it.  “Peter had become through sheer design and love for the box with wires and lights a complete television talent who understood the business from the perspective of the kid carrying the tripod in the field to the state legislator wrestling over the public TV budget in the Statehouse,” Johnson writes. “It was a natural progression for him to become General Manager of Idaho’s system and the guy who would lead Idaho’s only true statewide media organization to great accomplishments while serving an ever larger audience.”

Among the stories: “We once put the late, great environmental writer Edward Abbey on the air in Moscow (Idaho) for a half hour interview even after the author of The Monkey Wrench Gang insisted that he be allowed to continue smoking his big cigar during the broadcast. That was, of course, in violation of any number of rules, but the show must go on,” Johnson writers. “Peter walked into a Russian Orthodox church service in Moscow (Russia) with a 16 mm film camera on his shoulder after assuring our KGB-like minder that of course we wouldn’t film anything inside the church. He did, mostly without having to look through the view finder.” You can read Johnson’s full article here.

Longtime IPTV general manager Peter Morrill to retire

The Idaho State Board of Education announced that Peter Morrill, longtime general manager of Idaho Public Television, is retiring. Morrill will continue to serve while the state board launches a search for a replacement by the end of the summer, and will assist through the transition; he's been general manager at IPTV since 1996.

"Peter has been an exceptional leader, and our state has been truly fortunate to have a person of his caliber at the helm of Idaho Public Television," said Don Soltman, state board acting president. "Under Peter's direction, IdahoPTV has garnered national acclaim for excellence in providing programming that informs, educates and inspires."

Morrill started at IPTV in 1979 as a director/videographer. He worked as a producer/director and executive producer before taking the helm as general manager. This year, Idaho Public TV was named the No. 1 most-viewed PBS station in the country, based on Nielsen ratings; that 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 also won 53 national and regional awards in 2012, including an Emmy and an Edward R. Murrow Award. Click below for the state board's full announcement.

The week that was…

On tonight’s “Idaho Reports” program on Idaho Public Television, I join Jim Weatherby, John Freemuth and host Greg Hahn to discuss the week’s developments in the Legislature; the program also includes Hahn’s 30-minute interview with Gov. Butch Otter on everything from the First and Second Amendments to federal lands and the personal property tax;  a report from Aaron Kunz on the LINE commission; and Hahn’s interview with freshman Rep. Luke Malek, R-Coeur d’Alene. The show airs at 8 p.m. tonight; it re-airs Sunday at 10:30 a.m. Mountain time, 9:30 Pacific; and plays on Boise State Public Radio on Sunday at 7 p.m. After it airs, you can watch it here online any time.

Economic outlook: ‘Subdued and stumbling growth’

Bob Maynard, chief investment officer for the Public Employee Retirement System of Idaho, told lawmakers this morning the coming year’s economy is widely expected to be similar to this past year: “Subdued and stumbling growth, good equity markets, flat bond markets.” He said, “2012 was pretty close to forecast. Basically the world economies muddled through. … Next year is expected to be more of the same.” For example, he said, in 2012 the S&P 500 was up 15 percent, compared to an expected 12 percent. “That’s pretty much a bullseye given the pessimism of last year,” Maynard said. “Markets again expect about 12 percent equity yields and flat bond markets.” He added, “Right now, bonds are tremendously unattractive.”

Maynard said, “The capital markets run off of expectations, not current conditions. And the current economic expectations are moderate.”

He’s among an array of economic experts and business representatives addressing the Legislature’s Economic Outlook & Revenue Assessment Committee today and tomorrow, as lawmakers begin mulling where to set the revenue estimate on which the state budget for next year will be based. After hearings today and tomorrow, the panel will reconvene on Jan. 10 to finalize its report to the Legislature.

Lawmakers look at economic outlook, watch live on newly upgraded streaming site…

Idaho Public TV’s new live streaming site is up for the 2013 legislative session, which kicks off Monday. The old links still work through a redirect, but the new address is www.idahoptv.org/insession. Upgrades mean that the service will now stream easily to Macs, PCs, iOS devices and most Androids; that means easier access to live video streaming from House and Senate floor sessions and hearings in the Capitol Auditorium, audio from all standing committee hearings, Idaho Supreme Court oral arguments at their Boise chambers, some press conferences from the governor’s office and more.

Today, the Legislature’s joint Economic Outlook & Revenue Assessment Committee is meeting all day, and you can watch live at the new streaming site. Today, the joint committee is hearing from bankers, builders, Realtors, retailers and more; tomorrow, it’ll hear from hospitals, university economists and the INL. The whole process is aimed at evaluating the outlook for Idaho’s economy to help in setting the revenue estimate on which the state budget for the coming year will be set; you can see the full agenda here, along with background information and links to presentations.

‘Idaho Reports’ looks at ballot measures tonight

Idaho Public TV's "Idaho Reports" program will air an election special tonight focusing on the ballot measures before Idaho voters on Tuesday. Greg Hahn is the host, and he'll interview state Superintendent of Schools Tom Luna and Centennial High School teacher Cindy Wilson on the school reform referenda. Also, I'll join Greg and a pundits panel that also includes Michelle Edmonds from Today's 6/Fox9 and Kevin Richert from the Idaho Statesman to discuss the ballot measures. The show starts at 8:30 p.m.; there's more info here.

Human rights documentary celebrated with viewings, discussions across state

Idaho Public Television's award-winning human rights documentary "The Color of Conscience: Human Rights in Idaho," is being celebrated with viewings and discussion around the state today. The Idaho State Bar and Idaho PTV are hosting the events, which are taking place at the IPTV studios in Boise; at North Idaho College's Todd Hall in Coeur d'Alene; at the University of Idaho College of Law in Moscow; at Concordia University School of Law Courtroom in Boise; and at the Idaho Statue University Rendezvou Center in Pocatello.

The events feature a showing of the documentary, which also can be viewed online here, along with a panel discussion featuring panelists including U.S. Attorney Wendy Olson, UI College of Law Dean Donald Barnett, attorney and past state bar commissioner Ken Howard, and attorney Norm Gissel of Coeur d'Alene. Click below for more info.

Idaho Supreme Court to begin live video-streaming its oral arguments

Idaho's Supreme Court will begin live video streaming all its 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 who are litigating similar issues in district courts around the state and 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 "Legislature Live" service, which already has been streaming numerous executive-branch proceedings in addition to legislative action; you can read my full story here at spokesman.com, along with links to the new stream.

Idaho Public TV human rights documentary wins national award

An Idaho Public Television documentary, "The Color of Conscience: Human Rights in Idaho," has won the Silver Gavel Award for television from the American Bar Association. The hour-long special examines the development of the human rights movement in Idaho, including the small group of concerned citizens who stood up to the Aryan Nations, ultimately bankrupting the neo-Nazi supremacist group in North Idaho. The program also examines other current human rights issues in the state, from gay rights to immigrants to hate crimes. Marcia Franklin is the producer, writer and host, and Jay Krajic is the videographer/editor.

The national award was just the latest honor for the program, which also won a regional Edward R. Murrow Award and a Cine Golden Eagle Award, among others. You see show online at idahoptv.org/colorofconscience/.

Redden says Snake River dams should go

RIVERS — In an interview for a television broadcast, U.S. District Judge James A. Redden, who presided over the Northwest's biggest salmon lawsuit for nearly a decade, said the Snake River's four hydropower dams should be breached to help wild salmon.

Redden made the comments to  Idaho Public Television.

See the story in the Oregonian.

Got questions about legislative session? Dialogue is tonight

Tonight's "Dialogue" program on Idaho Public Television will look at the upcoming legislative session; I'll be among those joining host Marcia Franklin for the discussion, along with John Miller of the Associated Press, Clark Corbin of the Idaho Falls Post Register and Greg Hahn of Idaho Reports. The show airs live at 8:30 p.m. Mountain time, 7:30 Pacific; you can call in during the show with your questions, toll-free, to (800) 973-9800, or send them in via email before the show to dialogue@idahoptv.org.

IPTV names Hahn as Idaho Reports host

Idaho Public Television has announced that Greg Hahn has been hired as the new producer and host of Idaho Reports, the program that reports on the state Legislature. Hahn, who most recently was news editor for the Idaho Statesman, filled in as moderator on the program last year after former host Thanh Tan left for a job with the Texas Tribune. IPTV conducted a national search for Tan's replacement, and Hahn was selected. He covered the Legislature for about a decade, first for the Twin Falls Times-News and then for the Statesman; he's also reported on stories from Burley to Baghdad to the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. Hahn holds a degree in anthropology and film from the University of California at Santa Barbara and a master’s degree in journalism from New York University. Outside the legislative-session program, Hahn will work on documentaries and other stories.

Luna, Olson Meet In Statewide Debate

Democratic Idaho State Department of Education Superintendent candidate  Stan  Olson, left, and Republican incumbent Tom Luna debate at the Idaho Statehouse in Boise on Tuesday in a statewide broadcast produced by Idaho Public Television. You can read Betsy Russell’s coverage of last night’s debate here. And: blow-by-blow coverage of the debate by Betsy on her blog here. (AP Photo/The Idaho Statesman, Joe Jaszewski)

Question: Who is the best candidate for superintendent of schools? Why?

New wilderness filming rules generate debate

The Forest Service has issued new temporary guidelines on filming in wilderness areas under its jurisdiction, but they’re kicking off even more controversy in a debate that began when Idaho Public TV was first refused permission to film a student conservation project in the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness, then granted permission after Gov. Butch Otter and Congressman Mike Simpson complained. Click below to read a full report from AP reporter John Miller.

USFS switches, says IPTV filming is OK

After Gov. Butch Otter sent a letter to the U.S. Forest Service objecting to the agency’s denial of permission for Idaho Public Television to film a group of students in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness - on grounds that the public TV station’s filming is “commercial” - the Forest Service has now changed course. Here’s its announcement:

Ogden, Utah May 21, 2010 – After careful review, the US Forest Service has moved to allow filming by an Idaho Public Television crew in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness. Nationally, we want to improve access, and increase public understanding of the importance of National Forests, Grasslands and Wilderness areas.  One of the ways we can do this is through the media. An assessment of current policy will be completed soon that will address the need for media related activities on National Forest System land.

Otter goes to bat for Idaho Public TV

Idaho Gov. Butch Otter is going to bat for Idaho Public Television in a spat with the U.S. Forest Service, which is inexplicably taking a newfound position that IPTV’s filming of a student conservation group in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness for an “Outdoor Idaho” program would be a prohibited commercial activity in the wilderness. Otter sent a letter to the Forest Service today calling the federal agency’s position “ill-advised;” you can read his letter here, and click below to read the full story from AP reporter John Miller. Otter proposed phasing out all state funding for Idaho Public TV at the start of this year’s legislative session, but later backed off, saying he was just sending a message to spur efficiencies.

Idaho Reports gets a full hour this year

Idaho Reports, the weekly legislative program on Idaho Public Television, will be a full hour this year, which is good news for a show that happens to be the longest-running legislative program in the West. Click here for a cool history of the show, which debuted in January of 1972 with host Gene Shumate. Over the years, the show went through various format and name changes, but it was consistently a daily report on the doings of the Idaho Legislature; it took its current name, Idaho Reports, in 1982. A big change came in 1997, when budget cuts at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting forced the show to cut back from daily to once a week - a much-bemoaned change. Before that year, Idahoans knew all they had to do was watch the show each evening during the session, and they’d be up to speed on everything going on in the Legislature. The weekly program started off with just a half hour, but it’s gone up and down. Now, host Thanh Tan has confirmed that this year, it’ll be a full hour.

It’s been my pleasure to be among the guests and regular commentators on Idaho Reports over the years, and I’m looking forward to another good season of the show.