Montana PBS

Montana PBS is the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) member public television state network for Montana. It is a joint venture between Montana State University (MSU) and the University of Montana (UM). The network is headquartered in the Visual Communications Building on the MSU campus in Bozeman, with a separate studio on the UM campus in Missoula.

Montana PBS
statewide Montana
United States
ChannelsDigital: See below
Virtual: See below
Affiliations.1: PBS
.2: PBS Kids
.3: Create
.4: World
.5: TVMT simulcast
OwnerKUSM, KUHM: Montana State University
KUFM: University of Montana
KBGS, KUGF, KUKL: Montana University System
First air dateOctober 1, 1984 (1984-10-01)
Transmitter powerSee below
HeightSee below
Facility IDSee below
Transmitter coordinatesSee below

The network comprises six stations — flagship KUSM-TV (channel 9) in Bozeman and full-power satellites KUFM-TV (channel 11) in Missoula, KBGS-TV (channel 16) in Billings, KUHM-TV (channel 10) in Helena, KUGF-TV (channel 21) in Great Falls and KUKL-TV (channel 46) in Kalispell — and a network of 60 low-powered repeaters in Montana. KUSM and KUHM are licensed to MSU, KUFM to UM, and KBGS, KUGF and KUKL to The Board of Regents of the Montana University System.


KUSM signed on for the first time on October 1, 1984, making Montana the last state with an educational station within its borders, 14 years after Mississippi became the last state east of the Mississippi River with its own PBS station. The transmitter was donated by Montana broadcasting pioneer Joe Sample. MSU didn't have enough funding at the time to support a public television station, and the Gallatin Valley didn't have nearly enough people at the time for viewer-supported public television. Station engineers switched to and from the signal of KUED in Salt Lake City for most PBS programming until 1987, giving MSU time to train its staff and build local financial support.

Prior to 1984, Montana viewers had to rely on cable or translators for PBS programming. Depending on the location, cable systems in western Montana piped in KSPS-TV in Spokane or KRMA-TV in Denver, while cable systems in eastern and central Montana piped in Prairie Public Television from North Dakota or KUED. KRMA–now known as Rocky Mountain PBS–and KSPS still operate translators in Montana. Additionally, some commercial stations in Montana, including KTVQ in Billings and KFBB in Great Falls, carried Sesame Street and may have carried other PBS programs.

In 1987, KUSM was added to TCI's cable systems in central and eastern Montana, paving the way for it to become a full member of PBS. TCI began phasing out KUED on its systems in the eastern two-thirds of Montana, with KUSM completely replacing KUED in that part of the state by 1990. By 1991, KUSM began branding as Montana Public Television, reflecting its new statewide reach.

UM had won a construction permit for KUFM-TV in 1992. The station signed on for the first time in 1996, and the two stations began broadcasting as a network on New Year's Day 1997. In 1999, the network rebranded as Montana PBS.

Montana PBS's third full-powered station, KBGS-TV in Billings, signed on in late 2009. The fourth full-powered satellite, KUGF in Great Falls, signed on in fall 2010. KUKL-TV in Kalispell followed in 2011.

The network has expanded rather slowly, relying on cable and satellite coverage for most of its viewership. This didn't pose as much of a problem as it may seem at first glance. Even in the digital era, cable and satellite are all but essential for acceptable television in most of Montana.

On July 1, 2015, Gray Television announced that it would donate the license assets of Helena CW affiliate KMTF to Montana State University for integration into the Montana PBS system as its sixth full-power station (the station's CW Plus programming will continue to be carried on a subchannel of NBC affiliate KTVH, which Gray sold to Cordillera Communications in correlation to the deal).[1] The station, re-called KUHM-TV, will improve reception in areas around Helena unable to receive that city's local translator, K49EH-D.


Most of the local programs such as Backroads of Montana, 11th and Grant, and Montana Ag Live, as well as Montana historical documentaries and current event programs, are created by independent producers for Montana PBS. Due to a strong program for journalism and radio/television at UM and for documentary filmmaking at MSU, many of the network's local programs are produced by students.

Some of the Montana-made programming is also available online.


Station City of license Channels
First air date ERP HAAT Facility ID Licensee Callsign meaning Transmitter coordinates Public license information
KUSM-TV Bozeman 8 (VHF)
9 (PSIP)
October 1, 1984 (1984-10-01) 17.9 kW 271 m (889 ft) 43567 Montana State University Montana State University reversed 45°40′24″N 110°52′2″W Profile
KUFM-TV Missoula 11 (VHF)
11 (PSIP)
1996 (1996) 12.3 kW 633.8 m (2,079 ft) 66611 University of Montana University oF Montana 46°48′9″N 113°58′21″W Profile
KBGS-TV Billings 16 (UHF)
16 (PSIP)
2009 (2009) 29.8 kW 167.1 m (548 ft) 169030 The Board of Regents of the Montana University System BillinGS 45°46′9.2″N 108°27′26.3″W Profile
KUGF-TV Great Falls 21 (UHF)
21 (PSIP)
2010 (2010) 23.4 kW 152.7 m (501 ft) 169028 The Board of Regents of the Montana University System Montana State University - Great Falls 47°32′9.2″N 111°17′2.1″W Profile
KUKL-TV Kalispell 15 (UHF)
46 (PSIP)
2011 (2011) 23.4 kW 830 m (2,723 ft) 169027 The Board of Regents of the Montana University System Montana State University - KaLispell 48°0′48.2″N 114°21′54.5″W Profile
KUHM-TV Helena 29 (UHF)
10 (PSIP)
August 15, 1998 (1998-08-15)
(Joined Montana PBS September 1, 2015)
43.4 kW 697 m (2,287 ft) 68717 Montana State University Montana State University - Helena Montana 46°49′29.6″N 111°42′12.6″W Profile


  • 1. Virtual channel (PSIP).


Montana PBS operates one of the largest translator networks in Montana. Montana State University holds licenses for:

Montana State University has also applied for translators on channels 16 (5 watts, Kalispell) and 51 (150 kW, Great Falls).

Digital television

Digital channels

The digital signals of Montana PBS' stations are multiplexed:

Channel Video Aspect PSIP Short Name Programming[2][3][4][5][6]
xx.11080i16:9Montana PBSMain programming / PBS
xx.2480i16:9Montana-KPBS Kids
xx.5Montana-LTVMT simulcast

Analog-to-digital conversion

Montana PBS' stations shut down their analog signals on June 12, 2009, the official date in which full-power television station's in the United States transitioned from analog to digital broadcasts under federal mandate. The station's digital channel allocations post-transition are as follows:[7]

  • KUSM-TV shut down its analog signal, over VHF channel 9; the station's digital signal remained on its pre-transition VHF channel 8. Through the use of PSIP, digital television receivers display the station's virtual channel as its former VHF analog channel 9.
  • KUFM-TV shut down its analog signal, over VHF channel 11; the station's digital signal relocated from its pre-transition UHF channel 27 to VHF channel 11.


Montana PBS is available free-to-air on AMC 21 (125°W) Ku-band satellite television.[8]


  1. "Gray In 4 New Deals, Closes 3 Earlier Ones". TVNewsCheck. NewsCheck Media. July 1, 2015. Retrieved July 2, 2015.
  2. "RabbitEars.Info". Retrieved 29 May 2018.
  3. "RabbitEars.Info". Retrieved 29 May 2018.
  4. "RabbitEars.Info". Retrieved 29 May 2018.
  5. "RabbitEars.Info". Retrieved 29 May 2018.
  6. "RabbitEars.Info". Retrieved 29 May 2018.
  7. "DTV Tentative Channel Designations for the First and the Second Rounds" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-03-24.
  8. "AMC21 free-to-air satellite feeds, LyngSat". Retrieved 29 May 2018.
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