Capital Clicks

House passes Iowa PBS public record bill

By: - March 14, 2022 7:29 pm

The Iowa House held floor debate on March 14, 2022. (Photo by Katie Akin/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

Archival footage from Iowa PBS could be used for independent video projects under a bill passed Monday by the Iowa House.

The House passed House File 2488 on Monday evening. The bill would broaden permitted uses for Iowa PBS public records, allowing old videos to be used in new projects. It’s an initiative spurred by former Iowa State wrestling coach Jim Gibbons, who had a dispute with Iowa PBS over a wrestling documentary project last summer.

But Rep. Megan Jones, R-Sioux Rapids, said the bill would allow people to tell stories about Iowa — including stories about Gibbons’ 1986 Cyclone-Hawkeye match-up — in a more comprehensive way than just watching an archived clip.

“I think people just want to be able to share the stories,” Jones said. “And it’s more than just watching the wrestling match — it’s about the chemistry of the team and the coaches and who was all there, and the excitement, and the energy.”

Under current law, Iowa PBS must make archival footage available for viewing in response to a public records request, but it is not required to share the footage for redistribution or use in other projects. Iowa PBS has also begun work on a state-funded project to digitize and upload archival footage online.

Democrats raised concerns the bill could violate agreements between Iowa PBS and other stakeholders, like the Des Moines Metro Opera or Ballet Des Moines.

“Those are two things that involve music rights and those two things may not happen anymore on Iowa PBS because organizations might not want to partner… because the rights that they have can’t extend beyond what this is allowing,” said House Minority Leader Jennifer Konfrst, a former Iowa PBS employee.

Rep. Marti Anderson said she once appeared on Iowa PBS in a segment about learning how to canoe — footage she would not want shared again, she said, especially in a campaign ad.

“I had some points in that filming where I didn’t look so good, lifting up a canoe and trying to paddle … I wouldn’t want that out there,” Anderson, D-Des Moines, said.

Jones said after debate that the bill would prohibit the use of Iowa PBS content — including Anderson’s canoe video — for endorsements, political purposes or for profit. Instead, Jones argued the bill was meant to allow people to create projects from raw videos.

“We’ve got to move this ball forward, because we’re losing these stories,” Jones said.

The House voted 54-39 to advance the legislation. Two Republicans joined Democrats in opposition to the bill: Rep. Jacob Bossman, R-Sioux City, and Rep. Jon Dunwell, R-Newton.

The bill awaits passage in the Senate, where a similar bill has already made it through the State Government Committee.

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Katie Akin
Katie Akin

Katie Akin is a former Iowa Capital Dispatch reporter. Katie began her career as an intern at PolitiFact, debunking viral fake news and fact-checking state and national politicians. She moved to Iowa in 2019 for a politics internship at the Des Moines Register, where she assisted with Iowa Caucus coverage, multimedia projects and the Register’s Iowa Poll. She became the Register’s retail reporter in early 2020, chronicling the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Central Iowa’s restaurants and retailers.