Last edited: November 08, 2003


Editorial: Ed Board Takes Sensible Course On IPTV Content

Idaho Press-Tribune, July 10, 2000
Box 9399, Nampa, ID 8362-9399
Fax 208-467-9562

The State Board of Education’s move to require programming disclaimers on Idaho Public Television was a reasonable response to a difficult situation — state-mandated intrusion into programming issues.

They had to do something.

This past session the Idaho Legislature passed a bill requiring the State Board of Education to "evaluate, establish and enforce fiscal programming and accountability policies" for Idaho Public Television.

Whether they agreed with it or not, education board members had to take action to satisfy that legislative intent. And under these circumstances, we are impressed with what the board came up with this past Thursday: a requirement to air disclaimers, at least once a day, pointing out that the programs on public television may deal with acts illegal in Idaho.

That may seem unnecessary, or even silly, to some. But it responds to the legislative intent language without superseding IPTV’s ability to air thoughtful programming on sometimes difficult issues.

That’s an achievement, and we applaud the board’s efforts.

We opposed the Legislature’s bone-headed move to intrude into programming issues. We still bristle at the thinly veiled reasoning behind the legislative intent — objections to public television programs that deal with homosexuality without condemning it. Clinging to an Idaho statute against sodomy, self-appointed morality enforcers contend that nonjudgmental programming about homosexual issues promotes a practice that violates Idaho law.

We agree with education board member James Hammond, who said, "We are bending to a certain political view that really doesn’t do anything to enhance the image of Idaho."

But Hammond and the other board members unanimously approved the disclaimer policy — and we agree with that, too.

We see no harm in the rather wordy disclaimer, which points out that public TV and the education board present programming to provide in-depth news and information valuable to Idahoans — and not to promote or support "the violation of any Idaho criminal statutes."

And we like the portion of the disclaimer that encourages "families to exercise decisions as to values important to them to determine whether to watch" specific programs.

After all, parents — not lawmakers — should decide which programs or issues their children should have the opportunity to view and discuss. Programs about violence, alternative lifestyles or other social issues often deal with actions that violate Idaho law. They also can offer valuable information and insight. Individuals should decide for themselves — and their children — whether to watch particular programs.

The disclaimer makes that clear. It does not single out — or even mention — homosexuality or any other specific issue. It does not require Idaho Public Television to seek permission to air programs dealing with controversial issues.

Basically, it’s a detailed version of parental discretion notices already in use by IPTV and other networks.

The board’s proposed policy, set for final approval in August, also calls for the broadcaster to:

  • Provide monthly reports on its programming decisions;
  • Monitor viewer comments and provide a summary to the board, and
  • Keep records of broadcasts dealing with education, public safety, lifelong learning, cultural and family enrichment, character education, in-depth news coverage and documentaries. Reports would be provided in a fashion "sufficient to allow the board to monitor and review" programming decisions as required by the new state law.

It may not satisfy those leading the charge against IPTV, but the proposed policy is a thoughtful and reasonable response to legislative and citizen concerns about a publicly funded operation.

We are satisfied with the proposed policy — as long as it does not infringe on IPTV programming integrity or the variety of program choices available to viewers. And we hope the board does not yield to possible pressure and impose more restrictive policies in the future.

Board members were required to take action, and they did. They came up with something we believe everyone — viewers, programmers, lawmakers and concerned citizens — can live with.

  • Our View is based on the majority opinions of the Idaho Press-Tribune editorial board.

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