The foundation planning a nonprofit Butte radio station has declined $1,500 that Butte-Silver Bow Chief Executive Matt Vincent had allocated from a discretionary account.
Cathy Tutty, Butte America Foundation board member and spokesperson, told The Montana Standard on Tuesday it respectfully declines Vincent’s donation, even though the county often gives money to nonprofits.
“We’re going to decline the donation not because there’s anything illegal about it,” said Tutty, "but because the last thing we want to do is be in the middle of whether it’s appropriate to take those donations.”
Vincent said the donation is legal.
“They are a nonprofit organization focused on social justice. At the end of the day, I’ll stick by my decision. I think the radio station will be a good organization for all citizens of Butte-Silver Bow,'' Vincent said Tuesday afternoon.
Community radio station KBMF-102.5 is slated to go on-air in July. The Butte America Foundation held a fundraiser recently to solicit funds to buy $1,500 worth of equipment –- and Vincent said he wanted to help.
Vincent is disappointed in the station's decision.
“I certainly understand why they chose not to accept it,” said Vincent. “It was unfortunate that it was controversy that led them to that decision.”
Commissioner Cindy Perdue-Dolan said she’s happy the foundation decided not to accept the money. Last week she had expressed to the commission her concerns about a government entity donating money to what she said could potentially become a news station.
“I’m glad they are saying they don’t want to take taxpayer money,” Perdue-Dolan said, “because I’ve gotten calls from folks in my district and other districts saying they didn’t want the chief executive to give that money. They want a say in how that money was distributed.”
Clark Grant, station manager, maintains that radio station programming is open to anyone who wants to air a show.
“Everyone is welcome on the station, especially members of our local government,” added Grant.
He said his invitation to interview Perdue-Dolan as the first commissioner on-air still stands, as does the plan to broadcast regular county commission meetings.
“Opposition to the donation and any perceived opposition to the radio station is basically people who don’t know what it is,” Grant said. “One reason I moved here is to give people more access to media and programming.”
Tutty said “the people” will dictate the programming.
“It’s really a community radio station at the source,” Tutty added. “We’d absolutely appreciate the donation and we would like to fund the purchases the station needs, but it doesn’t make sense to be in the middle of a dispute.”
Board members, granted a Federal Communications Commission license in 2014, say the low-powered station will air social justice issues, labor history, Butte history, Irish history, book news from local authors and alternative music.
Still, Perdue-Dolan worries that it could transform into a political news station:
“It could be left wing, right wing, any genre,” said Perdue-Dolan. “The idea that the government gives money to any media outlet becomes very gray if they decide to become a news organization.”
Perdue-Dolan said she’s researched the legalities of a government body giving money to nonprofits.
“Apparently, it’s not illegal at all,” said Perdue-Dolan. “You can do that.''
Vincent said he hopes this "doesn’t lead to us questioning every 501(c3) because we give a lot to organizations here. It’s a slippery slope. We remain committed to making our government more transparent.”
Grant said the station bought a transmitter, antenna and emergency alert system this week, but still must buy a coaxial cable and stainless steel pole on which to mount the antenna on top of the roof at Carpenters Union Hall, 156 W. Granite St., across from the county courthouse.