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About Us

Quality television has the power to elevate our understanding of the world, encourage respect for one another, and influence our lives in a positive way. MontanaPBS shares diverse stories; connects our citizens; discovers common ground; and celebrates the independent spirit and beauty of Montana.

On October 1, 1984 viewers in the Gallatin Valley experienced the first over-the-air signal from KUSM-TV. MSU had received permission from the FCC, The Montana Board of Regents, and The Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) to rebroadcast the KUED, Salt Lake City signal as its primary programming source. This first service was a response to a citizens group representing the growing non-cabled area surrounding Bozeman. They asked if MSU could find a way to combine the promised gift of a transmitter and antenna from a commercial broadcaster (Joe Sample) with their need for quality childrens' programming.
There were no financial resources available to operate a traditional public television station at MSU in 1984. It was clear that such a service would have to begin as a self supporting operation. The viewer base in the Bozeman area certainly could not support the cost of a full service PBS station. Through necessity KUSM negotiated with PBS and KUED-TV, Salt Lake City, for the rights to rebroadcast the Salt Lake signal entering Montana through TCI Cable. A sister station relationship was agreed upon by all parties. This allowed KUSM to operate at minimal costs for its first three years of operation. In that period of time KUSM was able to train its staff and develop the financial support to become a full service station.
January 1, 1997 KUFM-TV, in Missoula began a partnership with KUSM-TV to provide a unified statewide public television service. In this partnership KUSM is the lead station that provides the packaged program feeds for both stations. This partnership avoids costly duplication of services and yet involves both Universities in the operation and development of public and educational television for the entire state. The two stations have formed what is now known as MontanaPBS with both partners sharing in the programming, production and fundraising responsibilities.
Telecommunications Inc. (TCI), a former cable television provider for much of Montana, was a very supportive partner in the development and success of KUSM.  TCI invited KUSM to be part of the Montana cable system in 1987 by replacing KUED in communities located in the eastern and central part of the state.  TCI, KUSM and KUED agreed to a three-year phase out of the Salt Lake City service in favor of the Montana based service from KUSM.  KUED manager, Fred Esplin, noted at the time that with growth in Montana’s own public television service, it was no longer appropriate for KUED to import its signal to the state.  He was not only a willing partner in the KUED phase out, but also provided considerable assistance in the successful evolution of KUSM.  Access to Montana cabled communities through TCI increased KUSM’s viewer base by over 200,000 people.
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The future is bright for MontanaPBS. With the transition to digital television and broadcast expansion projects, MontanaPBS will continue to improve and broaden our impact and service to people of the state of Montana.

We also continue to move into the digital age, with digital signals in Bozeman, Missoula, and Billings gearing up for the digital transition and a digital transmitter set to go on the air in Great Falls by the end of 2009. For more information about what this will mean to you, see the Digital TV section of this website. 

In this decade, we have expanded from roughly 60 communities to over 150 and can reach across the state via over-the-air signals, cable, DISH Network, DirecTV and online.

MontanaPBS' history of community, grass-roots support, cooperation, and development have created the public and educational television service whose only mission is to serve the great state of Montana.

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MontanaPBS is a service of Montana State University - Bozeman & The University of Montana - Missoula© 2014 MontanaPBS