When public television station KSPS's three Missoula channels went dark on Oct. 25, local fans of educational programming were dismayed to find some of their favorite shows had simply vanished.
"Suddenly it's like, we can't get it," says Mike Kreisberg, a retired teacher and regular contributor to the viewer-sponsored channels.
Kreisberg, who moved to Missoula in 1964, is among several local residents who have called station representatives in recent weeks to find out what happened to staple programming such as Kreisberg's preferred "Foyle's War," a British detective drama set in WWII.
"I personally have had conversations with about a half dozen people," says KSPS General Manager Gary Stokes.
Stokes says KSPS went off the air after Missoula's CBS affiliate, KPAX, ended a rental agreement between the two stations. The agreement enabled the Spokane-based KSPS to lease space from KPAX on Missoula's TV Mountain for its antenna and transmitter.
"They told us that we needed to find another path," Stokes says. "It became apparent to us that we needed to find another place to go."
KPAX General Manager Bob Hermes would not elaborate on what prompted the station to end the agreement, other than to say, "It was just a business decision that the company decided to do."
Stokes says the decision left KSPS scrambling to again establish the infrastructure needed to broadcast in Missoula, hence the three-week blackout. Despite the hiccup, he says KSPS is committed to continuing its Missoula service. "You can either go ahead and say, 'Okay, that's it, game over, let's go ahead and go home," Stokes says, "or you find a way to get it done."
KSPS got it done and began broadcasting again Nov. 15 from a new perch on TV Mountain. While the current signal is weaker than before it went off the air, Stokes says engineers are working to improve the situation.
Kreisberg for one is relieved to have KSPS back even if the signal is lacking. "You have to move the antenna all the time," he says.