Report: Update on Digital TV in Granite County

The following story was written by Blanche McLure to help residents under the history, availability and current actions of the Digital TV districts in Granite County. It can be a great cost-saving measure for families as they struggle to make ends meet in their budget.


Mike Coyle, Chairman of the Drummond TV District and Steve Immenschuh, Chairman of Philipsburg TV District, and myself, met with the County Commissioners on July 30th to request funds from PILT (Payments in Lieu of Taxes) for general maintenance of the two TV Districts in Granite County. These two funds could be levied, but the Board in the last few years felt supplementing these funds with PILT monies is a community service that enables the Granite County residents to have a choice of receiving free TV digitally using a UHF Antenna or paying for service from the big “D” Satellite Companies.

On June 7, 1967 the Philipsburg TV District was created, the following year on June 6, 1968 the Drummond TV District was created. The area for the Philipsburg District was the Town of Philipsburg and the translator was located a mile and ½ west of Philipsburg. The Drummond TV District’s translator was located between Drummond and Hall and its area was High School District 2 (11 and 8). These Districts were levied. Their signal was Analog.

The years following a small cable company came to Philipsburg and Satellite use was predominant in the Drummond area. The Districts were no longer levied, and Boards were disbanded leaving the Districts intact with cash balances. The analog signal was still transmitting in these areas if you wanted to watch local TV, but there were only two channels one from Butte and one from Missoula. As time went by, the FCC licenses were not renewed, and the stations fell into disrepair. Then the local cable company closed their business and Philipsburg residents were scrambling to get TV from Satellite Companies. When the TV stations stopped broadcasting an analog signal and went digital these stations were gone forever.

Maureen Connor, Commissioner 3rd District from 2007 – 2012, decided we needed to get our FCC Licenses back and have free TV for the Granite County residents. She reached out to a Consulting Engineer, Charlie Cannaliato to see what could be done to get our FCC Licenses renewed and get a digital signal transmitting. Unfortunately, when Commissioner Connor’s term expired her quest fell through the cracks.

All was not lost, as Charlie followed through and got on the May 21, 2013 agenda with the Commission. He explained that we still could get our FCC Licenses, but time was of the essence the permits were going to expire and the FCC will freeze all applications and was in the process of reducing the number of TV channels. His words were lost on the Board they felt that no one wanted this, and people would rather have their satellite TV, so they declined due to cost and no interest. Wasted trip for Charlie until I read the minutes. I approached the Commission saying that people were interested, and it would be beneficial to low and fixed income to have this service also the people didn’t have a choice they had to pay for satellite if they wanted TV. They requested I get a petition from the residents on who would be interested, so I did, and the number was staggering.

It has been an uphill battle, we spent what funds we had and the Commission gave us more out of the PILT Fund, to get these Districts up and running. For the Philipsburg District we had to get permission from the Rumsey Mountain User Group and after an interference study they reluctantly approved us to be on the mountain. Drummond had to get permission to put an antenna on a cell tower on private land, build a pad and other expenses to get up and running.

The reason for this history lesson is to keep these Districts solvent. The Commission wants to know who is using this service so if you can notify the Clerk and Recorder’s office (406-859-3771) and tell them you utilize this free TV they will keep supporting these Districts. Both TV Districts goal is to get free TV County wide and we have a great engineer helping us, it will cost money but the PILT fund is there and can be used for this kind of service.

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