Should the legislature override Governor Ventura's veto of funding to help with Public Television's digital conversion?
Absolutely, and here's why.
First, some background information: All broadcast television stations have been mandated by the federal government to convert to digital broadcasting by May of 2003. This is a fact. If the stations don't convert by that date, they could lose their licenses and eventually be forced off the air.
The financial cost of making this conversion by television stations is high, but the benefits are great! With digital television (DTV), Minnesota's Public Television stations will be able to offer not only a better quality signal, but more channels and choices in programming.
Public TV enhanced with DTV technology will provide programming choices like a 24-hour kids channel, a channel dedicated to lifelong learning, a channel with news and information programming and in-depth legislative session coverage. And you'll still be able to enjoy all your favorite "grown-up" PBS programs like "Nova," "Nature," "Mystery," and "Antiques Roadshow" on an additional channel. These channels are an example of what Lakeland Public Television is looking at providing with DTV technology. Without this state funding, these choices just won't happen.
Timing is critical! Lakeland Public Television also already has secured a federal grant of over 1.4 million to help with their DTV conversion costs and are relying on this State appropriation for the local matching dollars that are required by the Federal grant. Without this state funding this year, these federal grant dollars could be in jeopardy!
This year, again, the House and Senate overwhelmingly passed a funding bill that would help Minnesota's Public Television stations convert to digital broadcasting as mandated by the federal government. And, again, Gov. Ventura vetoed it and is trying to kill an override of the funding. He has spoken out against our funding, publicly downplaying its importance by making many "out of context" comparisons.
I disagree with Gov. Ventura's decision to veto our funding. His own
staff, in fact his chief technical advisor, Commissioner David Fisher,
strongly recommended in a memo to the governor that he should sign Public Television's digital conversion funding bill. Commissioner Fisher's memo said that "This is an unprecedented opportunity for the State" and that this partnership "would yield unique and significant benefits".
Lakeland Public Television already provides invaluable educational
programming, and will expand these educational services with digital
television's multicasting capabilities.
Over 20 school districts use Lakeland Public Television's K-12
instructional programming in their classrooms on a daily basis.
Lakeland Public Television is collaborating with Bemidji State
University and offering telecourses for full college credit.
Lakeland Public Television, along with other Public TV stations around
the state, broadcasts GED programming that helps hundreds of people every year prepare for and pass their high school equivalency exams.
During the last 12 months Lakeland Public Television staff trained
hundreds of daycare providers and parents on how to better utilize our
educational children's programming to help promote reading and learning with our "Ready to Learn" program which impacted thousands of children in our area.
In the past year Lakeland Public Television has given away over 6,000
books to preschool kids. Reading is an integral part of many of Lakeland
Public Television's preschool programs such as the highly acclaimed "Between the Lions" series.
Lakeland Public Television is also the only source of locally produced and televised programming in its entire coverage area.
Lakeland News is the area's only local nightly news program.
Lakeland Public Television again this fall will produce and broadcast
the only televised debates of candidates for area state legislative offices. These debates give viewers an opportunity to see and hear the candidates' positions on topics of interest in our area of the state.
Lakeland Public Television is locally controlled and locally owned. The
station is a community licensed non-profit organization, which means that the station is owned by the communities that it serves. It can't be bought, sold, or controlled from outside of our area. Our board of directors is made up of key members of our local communities in northern and central Minnesota that volunteer their time in support of Public Television. They care about local content, local programming and a safe haven for our kids to watch television that not only entertains, but educates and enlightens as well!
Without the state's help, Lakeland Public Television and several other rural stations could ultimately be forced off the air.
If Gov. Ventura gets his way, Public Television could end up like so many other things in this state: the metro area has it and rural Minnesota goes without.
I support the legislature's override of the Governor's veto, and I hope you do too.
(Stember is president of the board of directors of the Lakeland Public Television.)
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