McFeely: North Dakota-based BEK buys television signal in Grand Forks
Cooperative wins Federal Communications Commission auction with $6.4 million bid
FARGO — Steele,N.D.-based BEK Communications Cooperative will start a new television station in Grand Forks.
The network submitted the formal application for the new station on channel 27 in Grand Forks that it won in a recent Federal Communications Commission auction, according to BEK chief executive officer Derrick Bulawa.
The broadcast website Northpine reported "BEK plans a 48.5kW facility transmitting from Grand Forks that would not reach Fargo, but would have cable and satellite must-carry rights across the Fargo-Grand Forks market."
The license officially was acquired by BEK Sports Network, according to FCC records.
Bulawa said once given final approval the company will have to get the station on the air in "a reasonable amount of time," per FCC rules, but didn't offer when that might be. He said BEK will evaluate whether to build a new tower and transmitter or use existing infrastructure.
"We broadcast a lot of live sports and stuff and we needed more capacity," Bulawa said. "We thought it was the right thing to do."
BEK paid $6.4 million for the license, according to FCC records.
"Must-carry rights" is an important designation for local broadcasters. It means cable and satellite companies must carry local full-power stations, with no cost to the local broadcaster. It increases a station's distribution immensely above its over-the-air reach.
Bulawa said BEK reaches 450,000 households in North Dakota, western Minnesota and eastern Montana. It employs about 120 people.
BEK stands for Burleigh, Emmons and Kidder counties, where the coop was founded in 1952 to provide telephone service. According to the company's web site, BEK now provides "phone, gigabit broadband internet and television services over a leading edge fiber-optic network; cloud-based security, automation, surveillance, voice and data storage services; and hospital and business communications solutions."
BEK also provides statewide sports broadcasting on the BEK Sports Network and television content across the state through KNDM (Minot), KNDB (Bismarck) and KRDK (Valley City).
Bulawa said BEK broadcasts more than 400 live sports events a year, including high school, American Legion baseball and college sports.
BEK is the Tier II rights holder for the North Dakota High School Activities Association. It carries all NDHSAA postseason tournaments not covered in the Tier I media rights package held by Forum Communications Co. Tier I sports include the Dakota Bowl football championship games, boys and girls hockey, boys and girls Class B basketball and the Super A basketball tournaments.
BEK also carries locally produced talk shows, known for their strongly conservative tilt. It hosted ultra-conservative legislator Rick Becker's show and currently has a lineup that with a number of conservative hosts including "The Stew Peters Show," "Ladies of Another View," "The Flyover Conservatives" and "Trent on the Loos."
"We have lots of great North Dakota and local content that is being produced and carried on our stations," Bulawa said.