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Opinion >  Editorial

Jeff Fox and Michelle Britton: Federal budget cut threatens IdahoPTV

michelle britton

Once again, the Trump administration has proposed drastic cuts to public media. The president’s 2019 plan proposes to fund the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) at $15 million, a 97 percent reduction.

Idaho Public Television has an annual budget of $9 million, of which $1.5 million is allocated from CPB. $3 million comes from the state general fund, and the balance of about $4.5 million comes from contributions from Idaho residents and from grants. Under the president’s proposed budget, Idaho’s public TV station would lose $1.5 million of base funding, weakening the sustainability of IdahoPTV as we know it. What are we risking?

IdahoPTV supports Idaho’s citizens in significant ways. It reaches nearly 100 percent of Idaho’s population, even its rural areas that have minimal connectivity. It is often the most-watched PBS station per capita in the nation, with approximately 450,000 weekly viewers. That’s 27 percent of Idaho’s population.

IdahoPTV is one of the most efficient and effective educational resources, serving schools from rural to urban settings with programming keyed to state curriculum. There are more than 200,000 free resources available for Idaho’s public, private, and home school teachers and students at all levels from preschool to high school. The station has also implemented an array of educational outreach activities for children in local communities, especially in rural areas, with STEM camps, coding workshops, and events at public libraries. Idaho public school teachers are benefiting from IdahoPTV-led instruction in the use of technology in classrooms. The station, the Friends of Idaho Public Television (a fundraising arm of IdahoPTV), and key private financial sponsors have made a strong commitment to support education.

IdahoPTV, through the Public Broadcasting Service, provides top-notch entertainment, bringing the world to Idaho. In addition, PBS news programming offers balanced presentations of statewide and nationally important events. But no less important are IdahoPTV’s award-winning programs like “Idaho Reports” andIdaho in Session,” focusing on Idaho topics. “Outdoor Idaho,” one of the longest-running shows, is also one of the most watched. Idahoans learn about the state’s amazing outdoor diversity that influences local culture and economies.

Friends members represent all parts of the state. While Idaho may seem homogenous, our cultural, economic and social perspectives across the state are quite different because they have evolved over time largely from the influence of diverse regional landscapes and resources. The Friends directors have come to know and love Idaho, and are proud to be Idahoans in part because of what we have learned from our public TV station. We Idahoans understand the needs of Idaho, we govern, and we are good citizens because we know our state. We would assert that this same identification with our country and appreciation for it grows from PBS programming.

In 2016, the station received 55 national and regional awards, one Emmy Award and seven Emmy nominations. Without a doubt, our station strongly supports education and provides quality content and outreach so that all Idahoans become lifelong learners and better citizens.

Originally, Idaho’s moniker, “the Gem State,” referred to the variety of gemstones natural to our geography. In broad contemporary terms, Idaho is known as the Gem State for our landscape, our resources and our recreation. On behalf of the Friends of Idaho Public Television, we believe one of our state’s most precious gems is our public television station, Idaho Public Television. It’s vitally important that funding continue for it at its current levels.

Jeff Fox is the current president of The Friends of Idaho Public Television. Michelle Britton is a former president of The Friends of Idaho Public Television.

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