Prairie Public’s Antenna Problem Seems Like Prairie Public’s Problem


The Kilbourne Group, a Fargo-based development company founded (well before he took office) by Governor Doug Burgum, is building a 235 foot tower in downtown Fargo called Block 9.

Said tower would block ability of Prairie Public to push radio and television signals to a repeater tower in Wheatland that, in turn, feeds those signals to pretty much all of North Dakota outside of the Fargo region.

For this Kilbourne has come under fire from some public factions who say the company has a responsibility to fix Prairie Public’s problem. Some are even going to so far as to suggest that Governor Burgum, who is involved in the state budgeting process obviously, should recuse himself from any debate over appropriations for Prairie Public.

[mks_pullquote align=”left” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″] Prairie Public’s antenna isn’t the Kilbourne Group’s problem. Nor is it Governor Doug Burgum’s problem.[/mks_pullquote]

Which is kind of dumb for a couple of reasons. One being that the current biennium ends on June 30. Given the current construction schedule for Block 9, albeit one that has been delayed before, Prairie Public will need to find a solution to this problem before then.

Another being that the Governor cannot, by law, recuse himself from his duty to sign or veto legislation (including appropriations bills). Technically the Governor could just refuse to sign or veto a given bill, in which case it would become law by default (after 3 legislative days when the Legislature is in session, after 15 weekdays if it is not) but that’s beside the point. The idea that the Governor can somehow recuse himself from the legislative process is absurd.

In the deeply unlikely event that Governor Burgum would somehow use his official powers to manipulate the situation with Prairie Public those moves would be extremely visible to voters who would, in turn, have multiple avenues available to them through which to hold Burgum accountable.

Really, though, Prairie Public’s antenna isn’t the Kilbourne Group’s problem. Nor is it Governor Doug Burgum’s problem.

I say that as a fan of Prairie Public. I listen to their music broadcasts most evenings while I read my books. I tune in often to their morning news broadcasts. I also enjoy much of their television programming, too. Downton Abbey is a great show, I’m not ashamed to say, and Selfridge’s was quality programming too.

But if the folks at Prairie Public didn’t have the foresight to realize that future development of tall buildings around their downtown Fargo studios might create a communications problem for their broadcasts, who do we have to blame but Prairie Public?

The Kilbourne Group is not the victim in some tragic story where Prairie Public is a victim, despite what some are suggesting. This editorial cartoon from my Forum Communications colleague Steve Stark is as unfortunately bombastic as it is inaccurate:

I’m sorry Prairie Public is in this situation. I hope they can work out some sort of an accommodation with the Kilbourne Group, or even someone else, to resolve this problem. Reports are that Kilbourne hasn’t shut the door on that sort of a solution.

But it isn’t up to Kilbourne to solve Prairie Public’s problems for them. That’s on Prairie Public and the organization’s supporters.

UPDATE: Per this joint release from both sides it seems like a fix is in the works: