BILLINGS – On Nov. 9, 1953, broadcasting under the call sign KOOK-TV, presdent-day KTVQ sent out its first signal over the airwaves to television sets across the region. As Q2 marks 65 years on the air this week, we invited early owner Joe Sample and one-time general manager Vic Miller to reflect back on decades of broadcasting.
Watch the video above to see their reflections and early station footage in this week’s Q2 Rewind.
Back in the early days, KOOK-TV was a scrappy operation, helmed mainly by radio folks experimenting with the new television medium. As one of those radio guys, Miller was there since the beginning. He remembers the days when the TV news was basically televised radio broadcast: no teleprompters, just a newsreader at a table reading a paper script.
Miller would eventually hold just about every position at the station, from general manager to anchor to commentator.
Sample, who had come from a background in the Chicago advertising world, bought into the station in 1955. Without survey maps, Sample traveled into the countryside, looking for TV antennae to find out who was watching and how far the coverage area extended.
He eventually became the owner most synonymous with KTVQ, and championed a bold vision for a statewide network of TV stations. He bought Great Falls’ KRTV and Butte’s KXLF, built KPAX in Missoula, and linked them all together as the Montana Television Network.
He eventually sold MTN in 1984. He said at the time that his vision was to bring Montana together with a newscast that could inform parts of the state about concerns in distant regions. He hoped that could resolve deadlock and dysfunction in the Legislature.
The idea never reached the potential Sample had envisioned, working better in some markets than others.
The station’s 65 years anniversary also comes as MTN is in the midst of another ownership change. The E.W. Scripps Company recently announced it’s buying the stations from current owner, Evening Post Industries.