Capital Clicks

Iowa PBS would have exceptions to public records law under amended bill

By: - February 10, 2022 3:09 pm

Former Iowa State wrestling coach Jim Gibbons spoke at an Iowa Senate subcommittee meeting on Feb. 9, 2022. (Photo by Katie Akin/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

Iowa PBS public records would be subject to copying and dissemination under a proposal moving through the Iowa Senate, but an amended version of the bill adds several exceptions to what the Iowa Public Broadcasting Board would be required to share.

Under the amended Senate Study Bill 3028, all of the content from the public broadcasting division is classified as public record that may be copied and shared. But a person requesting the records must specify that the content will be used for “educational, historical, or cultural” reasons, if released. The records may not be used for political purposes or to make a profit.

Communications Director Susan Ramsey said under current law, Iowa PBS must make archival footage available for viewing following a public records request, but they are not obligated to share footage for editing or redistribution.

Proponents of the legislation argued the change would allow independent creators to use archival footage to tell Iowa stories – especially stories about sports.

“What you’ve got is this great footage that’s been locked up, some of it in a condition that may be deteriorating… What we’re really trying to do is allow grandparents, parents to be able to show their kids and grandkids what it was like to compete back in the day,” said former Iowa State wrestling coach Jim Gibbons in a Wednesday subcommittee meeting.

Gibbons began pushing for public records laws to apply to Iowa PBS after a wrestling documentary project fell through last summer. He has been the primary proponent of the legislation.

Leaders at Iowa PBS expressed concerns that the initial version of the legislation would interfere with the station’s agreements with third-party content creators, like the Des Moines Metro Opera. Under the amended bill, the board would not be required to violate any marketing or licensing agreements that were in place as of January 2020.

However, the bill would also prohibit Iowa PBS from enforcing any copyright, trademark or other intellectual property rights if a public record were created before 2010.

Ramsey said she appreciated lawmakers’ attempt to address PBS concerns, but she believes the amended version of the bill is still “unenforceable.”

The Senate State Government Committee moved the amended proposal, making it eligible for floor debate. The bill will also remain alive beyond the first funnel deadline of Feb. 18.

Several Democrats voted against the proposal in committee, but Des Moines Sen. Nate Boulton said he was open to further amendments on the bill, despite his “no” vote.

“We want to make sure that we’ve got as good of content as possible on public television, but also improve the accessibility of information,” Boulton said.

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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.