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Selective TV viewers may lose CBS

The old KCCO building in downtown Alexandria. (Echo Press | Lowell Anderson)1 / 2
People packed the Phoenix Event Center for the Selective TV annual meeting Monday night. (Judd Martinson | Echo Press)2 / 2

Some residents of Douglas County risk losing CBS TV programming in August, and not just for 60 minutes.

The possible loss would affect people watching their programming through Selective TV, a local non-profit over-the-air television programming system supported by viewer contributions.

If a person has an antenna on their house receiving channels, but is not paying for cable, or any satellite TV system such as Dish Network, they have Selective TV, and are expected to pay an annual charge of $120, or simply $10 per month.

Among the 57 channels that have been available through Selective TV is CBS, which up until 2004 had an affiliate in Alexandria - KCCO, owned by Twin Cities affiliate WCCO. But the recent sale of the KCCO license by the owners of WCCO will force Selective TV to find another means of carrying CBS, said Jim Borgrud, president of Selective TV.

The channel 7 KCCO license was sold for nearly $10 million during a recent Federal Communications Commission auction, according to FCC records online.

"I had no clue they were going to do it," Borgrud said.

Who the buyer is, is unclear. WCCO hasn't confirmed any details, said Lil Ortendahl, a member of the Selective TV board of directors.

Stations that are moving, changing signals or ceasing to broadcast must notify consumers with daily on-air announcements for at least 30 days prior to any change, according to the FCC. During that time, stations will continue to operate on their current channels.

The only easy way Selective TV could still get CBS is by gaining permission to tap into the CBS signal out of St. Cloud where Selective TV has a signal pick-up point.

Borgrud said he has "no idea" if they'll be able to continue to carry CBS. He expects to know by the end of August. He mentioned that Selective TV currently goes through St. Cloud to receive major network channels such as NBC affiliate KARE 11 from St. Cloud.

At their annual meeting Monday night in Alexandria, members of Selective TV voiced their concerns about people tuning into the TV channels without paying their dues.

The parking lot was packed at the Phoenix Event Center. Selective TV office manager Pam Cuperus said they normally have fewer people in attendance.

Cuperus said Selective TV has about 1,000 contributing members, and Borgrud estimated that another 4,000 don't pay. At the meeting, many spoke up about the need to convince more viewers to pay for their service.

"We're all going to have to work together," said board member Lonnie Wing about recruiting members.

Selective TV is a UHF-TV system that re-broadcasts over-the-air programming covering about a 40-mile radius from its tower near Garfield. They also get several channels from the Westport tower including ABC, and what has been CBS.

All a viewer needs to do is set up a proper antenna on their house to receive the programming.

The members at the meeting debated shutting off the programing until "freeloaders" pay a contribution, but the overwhelming majority agreed shutting off the TV would be ineffective.

Alexandria area residents raised about $500,000 to set up the TV system more than 35 years ago. The Selective TV website mentions that the current viewer contributions go toward things including repairs, insurance and land leases.

For more information about Selective TV, visit selectivetv.org.

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