Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
Clear Day 70° Clear

Eye On Boise

IPTV winning awards despite funding crunch

The Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee hears the budget request for Idaho Public Television on Tuesday morning, presented by general manager Peter Morrill. (Betsy Russell)
The Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee hears the budget request for Idaho Public Television on Tuesday morning, presented by general manager Peter Morrill. (Betsy Russell)

Peter Morrill, general manager of Idaho Public Television, told lawmakers this morning that broadcast television actually is drawing more viewership these days: People are watching an average of 35 hours a week of broadcast TV, but just 20 minutes of online video. He also noted that Idaho Public TV has won 71 major awards this year, including three Emmy awards for "Outdoor Idaho" and "Dialogue for Kids" and an Edward R. Murrow Award for "Outdoor Idaho." "There's some good stuff happening even in these very, very challenging times," he said.

The budget news for Idaho PTV is less sunny, however. Though the network has met its fundraising goals, raises more private funds than similar networks in other states and operates with a third less staff than its peers elsewhere, the governor's budget recommendation is for a 4.1 percent cut in state general fund support and 6.4 percent in total funds. That would mean cutting three positions; making permanent a $97,200 cut from last year that was replaced by a one-time federal grant that's no longer available; and the governor recommended zero funding for the $1.3 million in replacement capital the network has requested, including several items mandated by federal law.

Sen. Shawn Keough, R-Sandpoint, asked the consequences of not meeting those federal mandates. Morrill responded that there are two: The emergency alert service mandate, which requires IPTV to be able to provide emergency alerts on a localized basis to four zones; just the equipment to meet that mandate costs $120,000, and there's a deadline of Sept. 30, 2011. Failure to comply will bring fines starting at $8,000 per transmitter; IPTV has five transmitters. The second federal mandate comes under new federal legislation regulating loudness from one TV station to another; IPTV will need $57,000 worth of equipment to meet that by a fiscal year 2012 deadline; fines for non-compliance haven't yet been set. The replacement capital also includes $75,000 for tower maintenance that Morrill said is much-needed.

Rep. Shirley Ringo, D-Moscow, asked, "Can we duct-tape and bailing wire and get through the time?" Morrill responded, "We're now about three years behind on deferred maintenance, and there are now cracks in our system that are beginning to appear. We have some absolutely required tower maintenance we're expecting this summer that needs to take place." He acknowledged, "It's not going to be the kind of news you want to hear."



Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

Follow Betsy online: