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SPECTRUM AUCTION: RF channel changes in the Upper Midwest

One of the parent organizations of Wisconsin Public Radio is buying an FM translator in Wausau from Christian broadcaster WRVM, Inc. The Wisconsin Educational Communications Board will pay $46,000 for W267BB/101.3, which WRVM no longer needs after buying WMZK/104.1 (Merrill-Wausau). The FCC application to transfer the license states that the buyer will upgrade W267BB to 250 Watts and use it to relay the HD3 signal of WHRM/90.9 (Wausau), which carries WPR's Ideas Network. The Ideas Network is already heard on 54-Watt WLBL-FM/91.9 (Wausau), but WLBL-FM has a rare share-time agreement with WXPW/91.9 (Wausau) in which the broadcast week is divided evenly between the two stations. WXPW, which relays WXPR/91.9 (Rhinelander), uses the frequency weeknights from 6 p.m. to 3 a.m., all day Saturday, and Sundays until 5 p.m. (4/24/2017)

A Milwaukee-area frequency that was once set to be used by a religious low-power FM station may end up being used by a commercial broadcaster instead. Souls Harbor Baptist Church has relinquished its construction permit for WBVW-LP/92.9, telling the FCC that the church has decided not to build the station. Meanwhile, Tomsun Media has applied to move a future translator for its WTKM/1540 (Hartford) to the Milwaukee suburb of Menomonee Falls, a move made possible by WBVW-LP's cancellation and the FCC's recent rule change allowing FM translators to be built farther away from the parent station in some cases. The translator, currently licensed as W259AO/99.7 (Saukville), was originally slated to move to WTKM's transmitter site south of Hartford with 250 Watts. From Menomonee Falls, the translator would use 200 Watts and deliver a good signal to northwest suburban areas of Milwaukee, with fringe coverage of the city itself. WTKM currently carries an Oldies format. Neither the church's letter nor Tomsun's application states whether the two parties have any agreement. (4/23/2017)

KBPG/89.5 (Montevideo) has switched from American Family Radio, a national Christian network, to Real Presence Radio, a regional Catholic network. The change follows the station's sale from the American Family Assoication to Real Presence Radio. (4/23/2017)

A local owner is buying Red Rock Radio's remaining two stations in the Duluth market. Twin Ports Radio, LLC, headed by Daniel Hatfield, is buying "92.1 The Fan" (WWAX Hermantown-Duluth) and "Red Zone Sports Radio" (KQDS/1490 Duluth) for $200,000, according to an asset purchase agreement filed with the FCC. Hatfield also heads the regional non-commercial "Refuge" Christian network, with flagship WJRF/89.5 (Duluth). He says the stations, which compete with larger groups owned by Midwest Communications and Townsquare Media, will retain the "Fan" brand and Sports programming and will co-locate with WJRF in Duluth's East Hillside. WWAX has been located in the Paulucci bulding near the city's iconic Aerial Lift Bridge since its 1996 launch. The buyer will take over the stations through a time brokerage agreement on May 1 and will have to change 1490's callsign.

Red Rock has been selling off its stations over the past year, with only KRBT/1340 (Eveleth) remaining unsold after this and six other transactions. Locally, the company sold KQDS-FM/94.9 (Duluth) to Midwest, which is located in the Tech Village downtown, and is in the process of selling KZIO/104.3 (Two Harbors-Duluth) to Minnesota Public Radio, which has told the FCC that KZIO will not have a local studio when it switches to the "Current" Adult Alternative network.

Kalil & Co. represented Red Rock Radio, and Steve Moravec of Phoenix Media Group, LLC assisted Twin Ports Radio. (4/19/2017)

The University of Minnesota's journalism school will be known as the Hubbard School of Journalism and Mass Communication effective July 1, honoring the family that founded and continues to own and operate St. Paul-based Hubbard Broadcasting Inc. The name recognizes not only donations from the Hubbards, but also the family's groundbreaking work in electronic journalism and a close relationship between the U's journalism program and Hubbard stations.

"As a successful radio pioneer, my father and our founder, Stanley E. Hubbard, was one of the first people to recognize that television could also become an important news medium," said Stanley S. Hubbard, chairman and chief executive officer of Hubbard Broadcasting. "With that recognition, KSTP became the first locally-owned television station in America to provide daily news programs beginning back in 1948. This recognition, provided by one of America’s great schools of journalism, honors the memory of Stanley E. Hubbard in a way which will make all who have been involved from ‘day one’ at KSTP-TV, and all of Hubbard Broadcasting, with local news production forever appreciative."

Stanley E. Hubbard started KSTP predecessor WAMD ("Where All Minneapolis Dances") in 1925, just a few years after the journalism school launched. The company added KSTP-TV in 1948, launched more stations, and pioneered new forms of satellite broadcasting for newsgathering through CONUS and direct-to-home reception through United States Satellite Broadcasting. Hubbard Broadcasting Inc. now owns TV stations in six markets, radio stations in eight rated markets and several unrated markets, the national Reelz channel, and F&F Productions. (4/19/2017)

Q Media Properties has launched "Pine Hits 106" on newly-moved FM translator W293DA/106.5 (Pine City), originating on WCMP/1350. Liners on the new Classic Hits format, which launched earlier this month, promote musical overlap WCMP's previous Soft Oldies format, though songs like "Livin' on a Prayer" might be a bit if a surprise for the AM audience. "Pine Hits 106" primarily competes for listenership with longtime Classic Hits outlet "Kool 108" (KQQL/107.9 Anoka-Minneapolis). The translator was moved south as a result of last year's AM revitalization window; it was previously Refuge Radio translator W264CX/100.7 (Virginia). W293DA transmits from the WCMP-FM/100.9 tower near Beroun and has a listenable signal along I-35 from about Harris to Askov. WCMP-FM carries "Cool Country." (4/16/2017)

Five TV stations in southern Wisconsin and one in western Minnesota have been chosen to surrender bandwidth under the FCC's spectrum auction. Milwaukee will see, by far, the biggest change in the Upper Midwest after four stations agreed to surrender their UHF spectrum for a total of more than $315 million. It appears most or all of the companies selling spectrum in the region will continue to offer programming through channel sharing arrangements, which allow a station to rent space from another station to maintain its license and must-carry rights. Here are the winning bidders:

WMVT 36.1 Milwaukee (PBS, Milwaukee Area Tech College): $84,931,314 to take its RF channel 35 transmitter off the air. WMVT's post-auction application indicated it would not channel share, but MATC also owns WMVS-TV Milwaukee.

WCGV 24.1 Milwaukee (MNT, Sinclair Broadcast Group): $84,317,523 to take its RF channel 25 transmitter off the air. WCGV indicated it will channel-share; Sinclair also owns WVTV Milwaukee.

WVCY-TV 30.1 Milwaukee (Christian, VCY America): $76,342,409 to take its RF channel 22 transmitter off the air. The station indicated it will channel-share.

WMLW-TV 49.1 Racine-Milwaukee (Independent, Weigel Broadcasting): $69,662,432 to take its RF channel 48 transmitter off the air. WMLW indicated it will channel-share; Weigel also owns WDJT Milwaukee.

WISC-TV 3.1 Madison (CBS, Morgan Murphy Media): $48,929,182 to move from UHF channel 50 to VHF channel 11. The move will restore the status WISC had in the analog era of being the only VHF station in the market.

KCCO-TV 7.1 Alexandria, MN (CBS owned-and-operated satellite of WCCO-TV Minneapolis): $9,987,598 to take its RF channel 7 transmitter off the air. KCCO indicated it will channel-share.

Here is a link to the full list of winning bidders nationwide. Stations engaging in channel-sharing will now have to file applications with the FCC to specify their sharing partner. (4/13/2017)

While only a half-dozen Upper Midwest stations surrendered bandwidth in the spectrum auction, dozens more will be required to change channels as part of the national repack. Every station transmitting on channel 38 and up has to move down, and many more stations must move within their existing band to allow moves elsewhere. Not surprisingly, Wisconsin will see a lot of channel changes due to its proximity to Chicago -- all but one station in Milwaukee will change channels. Conversely, South Dakota will see only one change, since it has only one full-power station above channel 36. Here's the full list of channel changes in the Upper Midwest. (4/13/2017)

"The Doc" is in: Townsquare Media has launched a Variety Hits format called "The Doc" on KDCZ/103.9 (Eyota-Rochester), with A "musical doctor" playing on the city's medical identity. RadioInsight reports the new format launched at 7:30 a.m. Thursday (4/13). KDCZ had simulcast "Z-Rock" with KDZZ/107.7 (St. Charles-Rochester) since 2010, which reassured listeners that the Hard Rock format will continue on 107.7. Both Class A stations transmit from the same tower east of Rochester and have nearly identical coverage areas, though 103.9 is a few Watts weaker. (4/13/2017)

It's official: "Rob FM" is on the air in the Corridor. The broad Classic Rock format originates on KZIA-HD2 (Cedar Rapids) and is relayed on K236AA/95.1 (Cedar Rapids) and K253BE/98.5 (Iowa City). The translators began running the format in early March and a writeup on All Access confirms the format's permanence. K236AA was formerly a longtime Christian radio translator, while K253BE is a new signal. (4/12/2017)

Forum Communications stations WDAY-TV/6 (Fargo) and WDAZ/8 (Devils Lake-Grand Forks) have added Ion on their DT4 channels. The stations, which are primary ABC affiliates, also carry Justice Network on DT2 and an independent lineup on DT3. Ion has not previously been seen over the air in Fargo or Grand Forks. (4/11/2017)

Evanov Radio Group is seeking CRTC approval to move CKJS/810 (Winnipeg) to the FM band, a move it says is necessary for the Ethnic station to reverse a problem of declining revenues. CKJS would move to 92.7 and use 35kW/154m (class B) from a Rogers Communications tower south of the city. The AM signal would simulcast the FM signal for three months and then go silent, joining three other Winnipeg AM signals that have gone silent in the past quarter-century. The move would also likely force a new CKJS competitor, Baldev Gill's 50-Watt "Awaz 92.9" (CKYZ-FM), to change frequency. Evanov declined to publicly release a complete financial report, but did state that CKJS revenue has been declining by 3 percent in the last four years and that its two FM sister stations (CFJL-FM/100.5 and CHWE-FM/106.1) have also seen declining revenues. Although Evanov is already at the market cap of two commercial FM stations, it says the proposed combination is allowed by law because CKJS is licensed as an ethnic, rather than commercial, station. The application is due to be considered at a June 15 CRTC hearing in Gatineau, Quebec. CKJS offers programming in 16 third-languages, primarily Tagalog and Punjabi, and also currently has six hours of English-language Christian programming each weekday. (4/10/2017)

Legacy Communications has launched two new HD Radio/translator formats in Grand Island. According to RadioInsight, Rock-formatted "Thunder 99.7" launched last week and Classic Country station "103.5 The Legend" launched this week. "Thunder," which is a revival of a format that aired on KJKK/103.1 (Ravenna-Grand Island), airs on the HD2 signal of KRGI-FM/96.5 and translator K259CZ/99.7. "The Legend" airs on KRGI-FM-HD4 and K278BR/103.5, working in tandem with the mainstream Country format on KRGI-FM's main channel. Legacy bought both translators from Community Broadcasting, which no longer needed them after signing on KCVG/89.9 (Hastings-Grand Island) to carry Bott Radio Network in the area. The two new formats join "La Gran D," which runs on KRGI-FM-HD3 and K227BQ/93.3. (4/4/2017)

Armada Media's Radio Results Network has launched "The Maverick" on WMXG/106.3 (Stephenson-Escanaba), featuring Classic Country from the 1970's to the 1990's. Monday's format debut came after a weekend of stunting with all-Elvis music. Radio Results Network parent AMC Partners Escanaba, LLC is in the process of buying WMXG from Escanaba License Corp., which is held by the Estate of Lyle Evans, and is already operating the station under a local marketing agreement. The station had been off the air or at reduced power for much of the past five years, according to FCC filings. Armada also uses the "Maverick" branding and format on WTIQ/1490 (Manistique). (4/3/2017)

A big AM signal in the Red River Valley has a new callsign: KVOX/740 (Fargo) is now KNFL. FCC records indicate the change was effective March 29. The callsign, which matches the Sports "Fan" format that continues on the station, became available when a station in Idaho dropped it in early March. The KVOX callsign continues on KVOX-FM/99.9 (Moorhead-Fargo), which is also owned by Midwest. KVOX uses 50kW during the day and 940 Watts at night. (4/3/2017)

New station WPAK-FM/106.9 (Tigerton) is now on the air full-time but has not settled on a permanent format. Multi-Cultural Diversity Radio's new class A station uses 3.5kW/132m directional from a tower in the Town of Marion, delivering a good signal to Clintonville, rimshot coverage of Waupaca, and a fringe signal to Shawano. WPAK-FM is running historical features on area communities along with short comedy pieces, and soliciting input from listeners. (4/3/2017)

Riverfront Broadcasting is buying four radio stations in southern Minnesota from Jerry Papenfuss. The $2.225 million deal includes KBEW/1560 and KBEW-FM/98.1 (Blue Earth), along with KDOM/1580 and KDOM-FM/94.3 (Windom). KBEW reports Papenfuss is only the station's second owner, having purchased it from station founder Paul Hedberg in 1980. Papenfuss, who has been in radio since 1962, sold his groups in Winona and Fergus Falls to Leighton Enterprises two years ago. Riverfront owns more than a dozen radio stations in Iowa and South Dakota. (3/29/2017, updated with FCC filing 3/30)

After just six months airing Decades network, the DT3 channel of KBJR/6 (Superior-Duluth) has switched the daytime and overnight programming to Heroes & Icons network. The channel, branded "My9" for its cable and satellite position, continues to carry the MyNetworkTV lineup and some syndicated programming in the evening, pre-empting H&I's evening lineup of all five Star Trek series. Both Decades and H&I are operated by Chicago-based Weigel Broadcasting. (3/29/2017)

In an unusual move, a storied northern Minnesota radio station has shown up for sale on a real estate website. 133 East Chapman Street in Ely, the home of WELY AM-FM, is listed for $300,000 by Z'Up North Realty. The listing says you can "own your own radio station" and "all the equipment, radio tower, building, and much more." In response to a question from about whether the deal includes the FCC license, the listing agent said "it includes all." It's a rare listing for an industry in which businesses are usually marketed confidentially by brokers. WELY/1450 and WELY-FM/94.5 are currently owned by the Bois Forte Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, which bought them in 2005 for $445,000. The stations were more famously owned by newsman Charles Kuralt for a few years in the 1990's. WELY-FM now carries mostly Classic Rock, having switched from a longtime Adult Alternative/Folk format a few years ago, while the AM side carries syndicated talk and sports programming. Ely is literally at the end of the road (State Highway 169), sitting on the edge of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. The area's mix of mining and outdoor activities has led to heightened conflict amid discussion of copper-nickel mining in recent years. WELY's only local commercial competitor is KAOD/106.7 (Babbitt), which relays the Classic Rock format of Duluth's KQDS-FM. The Bois Forte Band also owns non-commercial outlet KBFT/89.9 (Nett Lake). (3/28/2017, updated 3/29)

Minnesota Public Radio has indicated in an FCC filing that it plans to carry its "Current" Adult Alternative network on KZIO/104.3 (Two Harbors-Duluth). MPR is in the process of buying KZIO from Red Rock Radio and recently filed a main studio waiver request seeking to make KZIO a satellite of KCMP/89.3 (Northfield-Minneapolis), which is the flagship station of "The Current" network. KZIO will be the third primary full-power station carrying "The Current," which is also heard on several translators and HD2 signals. The filing does not indicate whether KZIO will continue to be relayed on K231BI/94.1 (Duluth), or whether "The Current" will continue to be heard on W215CG/90.9 (Duluth) and the HD2 signal of WSCN/100.5 (Cloquet). It is worth noting that W215CG seems to suffer from more interference than Duluth's other FM translators. (3/27/2017)

The price for Armada Media's purchase of a fourth FM station in the Escanaba market is $325,000, according to an asset purchase agreement filed with the FCC. AMC Partners Escanaba, LLC is buying WMXG/106.3 (Stephenson-Escanaba) from Escanaba License Corp., which is held by the Estate of Lyle Evans. Though there are only a handful of city-grade signals in Escanaba, Armada argues that it should be allowed to own four FM signals in the market because overlap with out-of-town stations brings the market above the 30 stations needed to allow ownership of four stations on one band. The buyer is already operating WMXG through a local marketing agreement. (3/21/2017)

A quick note that the FCC has approved a change reported here earlier this month that will allow a Twin Cities FM translator to return to the air. Educational Media Foundation's W225AP/92.9, which had carried the "Air-1" Christian Rock network, will move its transmitter to St. Paul in an effort to resolve an interference complaint from a central Minnesota station. See the earlier report for details. (3/19/2017)

NRG Media's K258DC/99.5 (Omaha) has signed on relaying the Regional Mexican format of KMMQ/1020 (Plattsmouth-Omaha). The new 250-Watt FM signal reaches a portion of the Omaha area with a directional signal transmitting from a tower near the intersection of I-80 and I-480 in South Omaha. K258DC was moved west from Iowa City under last year's AM revitalization filing window and is the sixth commercial FM translator in the Omaha area. "La Nueva 99.5 y 1020" competes with Flood Communications' "Lobo 97-7" (KBBX-FM Nebraska City-Omaha) and iHeartMedia's recently-launched "102.3 El Patron" (K272FE Council Bluffs-Omaha and KFFF-HD2 Bennington).

In other recent Omaha translator news, Bott Radio Network has signed on K277CP/103.3 covering West Omaha, complementing the signal of K229BI/93.7, which transmits Bott from downtown Omaha. Former Bott translator K224DJ/92.7 has switched to My Bridge Radio. (3/19/2017)

Mid-West Family Broadcasting has launched Rythmic Top 40 format "95.9 Jamz" on newly-launched translator W240DC/95.9 (Chippewa Falls-Eau Claire), with programming officially originating on WEAQ/1150 (Chippewa Falls-Eau Claire). W240DC transmits with 250 Watts from WEAQ's tower site in the Town of Seymour, just outside of northeastern Eau Claire. The AM station had carried an Oldies format for the past several years. The new format apparently doesn't yet have a website, but it does have Facebook and Twitter accounts that have no posts. "95.9 Jamz," which is the first-ever Rhythmic Top 40 format for Eau Claire, mostly competes with iHeartRadio heritage Top 40 outlet "Z100" (WBIZ-FM/100.7), acting as a flanker protecting Mid-West heritage Hot Adult Contemporary outlet "I94" (WIAL/94.1). Mid-West also uses the "Jamz" slogan and format on a station in Madison.

The launch of W240DC means all five commercial AM radio stations in the Chippewa Valley now have FM translators. Three of them primarily identify by their FM frequency, including Mid-West's "Sports Talk 105.1" (WAYY/790). (3/19/2017)

Canadian regulators have approved a new FM signal for CBC Radio One in White River, a town on the Trans-Canada Highway and Lake Superior Circle Tour that's known as the home of Winnie the Pooh. The new low-power FM signal will transmit with 50 Watts on 97.7, replacing a 40-Watt AM station, CBLW/1010. It'll be just the second FM station receivable in the town of about 600 people. As reported here recently, the CBC is also proposing a larger FM signal to replace its low-power AM stations in Marathon and Terrace Bay. (3/16/2017)

Traditional Oldies are back on the Des Moines dial on K283CC/104.5 and the HD2 signal of KAZR/103.3. Saga Broadcasting has flipped the pair to "Pure Oldies 104.5" after just seven months with a News/Talk format that had featured Mike Gallagher, Laura Ingraham, Clark Howard, and ESPN Radio on the weekends. Saga also owns KIOA/93.3, which had carried Oldies for decades before segueing to Classic Hits. RadioInsight reports that Saga has recently launched "Pure Oldies" formats in two other markets. (3/14/2017)

Western Minnesota's Pioneer Public Television has announced plans to add PBS Kids on its DT5 channels starting April 3. Pioneer consists of KWCM/10 (Appleton), KSMN/20 (Worthington), and translators in Fergus Falls, Alexandria, Granite Falls, Olivia, and Willmar. The stations also carry PBS, Create, the Minnesota Channel, and World Channel. The main PBS channel is carried on satellite across the large Minneapolis and Sioux Falls markets. (3/14/2017)

Edge Spectrum is buying 71 low-power TV stations from Three Angels Broadcasting Network, including 18 in the Upper Midwest. The deal totals $3.2 million. The buyer's website says it "is addressing the growing demand for wireless mobile broadband Internet services and for low-cost and high-quality Over-The-Top content delivery alternatives to broadband cable and satellite unicast Internet service providers." Regional stations included in the deal are: K20KF-D Davenport, IA; W28DY-D Sault Ste. Marie, MI; K44GH-D Alexandria, MN; W39DD-D Dodge Center, MN; K21KZ-D Duluth, MN; K48NP-D Duluth, MN; K48KJ-D Geneva, MN; K38MM-D International Falls, MN; K43JE-D Lake Crystal, MN; K18GF-D Little Falls, MN; K47JE-D Olivia, MN; K43MH-D Vesta, MN; K47JC-D Wadena, MN; K17HG Grand Forks, ND; K32FW Pierre, SD; W30BU Green Bay, WI; W02CF Minocqua, WI; and W39CV-D Minocqua, WI. Some of the stations are construction permits that are not yet on the air. (3/14/2017)

Armada Media has announced the purchase of WMXG/106.3 (Stephenson-Escanaba) to add to its Radio Results Network. The purchase price was not immediately disclosed and the deal had not hit the FCC database as of Monday morning. WMXG is currently owned by Escanaba License Corp., which is held by the Estate of Lyle Evans. The company's announcement says the buyers have "exciting plans" for WMXG that will be announced in the coming months; DX-midAMerica recently reported that WMXG had been simulcasting the News/Talk format of Armada's WCHT/600 (Escanaba). WMXG had run a Classic Hits format but has been off the air or at reduced power for much of the past five years, according to FCC filings that cited transmitter and financial problems. Armada's companies own or operate 14 other radio stations in the central Upper Peninsula, including four other FM's with good signals to Escanaba; it appears the addition of WMXG could be allowed under ownership caps because its city-grade contour has little to no overlap with one of the group's existing stations, WCMM/102.5 Gulliver. (3/13/2017)

Gray TV has appointed new general managers in four Upper Midwest markets:

  • Susan Ramsett will lead NBC affiliate KWQC (Davenport). She has worked in news, operations, and promotions at stations in the Lincoln, La Crosse-Eau Claire, and Wausau markets, and is currently GM of Gray's stations in the Lincoln and North Platte markets.
  • Shannon Booth will lead the Lincoln and North Platte market stations, which include CBS affiliates KOLN/KGIN (Lincoln/Grand Island) and KNPL-LD (North Platte), NBC affiliates KSNB (Superior-Hastings-Lincoln) and KNOP (North Platte), and FOX affiliate KIIT-LD (North Platte). Booth worked at several stations before starting at Gray's KCRG (Cedar Rapids) in 1998, where she has worked in news, operations, and promotions and is currently director of brand marketing and creative services.
  • Rick Rhoades will take over as GM of NBC/FOX affiliate WLUC (Marquette). Rhoades is currently the station's general sales manager and will replace Rob Jamros, who is retiring after 27 years in the position. (3/10/2017)

The CBC is proposing a new regional FM signal to carry CBC Radio One on the north shore of Lake Superior, replacing two existing low-power AM stations. The new CBLM-FM would broadcast on 107.5 with 3.935kW/280m (class B), using an existing CBC tower located in Neys Provincial Park west of Marathon. The tower was originally built for CBC-TV, but the CBC ended TV broadcasts in the region several years ago. The tower is now used by Marathon's other two radio stations, commercial broadcaster CFNO-FM/93.1 and ICI Radio-Canada Première transmitter CBON-FM-29 / 102.3, the latter of which would get a slight upgrade to nearly match CBLM-FM's proposed facility. The estimated cost of the project is $40,000. CBLM-FM would replace 40-Watt CBLM/1090 (Marathon) and CBEH/1010 (Terrace Bay). A low-power AM station in Schreiber, just west of Terrace Bay, would apparently remain on the air. CBC Radio One programming in the region originates in Thunder Bay. (3/8/2017)

FM translator W293CX/106.5 (Milwaukee) has signed on relaying WNOV/860. The stations, owned by Courier Communications, serve the African-American community with a mix of Talk, R&B, and Gospel. W293CX transmits from the WNOV transmitter site with 99 Watts, enough to provide a
good signal to most of Milwaukee and several suburbs. The translator was moved south from Park Falls under last year's AM revitalization filing window and is the sixth commercial translator on the air in Milwaukee. (3/7/2017)

The owner of a Twin Cities FM signal has applied to move its transmitter from Minneapolis to St. Paul in an effort to resove an interference complaint from a central Minnesota station. Educational Media Foundation's W225AP/92.9, which had carried the "Air-1" Christian Rock network until going silent in January due to the complaint, has applied to move to a tower at Metropolitan State University in St. Paul. W225AP had transmitted from a different site in St. Paul until moving to the Wells Fargo Center in Minneapolis two years ago, which is when KKJM/92.9 (St. Joseph-St. Cloud) says listeners in the northwest metro began experiencing interference. Translators are required to resolve any complaints of interference to full-power stations. The move to the east will remove much of the west metro from W225AP's coverage area, though Air-1 can also be heard in the northwest metro on K249ED/97.7, which transmits from Oak Grove. As part of W225AP's move, EMF's W227BF/93.3 -- which transmits from the IDS Center -- would drop from 99 Watts to 65 Watts to prevent interference between the two stations. (W225AP and W227AP's transmitter are currently located one block apart, but the FCC approved the current facilities because the interference is limited to upper levels of the buildings that are not inhabitated.) iHeartRadio currently programs W227BF as "Alt 93-3." (3/5/2017)

FCC filings indicate WREY/630 (St. Paul) has increased its daytime power from 1kW to 3kW, while reducing its nighttime power slightly from 2.5kW to 2.4kW. The station transmits with the same directional antenna pattern day and night from a site in Woodbury. It carries a Spanish-language format as "Radio Rey." (3/5/2017)

Family Stations' WMWK/88.1 (Milwaukee) has applied for a slight upgrade from its current 1.1kW/276m to 1.8kW/283m, remaining at its current transmitter site in the Milwaukee antenna farm. The station's class would change from A to B1. (3/5/2017)

The FCC's Media Bureau and KM Television of Iowa, licensee of KWKB/20.1 (Iowa City), have agreed to a
consent decree to settle allegations that KWKB was late in placing several reports in its electronic public file. KM will pay a $13,500 settlement. KWKB, a former WB and CW affiliate, currently carries ThisTV on its primary channel. (3/5/2017)

Deja vu: Hearst TV stations are off a satellite provider amid a retransmission consent dispute, this time DISH Network. The dispute affects CBS affiliate KCCI (Des Moines) and ABC affiliates WISN-TV (Milwaukee) and KETV (Omaha). KCCI reports the outage began late Thursday night after a 48-hour extension expired. The outage comes two months after the stations were briefly pulled from DirecTV in a similar dispute. (3/3/2017)

A number of Sinclair Broadcast Group stations have changed or added subchannels as the company rolls out the Charge! and TBD TV subchannel networks. Here are the changes noted so far in the Upper Midwest:

  • Cedar Rapids: KFXA is carrying Charge! on 28.2 (replacing Grit) and TBD on 28.3 (replacing Country Network).
  • Des Moines: KDSM is carrying Charge! on 17.3 (replacing Grit) and TBD on 17.4.
  • Green Bay: As previously reported, WLUK is carrying TBD on 11.3. WCWF is carrying Charge! on 14.3.
  • Kearney: KHGI is carrying TBD on 13.3.
  • Minneapolis: As previously reported, WUCW added Charge! on 23.3 (replacing Grit) and TBD on 23.4 (replacing getTV). DTV America's KMBD-LD added Grit on 43.7, with Country Network moving from 43.7 to channel 25.5 of KJNK-LD.
  • Omaha: KXVO is carrying Charge! on 15.2 (replacing ThisTV, still seen most of the day on KPTM/42.2) and TBD on 15.3 (replacing Grit).
  • Sioux City: KMEG is carrying TBD on 14.2 (replacing Decades) and KPTH is carrying Charge! on 44.3 (replacing Grit).

It's notable that Sinclair's stations in the Milwaukee and Madison markets do not appear to have added the new channels, at least not yet. (3/2/2017)

Kelly Martinson is buying Baraboo Broadcasting Corporation, which owns WRPQ/740 (Baraboo), FM translator W259BC/99.7 (Baraboo), and the construction permits for several low-power TV stations in the area. According to the stock purchase agreement, Martinson will pay Jeffrey Smith, Gregory Buchwald, and Anne Smith a combined $375,000 for all of the stock in the company, and Jeffrey Smith will also be paid $27,000 for one year of consulting followed by two years of non-competition. Martinson, who lives in Minnesota, goes by the on-air name Kory Hartman and works as a storm tracker for The Weather Channel, with experience at numerous radio and TV stations in the region. He owns no other stations. Bob Heymann of the Chicago office of Media Services Group, Inc. assisted the sellers. (3/1/2017)

KKAQ/1460 (Thief River Falls) has switched from Classic Rock to the Real Country network. It's not clear when the change happened, but it was reported recently by DX-midAMerica. KKAQ carried a Country format starting with its 1979 sign-on, simulcasting with KKDQ/99.3 (Thief River Falls), and the AM side had switched to Classic Rock in 2011. The stations are owned by Tor Ingstad's Iowa City Broadcasting, which also owns KTRF/1230 (Thief River Falls) and KTRF-FM/94.1 (Red Lake Falls-Thief River Falls). (2/28/2017)

Minnesota Public Radio is adding a third full-power station in the Duluth area as it buys one of Red Rock Radio's remaining stations. The asset purchase agreement calls for MPR to pay $300,000 for KZIO/104.3 (Two Harbors) and translator K231BI/94.1 (Duluth), which currently carry a Hard Rock format as "94X." The application to transfer the license states that MPR will convert KZIO's license to non-commercial. MPR currently has two full-power stations in Duluth carrying its News and Classical networks and a translator carrying its "Current" Adult Alternative service. KZIO will be the seventh full-power public radio station in the Twin Ports area, which already had far more public radio stations than most cities its size. KZIO is the 22nd station to be sold by Red Rock Radio in the past year, leaving the company with KQDS/1490 (Duluth), WWAX/92.1 (Hermantown-Duluth), and KRBT/1340 (Eveleth). (2/27/2017)

A belated note that another new FM signal has signed on in the Twin Cities: K239CJ/95.7 (St. Paul) is on the air relaying the Regional Mexican/Tropical format of "La Raza" (KMNV/1400). It appears the FM translator signed on about a month ago, and KMNV is now primarily identifying by the FM frequency. The 250-Watt FM signal transmits from KMNV's tower on Frontenac Place, a longtime radio site between I-94 and the Mississippi River, delivering a good signal to most of Minneapolis, St. Paul, and some first-ring suburbs. The translator was moved up from Des Moines under last year's AM revitalization filing window. KMNV is also rebroadcast on KMNQ/1470 (Brooklyn Park), and the stations are owned by Santamaria Broadcasting. They compete with "Radio Rey" (WREY/630), which recently launched its own FM translator, W235CT/94.9 (St. Paul). (2/27/2017)

NET Nebraska has set March 1 as the launch date for PBS Kids. The new network will be seen on the DT4 channels of NET's nine stations. They carry PBS on DT1, World Channel on DT2, and Create on DT3. (2/23/2017)

Bott Radio Network is poised to get its first station in South Dakota with the purchase of KASD/90.3 (Rapid City) from the American Family Association. The $460,000 deal also includes a station in Arkansas. The 1kW KASD signed on in 2006 and carries American Family Radio's Talk network. Bott had a construction permit for a new station on AM 860 licensed to Black Hawk, near Rapid City, that would've used 50kW day and 350W night, but told the FCC earlier this month that it would not be building the station. (2/23/2017)

The FCC has approved a tribal allotment for the Red Lake Nation. The new station on 105.3 will be licensed to Red Lake and alloted as class C1. Red Lake Nation has applied to use the allotment with 100kW/192m from a new tower north of Clearbrook, which would deliver a strong signal to most of the Red Lake Reservation and a rimshot signal to both Bemidji and Thief River Falls. (2/22/2017)

DISH Network has resumed carrying the "My9" channel from KBJR (Superior-Duluth). "My9" had been dropped when KBJR moved it from DT2 to DT3 last August as KBJR-DT2 became the market's CBS affiliate. Carriage of a DT3 channel on satellite is rare; there are apparently only a couple of markets nationwide with a DT3 channel on DISH. DirecTV does not carry the channel. The "My9" lineup includes college and high school sports, syndicated shows, and 18 hours per weekday of Decades network. (2/21/2017)

WLUK (Green Bay) has added TBD TV on channel 11.3. The new network is operated by WLUK owner Sinclair Broadcast Group. (2/21/2017)

WHSM/910 (Hayward) has segued from Adult Gold to Adult Contemporary as "96-9 The Cabin" following the launch of FM translator W245CT/96.9, which was moved to Hayward under the AM revitalization filing window. The new format includes gold going back to the `70s and is music-intensive, taking on Vacationland Broadcasting's heritage AC outlet WRLS/92.3 (Hayward). However, W245CT's signal is weaker than WRLS in rural areas surrounding Hayward where many vacation cabins are located. WHSM and "Muskie Country 101" (WHSM-FM/101.1) are owned by Zoe Communications, which bought the stations last year. The Adult Gold format had launched five months ago. (2/19/2017)

Evanov Communications has dropped its "Jewel" Light Adult Contemporary format from CFJL-FM/100.5 (Winnipeg) and launched "Hot 100.5, `90s and More." The station's press release describes it as "the perfect blend of Pop, Rock, R&B and Dance classics that the city is yearning to hear once again." The move from "Jewel" to "Hot" marks more fragmentation of different eras of pop music on the Winnipeg dial. Corus Entertainment's recently-launched "Peggy @ 99.1" (CJGV-FM) plays `80s hits and current Adult Contemporary songs but very little `90s or 2000's, while Rogers Communications' "102.3 Kiss FM" (CKY-FM) focuses mostly on recent Hot AC hits with some `90s and 2000's. Bell Media's "103.1 Virgin Radio" (CKMM-FM) and Evanov's "Energy 106" (CHWE-FM) play Contemporary Hits. Four other stations play different mixes of Rock hits from the `70s to 2000's. (2/18/2017)

TV Ontario has decided to keep transmitters in Thunder Bay and seven other communities on the air after public outcry led to increased funding. The taxpayer-funded network, which has programming similar to PBS in the United States, had previously announced plans to shut down all of its transmitters outside of Toronto in cost-cutting move that would have saved about $1 million per year. According to a new blog post from TVO's CEO, the network was able to get additional provincial government funding after complaints from viewers and donors. The network had already silenced more than 100 transmitters five years ago, ending broadcast service to other areas of northwestern Ontario. TVO repeater CICO-TV9 is one of three channels available over the air in Thunder Bay; the others are CTV and Global affiliates. (2/17/2017)

Catholic broadcaster Real Presence Radio is buying KBPG/89.5 (Montevideo) from the American Family Assocation for $13,000. The 500-Watt station has carried American Family Radio since its 2002 sign-on. Real Presence Radio, based in Grand Forks, owns nine other full-power stations in the Upper Midwest. (2/16/2017)

The core Twin Cities signal for Educational Media Foundation's "Air 1" Christian Rock network is off the air due to interference complaints from another Christian broadcaster. A notification of suspension of operations filed with the FCC says W225AP/92.9 (St. Paul-Minneapolis) left the air on Jan. 17 due to complaints from Gabriel Communications' "Spirit 92.9" (KKJM St. Joseph-St. Cloud). KKJM says the interference began when W225AP moved its transmitter from St. Paul to the Wells Fargo Center in Minneapolis two years ago. An interference complaint sent to the FCC in December cites complaints from four listeners at eleven locations in the northwestern metro and Wright County. Since translators are considered a secondary class, they are required to resolve interference complaints from any listener to a full-power station. EMF's filing says it is working to resolve the interference problem and hopes to have W225AP "back on the air before too long." "Air 1" can also be heard in the north metro on K249ED/97.7, which transmits from Oak Grove. (2/15/2017)

Legacy Communications is buying a third FM translator in the Grand Island area. Legacy will pay Community Broadcasting $40,000 for K278BR/103.5 (Grand Island), which the seller no longer needs after signing on KCVG/89.9 (Hastings) to carry its Bott Radio Network. The application to transfer the license states that K278BR will relay the HD4 channel of Legacy's KRGI-FM/96.5. Legacy also owns K227BQ/93.3 (Grand Island) and the company is in the process of moving K260BK/99.9 from Hastings to Grand Island. (2/15/2017)

South Dakota Public Broadcasting is adding simulcasts of its two radio services on its TV stations, expanding the availability of Classical music to those who don't have HD radios. The 15 TV transmitters (9 full-power) are carrying SDPB Radio on their DT5 channels and SDPB Classical on DT6. SDPB Radio has one network of 20 transmitters (11 full-power) carrying News/Talk programming and evening Jazz and Adult Alternative programs on its analog and HD1 signals. The 24-hour Classical service is available on the HD2 channels of most of the radio stations. (2/12/2017)

Kirkwood Community College, the owner of KCCK/88.3 (Cedar Rapids), has filed an informal objection to a proposed upgrade by a future station that's only two notches up the dial. As previously reported here, Plus Charities' KMMK/88.7 (Coggon) is seeking a "Raleigh waiver" to upgrade to 25kW/94m (class C3), adding most of Cedar Rapids to its 60 dbu contour. Normal rules would prohibit the upgrade due to KMMK's proximity to KCCK and KXGM-FM/89.1 (Hiawatha-Cedar Rapids), but a "Raleigh waiver" allows an upgrade for non-commercial FM stations when the actual interference to other non-commercial stations would be minimal. However, KCCK says KMMK's application is flawed because FCC precedent says the waiver can only be used to upgrade existing stations, not new stations. KMMK is not yet on the air. (2/11/2017)

Several new low-power FM stations are on the air carrying Christian radio network Radio 74 Internationale in Nebraska. They are KAQQ-LP/99.9 (Alliance), KBDP-LP/99.9 (Bridgeport), KQQO-LP/97.7 (Ogallala), and KQSI-LP/89.5 (Sidney). All are owned by local groups caled Adventist Learning Center of (community name). Additionally, the network's website lists two LPFM stations that recently signed on in Crete: Crete Progressive Educational Broadcasting's KCPJ-LP/105.7 and Greater Crete Commercial Free Radio's KGCO-LP/107.9. The extent of the Crete stations' carriage of Radio 74 is unclear. (2/9/2017)

Sovereign Communications is expanding to Escanaba with the purchase of WDBC/680 and WYKX/104.7 from KMB Broadcasting. The asset purchase agreement says the $866,000 purchase price is subject to adjustment and includes approximately $246,000 that the buyer has spent, or will spend, improving the stations' tower and transmission facilities. WDBC carries Soft Oldies and WYKX is "Kix Country." They primarily compete with five Radio Results Network stations owned by AMC Partners Escanaba, LLC. Sovereign Communications owns 15 other radio stations in the Upper Peninsula. (2/8/2017)

The sale price for WRRD/1510 (Waukesha-Milwaukee) is $760,000, according to an asset purchase agreement filed with the FCC. New WRRD LLC, headed by talk show host Michael Crute, is buying the station from Craig Karmazin's Good Karma Broadcasting, which retains WAUK/540 (Jackson-Milwaukee). The new owner flipped the station to a Liberal Talk format on Feb. 1 under a time brokerage agreement. The sale agreement gives the buyer the option of leasing studio space from the seller. (2/7/2017)

W221BS/92.1 (St. Paul) is now relaying the `60s and `70s Oldies format of WDGY/740 (Hudson-St. Paul) following the translator's transfer to WDGY owner Gregory Borgen/630 Radio Inc. Borgen moved the translator to Wells Fargo Place in downtown St. Paul and upgraded it to 80 Watts, delivering a strong signal to St. Paul and some suburbs and fringe coverage of Minneapolis. WDGY is also relayed on W279DD/103.7 (Hudson) in the far east metro, a translator which was moved in during last year's AM revitalization filing window. Borgen got W221BS in a trade with the Educational Media Foundation for K288GR/105.5 (Bayport-Hudson); EMF no longer needed W221BS after upgrading another translator. (2/6/2017)

Jubilation Ministries, owner of WJUB/1420 (Plymouth) and WSTM/91.3 (Kiel-Plymouth), is merging into Evangel Ministries, which owns several other stations in Wisconsin. Both are non-profit corporations. No cash is trading hands, but Evangel will assume all of Jubilation's assets and liabilities. WSTM carries Praise and Worship music, while WJUB airs Adult Standards with Christian features. They join existing Evangel stations WEMY/91.5 (Green Bay), WEMI/91.9 (Appleton), and WGNV/88.5 (Milladore-Wausau). (2/6/2017)

The price for the latest sale of WJMT/730 (Merrill) is $75,000, according to an asset purchase agreement filed with the FCC. WRVM, Inc. is flipping the station to Steven Resnick's Sunrise Broadcasting LLC, after buying it from Quicksilver Broadcasting along with WMZK/104.1 (Merrill-Wausau) in a $260,000 deal. WRVM is retaining WMZK and flipping it to its Christian network. WJMT is being operated by its new owners under a local marketing agreement and flipped the music elements of its format from Classic Country to Oldies as "Bluejay 730." Sunrise Broadcasting also owns an AM-FM combo in the Wausau market. (2/6/2017)

Sinclair Broadcast Group's WUCW/23 (Minneapolis) has announced plans to change programming on two of its subchannels on March 1. 23.3 will switch from Grit to Charge!, a new action/adventure network. 23.4 will drop getTV for TBD TV, a network of web-based and short-form programming. Sinclair has ownership interest in both new networks along with Comet, which is carried on 23.2. WUCW is a primary CW affiliate. (2/3/2017)

One of Des Moines' four Country stations has changed frequency and rebranded. What was "96.5 Country" (K243CA Millman) is now "96.9 The Bull, Des Moines' New Country" (K245CO), with an upgrade from 102 to 250 Watts in the process. The format originates on the HD2 signal of iHeartMedia's KDRB/100.3 (Des Moines). "The Bull" competes with Cumulus Media's heritage full-power outlets "92.5 Nash Icon" (KJJY) and "97.3 Nash FM" (KHKI), along with Saga Broadcasting's HD2-translator outlet "93.7 The Outlaw." Regular readers may recall that iHeartMedia had originally applied to move a translator from Iowa City to Des Moines on 96.9 to relay an AM station, but the application was dismissed when the underlying permit expired. iHeartRadio then applied for the K243CA move. (1/30/2017)

SagamoreHill Broadcasting is buying the construction permit for KGLU-LD/17 (Ottumwa) from DTV America for $71,000. SagamoreHill does not have any existing stations in the Kirksville-Ottumwa market, nor do any of the companies SagamoreHill partners with in other markets. (1/29/2017)

New Bott Radio Network station KCVG/89.9 (Hastings-Grand Island) is on the air. The station transmits with 16kW/99m (class C3) from a tower south of Grand Island. It may appear to be a new station to many listeners in the area, but it's actually the license of Hastings College's former KFKX/90.1 (Hastings), which the college sold to Bott parent Community Broadcasting after the college ended its radio program earlier this year. Bott changed the callsign and frequency of the station, and moved it to a different tower site with more power. (1/29/2017)

A new owner has announced plans to flip WRRD/1510 (Waukesha-Milwaukee) from ESPN Deportes to Liberal Talk. Mike Crute, co-host of the nationally-syndicated Devil's Advocates Radio, is buying the station from Good Karma Broadcasting, which has operated WRRD alongside ESPN affiliate WAUK/540 (Jackson-Milwaukee). Details of the sale are not yet available in the FCC's public database. According to a Facebook page created for the new format, "News/Talk 1510" will debut Feb. 1 with a lineup including Stephanie Miller from 8 to 11 a.m., Thom Hartmann from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., a Wisconsin-only version of Devil's Advocates Radio at 2, the national version of the Devil's Advocates from 3 to 5 p.m. The lineup also includes WestwoodOne newscasts and a three-hour show from Earl Ingram on Saturdays. Crute discussed his plans in a Citizen Action of Wisconsin podcast. The Devil's Advocates were previously heard on "92.1 The Mic" (WXXM Sun Prairie-Madison) until iHeartRadio dropped the format in November; WRRD's 23kW daytime signal has fringe coverage of Madison as well as the Fox Valley. The station is off the air at night, but its Facebook page says it will stream online 24/7. (1/27/2017)

For the first time in the Upper Midwest, and possibly the first time nationally, the FCC has granted a market modification expanding a station's satellite coverage area. Distribution of the CBS and FOX channels from Gray TV's WSAW/7 (Wausau) will be extended north into Ashland and Iron Counties after the FCC granted a market modification under the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act Reauthorization (STELAR) Act of 2014. Gray argued that the counties, which are within the Duluth-Superior market, are "orphan counties" because the majority of the TV signals in the market are from Minnesota. The decision shows that counties can be declared "orphans" even if one of their market's major network affiliates (in this case, KBJR-TV Superior) is licensed in the same state. Two Duluth stations unsuccessfully argued against Gray's proposal, citing their own coverage of news, weather, and sports in the area. (Full disclosure: your reporter is employed at one of those stations, WDIO). Under the FCC decision, DISH Network will be required to offer WSAW throughout Ashland and Iron Counties; DirecTV will be required to offer the station in all of Iron County but only in the southern part of Ashland County after showing that its Wausau spotbeam could not adequately reach northern Ashland County. (1/27/2017)

In what's becoming a somewhat regular feature, here's a look at recently-launched digital TV subchannels:

  • Morgan Murphy Media's WISC/3 (Madison) and WKBT/8 (La Crosse) have both added Ion on their DT3 channels. The stations are both primary CBS affiliates and carry My Network TV and syndicated programming on their DT2 channels.
  • North Dakota's Prairie Public network has added PBS Kids on the DT4 channels of eight of its stations. Learning programming that had aired on DT4 is now combined with World Channel on DT2, with Learning during the day and World Channel in the evening and overnight.
  • South Dakota Public Broadcasting has added DT4 channels carrying PBS Kids on its nine stations.
  • WNMU/13 (Marquette, MI) has switched its DT2 channel from general PBS programming to PBS Kids. (1/26/2017)

WMZK/104.1 (Merrill-Wausau) and WJMT/730 (Merrill) have gone silent following WRVM, Inc. closing on its deal to buy the stations from Quicksilver Broadcasting. According to a press release provided to RadioInsight, WMZK will join WRVM's non-commercial Christian teaching and preaching network, which originates on WRVM/102.7 (Suring). It's quite a change for WMZK, which has carried Rock formats as "Z104" for decades, except for a brief flip to Hot Adult Contemporary a few years ago. WMZK has quite a bit of signal overlap with WRVM's existing WHJL/88.1 (Merrill), though WMZK's signal is stronger to Wausau and WHJL is stronger in Rhinelander. Meanwhile, the press relase says WRVM, Inc. is flipping WJMT to Sunrise Broadcasting, which owns an existing AM-FM combo in the Wausau market. WJMT will continue its local information elements but switch its music from Classic Country to Oldies as "Bluejay 730" when it returns to the air later this week. (1/25/2017)

The FM translator poised to relay the Oldies format of WDGY/740 (Hudson-St. Paul) has received permission for an upgrade. The FCC has granted W221BS/92.1 a construction permit to move its transmitter a few miles west to Wells Fargo Place in downtown St. Paul and upgrade from 55 to 80 Watts, which will allow the translator to deliver a good signal to all of St. Paul and some east metro suburbs, with fringe coverage of Minneapolis. With the move, W221BS will change its community of license from the non-existent "Waite" to St. Paul. (Since our last musing here about "Waite," a reader has pointed out that there is a neighborhood in the northeastern corner of Minneapolis named Waite Park that may be the source of the name "Waite.") As previously reported here, WDGY owner Greg Borgen is getting W221BS from the Educational Media Foundation in exchange for K288GR/105.5 (Bayport-Hudson), a deal which has received FCC approval. (1/23/2017)

KWSD/36.1 (Sioux Falls) remains off the air, according to FCC filings. The station first went silent in December 2014 citing transmitter problems. It has briefly returned to the air a few times since then, meeting the requirements of a licensed station, but told the FCC in a December 2016 filing that it had again suspended operations due to equipment problems. KWSD had most recently carried MeTV but lost that affiliation to Gray TV's KSFY/13.3 (Sioux Falls). KWSD is owned by James F. Simpson's JF Broadcasting, a sister company to the licensee of the Rapid City NBC affiliate, and has also carried PAX, WB, and CW in its 16-year history. (1/23/2017)

Gray TV's KABY/9 (Aberdeen) has again gone silent after a very brief return to the air. The station, which relays sister ABC affiliate KSFY/13 (Sioux Falls), had first gone silent two years ago citing a need to demolish its longtime tower between Aberdeen and Watertown. Filings indicate it then returned to the air at full power for two weeks in January 2016, meeting the requirements of a licensed station, and again from Jan. 10 to Jan. 12 of this year using a temporary 340-Watt facility at its Aberdeen office. No explanation was given for the latest silence. KSFY is the only TV station with a news bureau in Aberdeen and most viewers in the area are can still receive the station via cable or satellite. The three other major network affiliates in the Sioux Falls market have translators in Aberdeen. (1/23/2017)

It now appears TV broadcasters will be left with 35 channels after the FCC's spectrum auction reached balance in round four, leaving TV with seven more channels than it would have had if the auction had succeeded in the first round. TV Technology reports the magic moment happened Wednesday, Jan. 18, when the price wireless companies were willing to pay for the spectrum finally matched the price some broadcasters want to sell their spectrum, plus other expenses of station relocations. It appears channel 38 and up will be removed from the TV dial to free up 84 MHz of spectrum, leaving channels 2 to 36 for TV broadcasting (channel 37 has long been reserved for radio astronomy). Stations will still be able to remap to "virtual" channel numbers above 36. All remaining stations above RF channel 36 will have to be relocated to lower channels, and the remaining stations could also have to change channel as part of the national repack. It's not yet known which stations have agreed to sell their spectrum or move from UHF to VHF, since the process has been confidential. Stations that sell their spectrum will still have the option of retaining their license by sharing a channel with another broadcaster. (1/18/2017)

A half-dozen Upper Midwest TV stations officially changed hands Tuesday, Jan. 17, as Nexstar closed on its purchase of Media General, with several stations being spun off to comply with ownership caps. KELO-TV (CBS, Sioux Falls) and KCLO (CBS, Rapid City) are now owned by Nexstar; WBAY (ABC, Green Bay) and KWQC (NBC, Davenport) are now owned by Gray TV; and KIMT (CBS, Mason City) is now owned by Heartland Media. Nexstar was unable to keep WBAY and KWQC because it already owns other top-four stations in those cities, while KIMT was sold off to comply with national ownership caps as part of a five-station deal. (1/17/2017)

KCUE/1250 (Red Wing) has signed on 250-Watt FM translator K255CZ/98.9, serving the Mississippi River valley southeast of the Twin Cities. KCUE runs Classic Country and is owned by Q Media Group, along with Classic Hits outlet "K-Wing 106" (KWNG/105.9 Red Wing) and stations in Lake City and Wabasha. K255CZ was formerly Refuge Radio translator K263AL/100.5 (Madison) and was moved across the state under the FCC's AM revitalization window. (1/16/2017)

Saga Broadcasting as signed on translator K271CO/102.1 (Des Moines), relaying ESPN Radio from KRNT/1350. The 99-Watt translator broadcasts from downtown Des Moines was moved south from Minnesota under the FCC's AM revitalization window. It's Saga's eight FM signal in the capital city, with a group now consisting of four full-power FM stations, four FM translators, and two AM stations. (1/15/2017)

KNLV-FM/103.9 (Ord) has upgraded to 100kW/286m (class C1), expanding its coverage across an area of north-central Nebraska with few other FM signals. The station moved its transmitter to a site about 20 miles northwest of Ord, adding rimshot coverage of O'Neil and improving its signal to Broken Bow. KNLV-FM is owned by MWB Broadcasting II and carries a Country format that recently changed its name from "V103.9" to "King FM," according to its Facebook page. (1/10/2017)

A number of new digital TV subchannels are launching in the Twin Cities and Wisconsin:

  • KMSP (Minneapolis) is due to begin carrying Light TV as part of a national agreement between the new network and FOX Television Stations. Light TV carries family-friendly reruns and movies, similar to the short-lived "Sonlight" format on KLGT-TV/23 (Minneapolis), now WUCW, in the early 1990's.
  • Twin Cities Public Television has revamped the channel lineup on KTCA/KTCI for the launch of the new PBS Kids channel. PBS Kids will air on 2.4, with TPT Weather now on 2.5. Meanwhile, the Minnesota Channel continues to be seen on 2.2, but it now originates from the KTCI (RF 23) transmitter rather than the KTCA (RF 34) transmitter. 2.3 also comes from KTCI, while 2.1, 2.4, and 2.5 come from KTCA.
  • Wisconsin Public Television plans to carry PBS Kids on the newly-added .4 channels of its six stations: WHA-TV/21 (Madison), WPNE-TV/38 (Green Bay), WHRM-TV/20 (Wausau), WLEF/36 (Park Falls), WHWC-TV/28 (Menomonie-Eau Claire), and WHLA-TV/31 (La Crosse).
  • Milwaukee PBS (WMVS/WMVT) will carry PBS Kids on channel 10.3 of WMVS, replacing V-Me, which is leaving broadcast TV nationally.
  • WTMJ-TV (Milwaukee) is now carrying Escape on 4.3, replacing Cozi TV. (1/9/2017)

CBS affiliate KCCI (Des Moines) and ABC affiliates WISN-TV (Milwaukee) and KETV (Omaha) have returned to DirecTV after a week-long retransmission consent dispute between Hearst Communications and DirecTV. The dispute affected dozens of Hearst stations nationwide beginning Jan. 1. Most mentions of the dispute, and its resolution, now seem to have been scrubbed from Hearst station websites. (1/1/2017, updated 1/9)

KMZN/740 (Oskaloosa) and its FM translator, K258BG/99.5, have dropped Sports in favor of Classic Hits. The Sports format had launched with the FM translator about two years ago; prior to that, 740 had simulcast the Country format of sister station KBOE-FM/104.9. 740's 229-Watt daytime signal has a wide coverage area across south-central and southeastern Iowa, but its 10-Watt nighttime signal is mostly limited to the Oskaloosa area. (1/8/2017)

Canadian regulators have given approval for a western Manitoba AM station to move its format to a major FM signal while keeping the AM transmitter on the air. The Country format of CKLQ/880 (Brandon) will move to 91.5 FM, assuming the 100kW facility of Native Communications Incorporated's CIWM-FM. NCI's station had already received approval to move to 107.5 and operate at lower power in a cost-saving effort. CKLQ is owned by Riding Mountain Broadcasting, which also owns CKLF-FM/94.7; the stations compete with Bell Media's two FM signals in Brandon, which include one Country format. Bell, Corus Entertainment, and Rogers Broadcasting (all three of which have stations in Winnipeg) objected to CKLQ's plans for an indefinite AM-FM simulcast. The CRTC found that the AM-FM simulcast is allowed because the 10kW AM signal will be considered a rebroadcasting transmitter rather than a separate license, similar to the conversion of three northern Manitoba stations several years ago. From an economic standpoint, profits in the market have been rising but Riding Mountain said CKLQ has generated a net loss, and the CRTC concluded that its conversion to FM would not have an undue economic impact on the market. (1/8/2017)

The Twin Cities' "Go 96.3" has switched its callsign from KTWN-FM to KQGO, marking the third* time the KTWN callsign has departed the Twin Cities. FCC records indicate the change for the Edina-licensed station was effective Jan. 1. Northern Lights Broadcasting owns KQGO and "Go 95.3" (KZGO St. Paul), with Hip-Hop running on KZGO and Adult Alternative on KQGO. Trivia buffs will note that KQGO is the fourth station in the Twin Cities to start with KQ, joining KQRS/92.5, KQQL/107.9, and KQSP/1530. *A reader informs your reporter that the KTWN callsign had also been used on 1400 in the 1960's, prior to its use on 1470/107.9. (1/4/2017)

VCY America has signed on new translator W259CV/99.7 (Duluth), relaying VCY's Christian programming from WQRM/850. The 250-Watt signal broadcasts from the Duluth antenna farm and was moved in from Wisconsin under the AM revitalization window. It's the sixth FM translator in Duluth, and its sign-on comes just a few weeks after Midwest Communications activated its two new translators in the city. (1/2/2017)

Midwest Communications has made a few changes to start the new year on the Iron Range: First, its "Duke FM" Classic Country format is now running on KGPZ/96.1 (Coleraine-Hibbing). Midwest bought KGPZ, formerly mainstream Country outlet "Z96," from Red Rock Radio as part of a five-station deal. The new "Duke" format works in tandem with Midwest Country outlet "Radio USA" (WUSZ/99.9 Virginia-Hibbing). KGPZ has carried Country formats for its entire history, starting with the "Real Country" network in 1995.

Meanwhile, Midwest's WMFG-FM/106.3 (Hibbing) has dropped a syndicated Classic Hits format in favor of a rebroadcast of Classic Rocker KQDS-FM/94.9 (Duluth), which was also included in Midwest's five-station purchase from Red Rock. The KQDS-FM rebroadcast had previously been heard on the western Iron Range on KBAJ/105.5 (Deer River), which was sold to a separate buyer and continues a Classic Rock format under a different identity. Midwest divested its previous Iron Range Classic Rocker, KMFG/102.9 (Nashwauk), to comply with ownership caps (see earlier reports on changes at KBAJ and KMFG). WMFG-FM is adjacent on the dial to KAOD/106.7 (Babbitt), which relays KQ on the eastern Iron Range. (1/1/2017)

KFGI/101.5 (Crosby-Brainerd) has moved to Classic Hits as "Skeeter 101-5," dropping the syndicated "Jack FM" Variety Hits format. The new playlist runs from the 1950's to 2000's and is quite broad, with Kid Rock's "Bawitdaba" and Jerry Lee Lewis' "Great Balls of Fire" heard a few minutes apart on Saturday afternoon. The switch came sometime in December and follows R&J Broadcasting's purchase of KFGI, and five others in the Brainerd/Aitkin area, from Red Rock Radio. (1/1/2017)

If you've lost track, there have been a total of ten format changes in recent months related to Red Rock Radio's selloff of stations in north-central and northeastern Minnesota and northwestern Wisconsin:

  • WWWI/1270 (Baxter-Brainerd) switched from Sports to News/Talk (Red Rock Radio to R&J Broadcasting)
  • KFGI/101.5 (Crosby-Brainerd) moved from Variety Hits "Jack" to Classic Hits "Skeeter" (Red Rock to R&J)
  • WWWI-FM/95.9 (Pillager-Brainerd) switched from Classic Rock "KQ" to Classic Country/Classic Hits "Cash" (Red Rock to R&J)
  • KGPZ/96.1 (Coleraine-Hibbing) moved from mainstream Country "Z96" to Classic Country "Duke" (Red Rock to Midwest Communications)
  • KMFG/102.9 (Nashwauk-Hibbing) switched from Classic Rock to Christian Hits (Midwest divestiture to Refuge Media Group)
  • WMFG-FM/106.3 (Hibbing) switched from Classic Hits to Classic Rock "KQ" (not sold, owned by Midwest)
  • WXCE/1260 (Amery) switched from Sports to Oldies (Red Rock to Zoe Communications)
  • WLMX-FM/104.9 (Balsam Lake) moved from Variety Hits "Mix" to Classic Hits "Max" (Red Rock to Zoe)
  • WHSM/910 (Hayward) switched from "Fan" Sports to Adult Gold (Red Rock to Zoe)
  • WXCX/105.7 (Siren) switched from "Fan" Sports to Classic Country "Willie" (Red Rock to Zoe) (1/1/2017)

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