Governor C. L. ‘Butch’ Otter has requested that, in an effort to save money, Idaho Public Television should be weaned off state money over the next four years. This is a terrible idea. The Friends of Idaho Public Television have set up a website where you can make donations and send email to the Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee (JFAC). What they say:
Such a move, if endorsed by the Idaho Legislature, will mean the end of a true, statewide public television service in Idaho. Public television viewers in rural areas of Idaho are most in danger of losing service.
Idaho Public Television, more than 40 years old, is in grave danger of losing its statewide reach unless legislators can be convinced to reject the governor’s budget recommendations.
The volunteer spokesman for the effort to save it, Jerry L. Evans, writes on New West Boise:
I also observed how public television’s broad mission to educate, inform and entertain was carried to every region of our state and how critically important it became to our smaller communities and rural areas. Any thought that a more market-driven approach to raising additional private contributions could continue the statewide system is simply unrealistic. The state has made a multi-million dollar investment in the IPTV network that provides quality service for the entire gamut of our population from early childhood, to teenagers, young adults, parents and senior citizens. Even legislators, who will need to make a determination about the importance of continuing the statewide system, make great use of IPTV.
No other media organization in our large, diverse and still very rural state provides access, information, and the opportunity for all Idaho residents to participate in their state government (particularly the Legislature).
Jerry L. Evans, a Republican, served as Idaho’s Superintendent of Public Instruction from 1979-1995.
I have written to JFAC and shared my opinion. Here is what I wrote:
It is simply terrible to think that Idaho would cut public television from all state funding. It’s right there in the name: public. It’s for the people, showing programs that won’t otherwise be shown, and providing important educational information.
I know that hard cuts must be made this year, and public television is not the only thing on the chopping block. Schools and Health and Welfare, among others, face debilitating cuts. I would suggest that rather than cut agencies that are supplying essential services that can only be supplied by government, you should consider raising taxes. I know that is unconscionable to most Idaho legislators, but I would argue that unusual circumstances (the worst recession in seventy years) call for unusual measures. First, restore the property taxes to schools that were sliced by Governor Risch. That will only return us to where we were a few years ago. Second, raise the sales tax by a penny. Give most of that to Health and Welfare, and the rest to public television.