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Editorial: Kilbourne Group shouldn’t have to pay for Prairie Public signal solution

What we know today as Prairie Public Broadcasting has had to overcome a series of challenges since it began in 1959 as an educational television service and blossomed over time to become the television, radio and digital news, information and education service it is today. Its hurdles have perhaps never been as concrete as the one it now faces: construction of the Block 9 tower, whose 18 stories will threaten Prairie Public’s signal from its downtown headquarters.

Prairie Public’s supporters have been vocal in calling for the Block 9 developers, Kilbourne Group and RDO, to assume full responsibility for solving the problem. As much as we love Mr. Rogers, Downton Abbey and Antique Roadshow, we can’t agree. Prairie Public should have known, when it chose the downtown of North Dakota’s most vibrant city as its headquarters, that someday a tall building might pose a problem for its signal. The fact is, all who do business in a growing, thriving downtown must adapt, Prairie Public included.

Prairie Public sees itself as the injured party here. But stop to think about the implications of what its leaders are saying in objecting to the Block 9 project disrupting their signal. Prairie Public beams its signal from its downtown studios to an antenna near Wheatland that transmits the signal across the state. What if somebody else were to decide to build a tall building along the long path of that beam to Wheatland? They can expect loud objections from Prairie Public and indignant demands that the building developer pony up for a solution.

The costs and challenges of doing business are constant, rapid and ever-changing. Prairie Public, as a public broadcasting entity, depends heavily on member support as well as state and federal grants. It’s been successful in meeting its operating budgets over the years. It has, for example, recently found funding to provide digital signals for four multicast television streams, multicast radio streams as well as online and mobile content. In other words, Prairie Public, with its dedicated supporters and grant funders, is not without resources of its own.

Fortunately, Prairie Public and the Kilbourne Group are talking. They’re working with a consultant and hope to have a mutually satisfactory agreement in a little more than two weeks.

Editorials represent the views of Forum management and the Editorial Board.

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