The Iowa House has passed a bill that would open many of the videos, tapes and other materials in the Iowa PBS archives for public use.
Representative Megan Jones of Sioux Rapids said the bill was sparked by a contract dispute between Iowa PBS management and former Iowa State wrestling coach Jim Gibbons over footage of a 1986 match.
“Had adults come to the table, this wouldn’t have been brought forward by an Iowan who just wanted to share the story of Iowa,” Jones said. “…Had this all been worked out, I don’t think we would have seen this bill, but at the same time, I don’t think we wouldn’t have reached the potential of what Iowa PBS can offer Iowans.”
The bill essentially designates Iowa P-B-S material that’s at least 10 years old as a public record that could be used for educational, historical or cultural purposes. The old footage couldn’t be used to make a profit.
“While they might just be videos of sporting events, they shouldn’t be treated any differently than any other record,” Jones said. “They shouldn’t be treated any different than any other record and the public deserves to show and to share those videos.”
House Democratic Leader Jennifer Konfrst of Windsor Heights worked at Iowa PBS for 14 years. “This is a sledgehammer when we needed a flyswatter,” Konfrst said. “If folks had come to the table and had a conversation, we wouldn’t be here today. This is too broad and it is too risky.”
Konfrst said the bill will endanger future broadcasts of events like the All-State Music Festival because of copyright concerns, Konfrst and others also said it would open the state up to lawsuits.
Jones said she doesn’t expect a flood of requests for Iowa PBS videos, but if that happens — that’s an important signal. “In that we are spending so much time through Iowa Public Television fighting and bickering and negotiating out contracts and withholding these archives from people, we are spinning our wheels,” Jones said.
The bill passed the House on a 54-39 vote. Senators have been developing a similar proposal.