‘Legislature Live’ brings session to all

By Joan Cartan-Hansen

Idahoans have several new ways to keep track of what’s happening at the Statehouse. As part of a collaborative effort with the Idaho Department of Administration and the Legislative Services Office, Idaho Public Television expanded the services offered by IDAHO LEGISLATURE LIVE.  Those services include over-the-air and cable broadcast of House, Senate proceedings, video streaming of the Joint Finance and Appropriation Committee (JFAC) meetings and hearings in the new 220 seat Capitol Auditorium and audio streaming of all other House and Senate committee hearings.

IDAHO LEGISLATURE LIVE started in 1999 with audio coverage of the House and Senate. Coverage was expanded to include JFAC proceedings a few years later.  Funding for that original audio streaming equipment came from grants from the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) and donated funds. In 2005, a web camera was added in each of the three locations to allow users to see the chambers.  In 2007, video equipment for the House and Senate was added with the help a grant of approximately $342,000 from the Idaho Legislature.

IDAHO LEGISLATURE LIVE’s service expanded in 2008 when the Legislature met in the Annex Building (the old Ada County Courthouse). Because of limited space in the rooms that the House and Senate used to conduct business, there were no public viewing areas. IDAHO LEGISLATURE LIVE was the primary way the public viewed the proceedings of both chambers and JFAC.

With technological upgrades in the renovated Statehouse building, viewers can now follow IDAHO LEGISLATURE LIVE in many ways. Over-the-air and digital cable viewers can watch House sessions on IdahoPTV’s Learn channel (4.3) and Senate sessions on the World channel (4.4).   Internet users will find live video streams of House, Senate and JFAC proceedings, live video of hearings in the Capitol Auditorium and live audio proceedings of all other legislative committees all on IdahoPTV’s home page at www.idahoptv.org and http://idahoptv.org/leglive/. IDAHO LEGISLATURE LIVE feeds are also available via the in-house Capitol cable system and can be viewed on the video players on cell phones with Windows Mobile capabilities.

The technical upgrades in the new statehouse offer new opportunities for news coverage. All feeds are available for free for use by media members of the Idaho Capitol Correspondents Association.  IDAHO LEGISLATURE LIVE staff can help route video and audio feeds from within the Statehouse, making it easier to cover hearings and feed out live shots from various locations. But because of staff size, all media requests should be made as far in advance as possible.

Idaho Public Television General Manager Peter Morrill estimates the annual project cost of IDAHO LEGISLATURE LIVE services to the state at $204,000, depending upon the length of the session.  For the 2010 session, IdahoPTV received grants totaling $45,000, the largest portion being donated by the Idaho State Broadcasters Association.  The rest of the grants came from Union Pacific Foundation, Idaho Association of Counties (IAC) and the Idaho Public Television Endowment. The remaining costs are donated in-kind services from Idaho Public Television.

During the 2009 legislative session, the IDAHO LEGISLATURE LIVE Web streaming service was accessed 76,003 times. 34% of viewers watched the House feed, 41% viewed the Senate feed and 25% streamed the Joint Finance–Appropriations Committee (JFAC) feed. For the first four weeks of the 2010 session, the site received approximately 31,000 clip requests, with about half of the viewers watching JFAC proceedings.