September 27, 2018

A BEHIND-THE-SCENES LOOK AT KRTV

Kelly Burton
Film Archivist
Montana Historical Society


Station identification art card (collection PAc 2018-43)
The Photo Archives at the Montana Historical Society is very excited to announce the recent acquisition of the KRTV audiovisual collection. KRTV began its television broadcasting life in the Great Falls area on June 27, 1958, with early business being conducted from a metal Quonset hut. By 1960, the station was broadcasting in color. KRTV was primarily an NBC affiliate with some ABC programming, and when KFBB-TV took on a primary ABC affiliation in February 1966, KRTV began carrying CBS programming. It replaced KFBB as part of the Skyline Network, now the Montana Television Network (MTN). Over the next ten years, KRTV gradually phased in more CBS programming. By the summer of 1969, CBS programming exceeded that of NBC, making KRTV a primary affiliate of CBS. The station became a full-time CBS affiliate in 1976, when KTCM (now KTVH in Helena) expanded its coverage to become the default NBC affiliate across much of Montana. Now in its sixtieth year of operation, KRTV continues to broadcast on channel 3 as a CBS affiliate. Studios for the station are currently located on Old Havre Highway in Black Eagle, just outside of Great Falls.

The KRTV collection spans six audiovisual formats and consists of 847 individual films, videocassettes and audio reels. Collected from 1968 to 1996, these materials provide researchers with a dynamic window into local, national and international news stories in the second half of the twentieth century, as well as into the station's own technological evolution. Recurrent news stories within the collection include: Malmstrom Air Force base, Air Force maneuvers and troop assignments in the Great Falls area, the Charles M. Russell Museum, Great Falls School Board decisions, Paris Gibson Park events, area high school and College of Great Falls sports events, elections and voting procedures, Montana Power Company developments, prominent building constructions and demolitions across north central Montana, Republican and Democratic Party rallies, American Indian (particularly High Plains Indian) events and historical retrospectives, the Great Falls Centennial Celebration, and celebrity visits to north central Montana.


KRTV studios (collection PAc 2018-43)
KRTV studios (collection PAc 2018-43)
Undoubtedly the most prominent regional figure in the KRTV collection is broadcaster Norma Ashby. A fourth-generation Montanan, Ashby was born in Helena on December 27, 1935. She obtained a journalism degree from the University of Montana in Missoula, and worked as a researcher for Life magazine until her return to Montana in 1961. Ashby began her career with KRTV in 1962, and soon became the co-host and producer of KRTV’s award-winning live program “Today in Montana.” Over the course of her career, Ashby produced more than 21 television documentaries, hosted approximately 260 shows per year, and interviewed over 26,000 individuals, including many nationally known musicians, celebrities and political figures. Some of the more notable interviews given by Ashby for the station include: Pat Nixon, Joan Crawford, Clint Eastwood, Olivia de Havilland, Bob Hope, Art Linkletter, Vincent Price, Charley Pride, Mary Kay Ash, and Butte’s own Evel Knievel. Norma Ashby was inducted into the Montana Broadcaster’s Hall of Fame in 2010.

Norma Ashby and Clint Eastwood (collection PAc 2018-43)
Norma Ashby and Joan Crawford (collection PAc 2018-43)
In addition to a wealth of films and videocassettes, the KRTV collection also contains four boxes of artifacts from the television station. A series of seventy-two photographic slides contains various CBS News programming cues, images of both old and new KRTV studios, portraits of on-air personalities, and images from KXLF – a sister station in Butte, Montana. Other artifacts include a series of one-of-a-kind on-camera art cards, which have been grouped into the following categories: advertisements, news/sports/weather Reports, general programming announcements, specialty programming announcements, cartoons, and station Identification. These additional materials provide unique insight into the inner-workings of the station during the late 1960s through the early 1980s, and serve to flesh out the history of KRTV for contemporary researchers.


Advertisement art card (collection PAc 2018-43)
Station identification art card (collection PAc 2018-43)












The processing of large moving image collections is by nature a resource-intensive undertaking. Thanks to a generous grant from the Greater Montana Foundation, the Historical Society has been able to begin preservation work on these wonderful regional documents in September of 2018.




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