By Tim Leeds
Havre cable TV customers will see a new lineup at the start of next year, whether they like it or not.
KBBJ, the television station that started rebroadcasting the signal of NBC Helena affiliate KTVH at the end of 2000, will replace KHQ, the NBC-affiliate based out of Spokane, Wash., effective Dec. 30, Bonnie Hansen said.
The network programming won't change but will be on an hour earlier. Also, viewers will begin seeing Helena news programs.
Hansen, the general manager of the AT&T Broadband Havre office, said KBBJ has met Federal Communications Commission conditions allowing it to require the local cable company to carry its signal.
"It's very specific," she said. "If they meet certain requirements we have to carry them. The law is the law."
Jonathan Lichstein, an attorney for Sunbelt Communications, the Nevada-based company that owns KBBJ and KTVH, said having two Montana NBC affiliates available on cable will benefit Havre. The cable company also carries KTGF out of Great Falls.
"It gives them a broader variety of news options. It allows people in Havre to know more about what's going on in the state," he said.
Hansen said she received a letter from Sunbelt Communications citing FCC regulations that allow a television station to require a cable company to carry its broadcast if it meets requirements of signal strength and quality tests.
AT&T tested the signal and found it did meet the requirements, so KBBJ will become part of the local lineup, Hansen said.
KBBJ requested that AT&T carry its broadcast on Channel 9 starting next year. KHQ, Channel 7 in the local lineup, will be dropped. Montana Public Broadcasting System station KUSM of Bozeman will move from Channel 9 to Channel 7, and KBBJ will take Channel 9.
KTGF's transmission on the Havre AT&T lineup is protected by an agreement, Hansen said. AT&T decided to drop KHQ to keep from having three duplicate NBC transmissions, she said.
Since the signal will be from the transmission towers located south of Havre, the quality might not be as good as the station signals transmitted to the cable company by microwave or satellite, Hansen said.
If the quality is poor, AT&T might try to bypass the local signal and bring the transmission in by microwave, she added.
People without cable will still be able to receive the KBBJ signal by using a TV antenna, Lichstein said.
Jim Rogers of Las Vegas, president of Sunbelt Communications, had said in June of 2000 that his company planned to eventually open a local news bureau and start local broadcasts in Havre.
Rogers was not available for comment today.
Lichstein said Sunbelt is still evaluating the possibility of a local broadcast, but no decision has been made one way or another. The company's focus has been on getting local cable transmission of KBBJ's signal, he said.
Hansen said questions regarding the programming or signal quality of KBBJ should be addressed to KTVH, PO Box 6125, Helena MT, 59604, (406) 457-1212.
AT&T Broadband in Havre will continue to carry the ABC and CBS stations out of Spokane.