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Montana 2021 Legislature

Montana Bill To Eliminate State Funding For Radio Stations Tabled

A screen grab of a Derek Skees leading members of the Montana House Energy, Technology and Federal Relations Committee through a vote.
Montana Public Affairs Network
The Montana House Energy, Technology and Federal Relations Committee takes executive action on House Bill 542, sponsored by Republican Rep. Derek Skees, on Feb. 26, 2021.

Disclosure: This report covers proposed policy that could impact the funding for this radio station. We’re airing it as part of our ongoing coverage of the 67th Montana legislature.

A Montana bill that would’ve barred state funding to support radio stations is likely dead.

Bozeman Democratic Rep. Denise Hayman said before a House committee vote Friday she’d been hearing from ranchers in rural Montana who were incredulous about House Bill 542 and “not happy campers."

“This is one of their only options to get information, especially when they’re on their tractors and out in the fields," Hayman said.

Two Republicans on the House Energy, Technology and Federal Relations Committee sided with Democrats to table HB 542 on a tied 6 to 6 vote.

The proposal would’ve impacted state funding for Yellowstone Public Radio, Montana Public Radio and the college stations KBGA in Missoula and KGLT in Bozeman. It also would’ve barred universities from entering into licensing agreements with radio stations.

The sponsor, Kalispell Republican Rep. Derek Skees, said radio stations should fund themselves through advertising and donations without taxpayer dollars. The Federal Communications Commission prevents public radio stations from selling ads.

Kevin Trevellyan is Yellowstone Public Radio's Report For America statehouse reporter.