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Letter: Libby to re-enter nostalgic days

| January 7, 2009 11:00 PM

Dear Editor:

On Feb. 17, Libby will leave the 21st century and re-enter the nostalgic days of the 1950s.

The Federal Communications Commission gave the Libby Video Club a 10-year warning regarding the upcoming digital broadcast changes. Existing on a donor-supported operating budget of only a few thousand dollars per year, and with no local tax funding, the club approached the county commissioners and the city council, hat-in-hand, and asked for help. No funding was forthcoming.

That request occurred in 1998. The president of the LVC said in the July 9, 2008 issue of The Western News that he “… hopes (federal) government assistance may become available.” He was also quoted as saying, “I’ve been told there will be money to cover the system. How much I don’t know off hand.”

Libby has had 10 years to learn the details of this purported federal money. What is the name of this program, and why haven’t Libby residents been provided more information? After the local government rejected any funding help, why didn’t LVC seek out corporate benefactors (Revett, Plum Creek, etc.)?

Libby should create a “community television commission” that would be tasked to find alternative sources of funding for the digital upgrade. The commission should be composed of Libby residents, Libby Video Club members and representatives from both the Libby City Council and the Lincoln County Commissioners. Video Club members would have a strong voice on the commission, but they would not control it.

Fundraising for local broadcasting has been tried before and it was successful. A Libby group raised more than $20,000 to bring Missoula National Public Radio to Libby.

Any alternative is better than continuing to sit on one’s hands.

Phillip Bigelow