The Flathead Valley’s Leading Independent Journal of Observation, Analysis, & Opinion. © James R. Conner.


28 April 2012

Selfish Montanans get Optimum Cable to deprive
Western Montana citizens of Spokane PBS station KSPS

Montana’s look inward forces have reason to celebrate this weekend. PBS television station KSPS from Spokane is finally gone from Optimum Cable’s services for Western Montana. And with that, cable’s blackout of TV from Spokane is complete.

Optimum still provides PBS, of course, but it’s Montana PBS, produced by Montana’s university system, and the local programming is … well, local. So was KSPS’s local programming, which is one reason I preferred watching it. I enjoyed learning about the Pacific Northwest, as did a lot of people in Western Montana. It extended our horizon beyond the Big Sky.

Now Optimum has yanked the horizon back to the Montana border. Not only is KSPS gone, so are Spokane’s ABC, CBS, and NBC TV affiliates and their local news programs. And even those stations represented a yank-back. When I immigrated to the Flathead during Jimmy Carter’s presidency, cable also offered stations from Seattle and Salt Lake City.

With the commercial stations, the issue was money. Each local network affiliate wanted exclusive access to the local audience. That maximized income.

And with the PBS stations, the issue was … money. According to Vince Devlin’s report in the Missoulian:

The Spokane station has 1,100 Friends of KSPS in western Montana who annually donate $125,000 to $130,000 to the public television station.

“Obviously, we’re disappointed that we won’t have to opportunity to serve western Montana anymore,” KSPS general manager Claude Kistler said. “We’ve spent 30-plus years building that relationship.”

The numbers can be run many different ways, but most point to KSPS’s losing a million dollars a decade — a tidy sum that Montana PBS hopes will be diverted its way. If I were KSPS, I’d offer to rent its Western Montana membership list to Montana PBS for $125,000 a year.

Some KSPS watchers, knowing the deal is both dirty and done, will sigh, “oh, well,” switch to KUFM, hold no grudges, and write Montana PBS a check during pledge week (which seems to be every other week nowadays). That’s their right. I’m staying steamed. In matters such as these, never forgive, never forget, is the only moral option.