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Petition drive started to get Montana TV

| April 18, 2007 12:00 AM

To the Editor:

Last Wednesday the Lincoln County commissioners passed a resolution to be forwarded to Congress.

The Western News didn't consider the subject fit for its news pages, so here we are.

The resolution called on Congress to let Lincoln County residents watch Montana stations on satellite TV.

If you have a television on satellite, you know that ABC, CBS, NBC and FOX all come to you from Spokane. The satellite networks would rather deliver Missoula and Kalispell to Lincoln County — they'd get more customers after all — but it's against the law. Congress made it illegal three years ago when it sought to protect local TV stations, and thus their local programming, from outsiders brought in by satellite.

The law works well enough in the big cities — the ones with local TV stations — but Lincoln County crashed through the cracks. Congress let the Nielsen ratings company designate our "local channels," and Nielsen picked Spokane. Never mind that the Spokane stations are two states away and have little interest in Montana, let alone Lincoln County.

So what are we missing? Just news, weather and sports.

Here's a random look at the evening news on KPAX in Missoula, KCFW in Kalispell and KREM in Spokane this March 19.

Montana News

KPAX: Twelve Montana stories, including six of statewide interest. KCFW: Nine Montana stories, four of statewide interest and one — construction begins on the Highway 93 bypass around Kalispell — of interest to Lincoln County. KREM: A woman found dead in a Spokane motel was from Kalispell.

Montana Weather

The Montana stations offered temperatures, conditions and forecasts for all of Montana. KREM listed the Libby and Kalispell temperatures on its map.

Montana Sports

KPAX showed features on Grizzly football and basketball. KCFW carried an update on Grizzly football. KREM had nothing.

And of course, Lincoln County's football fans will come together this fall in the traditional get-togethers wherein satellite subscribers load up chips and dips and head out to join their cable-ready friends for the KPAX Griz broadcasts they can't get at home.

Some of us are fighting back. Ed Moe, Gene Tracy and I asked the county commissioners for the resolution and have started a petition drive. We will ask Sens. Max Baucus and John Tester and Rep. Denny Rehberg to get the law changed. We believe that each Lincoln County satellite subscriber should be allowed to choose either the Spokane or the Montana stations.

If you agree, look for us off Highway 2 in Libby, near the park in downtown Eureka and at Stein's IGA in Troy. Signatures and volunteers are wanted. Call us.

We're in the book.

Jay Goley