By Martin J. Kidston
A program that would give the city of Havre its own local news station while creating internships for Montana State University-Northern students is still in the negotiation process, the State Commissioner of Higher Education said earlier this week.
Commissioner Richard Crofts, who recently completed a visit to MSU-Northern, said that while the project is still under consideration, any major decision would remain up to Sunbelt Broadcasting Company.
Its an issue, at this point, of when and whether the company wants to move ahead with this, Crofts said. Our office has indicated an interest in the project.
Crofts said his interest in the program goes with the understanding that the station, an NBC affiliate, would give MSU-Northern the opportunity to get the schools name out across the TV. Crofts said the project would also create an opportunity for students to work on news media internships and cooperative education programs.
Our interest is largely in terms of education, Crofts said. Thats the biggest benefit we see.
MSU-Northern Chancellor Mike Rao said his school remains highly optimistic about Sunbelts impending local news station.
We remain optimistic and very hopeful that a TV station, one that would promote Havre, remains a possibility, Rao said. The last time I talked to Sunbelts owner and CEO was in August. They are continuing to work on the project.
Rao said Sunbelt has invested $50,000 in a needs assessment study, one which concluded a need in the Havre area for a local news station. But theres still work to be done.
The discussion around the TV station involved our technical communications component, Rao said. We were urging Sunbelt to support that, and in fact, with their outside network, its our hope that they would join us in passing on information about our technical communication programs to other areas.
Rao said Sunbelt has stations in areas like Helena and Pocatello, Idaho. It also has a station in Las Vegas.
Oddly, Rao said, Las Vegas remains a big recruiting area for this school and its athletes.
Sunbelt also has a station in Elko, Nev.
It was our hope that we could be transfer partners with the local community college campus there in Elko, Rao said.