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Living History: Long-Distance Signals from ‘Golden Age of Radio’ Still On Air
When people talk about long-distance AM reception, it’s often discussed as something that happened in the past.
Those skywave signals from the “Golden Age of Radio” are actually still on the air. The longer nights of fall and winter provide more opportunity to hear them, though instead of Jack Benny or Dragnet, the old “clear channel” stations are mostly now carrying talk, sports, or news.
People who did not grow up with AM radio are usually shocked the first time they hear a distant AM station. When I first heard Chicago’s WBBM in the Twin Cities as a teenager, I thought it must be a rare catch. Then I tuned in again and again and realized it happens every night.
While internet streaming and syndication have taken a lot of the excitement out of listening to scratchy out-of-town signals, it’s still interesting to observe the phenomenon that is AM skywave reception. The skywave signals are also a nice companion when you’re at a remote northern campsite or on a long drive through a rural area.
The reason AM signals travel so far is that the atmosphere treats mediumwave (AM) wavelengths differently depending on whether the sun is shining. During the day, the signals go straight out into space. At night, they bounce back down to earth in a way that’s so predictable that AM stations have to factor in stations hundreds of miles away when building or modifying transmission plants.
In the very early days of radio, the industry and regulators recognized the potential of massive signals to serve rural areas that had few or no local stations. They reserved certain frequencies for 50,000-Watt stations that cover part or all of the continent at night.
These stations are still on the air, mostly with the same coverage areas they had back in the 1930’s (here’s a look at the stations commonly heard in the Upper Midwest). However, they do fade in and out and the signal strength varies from night to night.
The AM band is divided up into three types of frequencies:
The original clear channel frequencies, which are still mostly dominated by large 50kW stations. Smaller stations are allowed on these frequencies but must protect the original clear channel stations by greatly reducing power or going off the air completely at night (which is why they’re referred to as “daytimers.”)
Regional frequencies that were originally filled with 5kW stations, though they can now be up to 50kW if they meet interference requirements. Most of these stations have to use directional antenna patterns at night and/or reduce power to avoid interfering with each other.
Six specific local frequencies where all of the stations use 1kW nondirectional, day and night. These are 1230, 1240, 1340, 1400, 1450, and 1490. DX’ers call these the “graveyard” frequencies because there are so many stations mixing on them at night that it sounds like you’re walking through a haunted graveyard.
In recent years, there has been a lot of talk about further reducing protections for the former clear channels since there are virtually no populated rural areas without local radio service. However, legislators can’t change the laws of physics, so skywave signals will still exist even if they’re no longer protected.
But it may be the laws of economics that ultimately end skywave reception. It’s no secret that AM listenership has been declining for decades, and there has been a trend of owners downgrading smaller AM stations or taking them off the air completely as their transmitter facilities age.
So, experience those skywave signals while you can.
FCC description of AM classes and frequencies
Then and Now: Clear Channel Reception in the Upper Midwest
Wikipedia article on clear channel stations (10/22/2019)
EZ Completes Return to Des Moines
The legendary EZ name has completed its return to the Des Moines radio dial.
On Friday, Oct. 18, Light Adult Contemporary station “More 104.1” renamed itself “104.1 EZ FM,” a slogan similar to the “EZ104” name the station had used decades ago. “EZ FM” continues to position its playlist as “soft and refreshing.”
As previously reported, the Saga Communications station had foreshadowed the change by switching its callsign from KMYR to KOEZ on Sept. 30. It’s officially licensed to Ames.
104.1 was known as “EZ104” under the KEZT callsign in the 1980’s and early 1990’s, later becoming “Lite 104.1” KLTI-FM and then KMYR “More 104” in 2014. In 2017, the station emerged from its annual All-Christmas format (a change which usually occurs in mid-November) with a softer playlist.
A logo for “EZ104” seen in a 1984 newspaper ad.
The “EZ FM” website only lists two current on-air voices, several fewer than a year ago at this time.
Saga also owns Hot AC-formatted “Star 102.5” (KSTZ Des Moines). (10/18/2019)
Iowa FM Station Sold to GM, Sales Exec
The general manager of KHBT/97.7 (Humboldt) and her husband, who is a senior account executive at the station, are buying it.
An asset purchase agreement filed with the FCC says Kathi and Patrick Kolar’s Open Roads Media LLC will pay Riverfront Broadcasting of Iowa $795,000 for the station. Riverfront had purchased KHBT from NRG Media in 2014 as part of a six-station deal; Riverfront has since sold some of the other stations.
Kathi Kolar is also part of the National Association of Broadcasters’ Broadcast Leadership Training Program, according to a KHBT article. She has worked in the business since 1994.
KHBT carries an Adult Contemporary format as “The Bolt” and competes with Fort Dodge signals, delivering a rimshot signal to that city.
Riverfront and its sister companies retain two stations in Algona, four in southern Minnesota, and eleven in South Dakota. (10/17/2019)
Rock Returns to Fort Dodge
Alpha Media’s KZLB/92.1 (Fort Dodge) has dropped Classic Hits/Rock for Hard Rock as “92 Rock,” bringing the format back to the market after an absence of seven years.
The new format launched on Oct. 3 and was followed by a week of remote broadcasts. The new playlist is positioned as “past, present, powerful.”
92.1 had previously carried an Active Rock format as “The Blaze” from 2008 to 2012.
The group’s website says KZLB will continue to carry Fort Dodge Dodger football games. The previous Rock-based Classic Hits format had been called “The Eagle.”
Alpha’s Fort Dodge group also includes Classic Hits outlet “105.9 The Beach” (KTLB Twin Lakes) as well as Adult Contemporary, Light AC, Country, Classic Country, and News/Talk outlets. (10/11/2019)
2 Previously-Granted Iowa FM Stations Up for Auction Again
Two future FM stations in the Upper Midwest are among 130 set to be auctioned off nationally by the FCC next spring. Both of the allotments have previously been awarded but were either not built or deleted after going silent.
Here are the allotments, listed by their largest potential market:
Mason City, IA: 92.9 licensed to Rockford, class A (6kW/100m), $25,000 opening bid. Radioactive LLC previously won this allotment in 2005 with a $482,000 bid. KYME received its license in 2008 but filed repeated requests for special temporary authority to remain silent, and the FCC ultimately canceled its license in 2015 after the station acknowledged being off the air for more than a year.
Waterloo, IA: 103.9 licensed to Dunkerton, class A, $60,000 opening bid. Ace Radio Corp. won this allotment in a 2006 auction with a $455,000 bid and later sold it to Magnolia Radio Corp., but the FCC deleted the license in 2014 after a long-term outage.
Auction No. 106 is scheduled to begin April 28, 2020. (10/11/2019)
EZ Back on Des Moines FM Dial, But Only in Legal ID Form
The legendary EZ name has returned to the Des Moines radio dial — sort of.
FCC records indicate Saga Communications’ KMYR/104.1 (Ames-Des Moines) officially changed its callsign to KOEZ on Sept. 30. However, the station continues to carry a gold-based Light Adult Contemporary format as “More 104-1” and is only using the KOEZ callsign in its legal ID.
104.1 was known as “EZ104” under the KEZT callsign in the 1980’s and early 1990’s, later becoming “Lite 104.1” KLTI-FM and then KMYR “More 104” in 2014. In 2017, the station emerged from its annual All-Christmas format (a changer which usually occurs in mid-November) with a new playlist positioned as “soft and refreshing.”
A logo for “EZ104” seen in a 1984 newspaper ad.
The “More 104-1” website only lists two current on-air voices, several fewer than a year ago at this time.
Saga also owns Hot AC-formatted “Star 102.5” (KSTZ Des Moines). (10/10/2019)
Mankato Station Looks to Expand Satellite Coverage
Mankato’s KEYC-TV is collecting viewer comments in an effort to expand its satellite coverage to more of southern Minnesota and northern Iowa.
The Gray TV CBS/FOX affiliate has long covered news across the region, but its official market — and therefore its satellite coverage area — is limited to Blue Earth, Brown, Martin, and Watonwan counties. The station has now posted a form on its website asking people outside of those counties to provide comments to the FCC about why they would like to receive KEYC.
Rob Folliard, Gray TV’s Vice President of Government Relations & Distribution, confirmed that KEYC plans to file a petition with the FCC in the next few weeks to extend its reach on satellite.
“If the FCC agrees, satellite customers in southern Minnesota that traditionally received only the Twin Cities stations would also receive KEYC and satellite customers in north central Iowa would receive KEYC in addition to the Des Moines stations. No one will lose access to any stations. Instead, satellite customers will finally have a choice to also watch KEYC,” Folliard said.
A provision in the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act Reauthorization Act of 2014 allows TV stations, county governments, and satellite providers to petition the FCC to allow a station to be carried outside of its Nielsen-defined market (though the market definition does not change for ratings purposes).
Up until now, most or all proposed STELAR market modifications have dealt with “orphan counties,” which are areas that are served by out-of-state TV stations. However, STELAR does not specifically require that the counties in question be orphans.
Folliard said a desire by satellite customers to receive KEYC will be a key factor in the FCC’s decision.
KEYC’s over the air signal reaches beyond its official market boundaries and it has historically had cable carriage stretching from Owatonna to Hutchinson to Spencer. Even St. Peter, less than 15 miles up Highway 169 from Mankato, is considered to be outside of KEYC’s official market. “KEYC has been the station that viewers in southern Minnesota and north central Iowa have turned to for decades for news about their communities, for up to date information on school closings and weather, and for other breaking news affecting their daily lives,” said Ed Woloszyn, KEYC General Manager. “As we have heard time and again, our local coverage focusing on southern Minnesota and north central Iowa is more relevant to our viewers day-to-day lives than the news coming out of the Twin Cities or Des Moines. Despite this, KEYC is only carried on satellite by DIRECTV and DISH Network in a small portion of our service area, meaning that satellite customers in Blue Earth, Waseca, Windom and Estherville get the more distant Twin Cities or Des Moines stations and not their true hometown local station,” Woloszyn said.
A letter from DirecTV already on file with the FCC indicates that KEYC asked DirecTV to study potential carriage in 23 out-of-market counties. The letter indicates that the spot beam carrying KEYC’s HD signal is fully available in 17 of the counties but not available in western Minnesota.
It’s not yet known which counties KEYC will ultimately request to be added through a market modification. Once KEYC’s petition is submitted, the FCC will have 120 days to consider the request.
KEYC is the only station in the Mankato market and is also in the process of launching low-power sister station KMNF-LD/7, which will carry NBC and CW. (10/07/2019)
Iowa Station Sold after Being Owned by Same Family for 94 Years
Southwestern Iowa radio duo KMA/960 (Shenandoah) and KMA-FM/99.1 (Clarinda) are getting new local owners, marking the first time in KMA’s 94-year history that it will not be owned by the May family.
KMALAND Broadcasting, LLC is buying the stations from Ed May Junior’s KMA Broadcasting L.P. for $2.9 million, according to an asset purchase agreement filed with the FCC. KMA was founded by Earl May in 1925; it was later passed it on to Ed May, Sr. and then Ed May, Jr.
KMA reported that May, Jr., who is turning 65, wants to spend more time travelling and with his family, and that none of his three children are interested in the business. The buyers say May sought out local owners for the station.
“We are excited about maintaining local ownership of KMA Broadcasting and humbled by the responsibility of maintaining the great tradition that has been KMA for the last 94 years. As local residents of the KMA listening area, we believe that KMA is part of the fabric of who we are,” the buyers wrote in a statement posted on KMA’s website.
KMALAND Broadcasting, LLC is owned by:
Judith I. Wischik, Shenandoah (20%), board member
Gregg Connell, Shenandoah (10%), board member
Pam Ditmars, Shenandoah (10%)
William Ditmars, Shenandoah (10%), board member
James Doyle, Randolph (10%), board member
Melonie Doyle, Randolph (10%)
Jake McGargill, Imogene (10%), board member
Pam McGargill, Imogene (10%)
Nancy Maher, Shenandoah (10%)
KMA and KMA-FM simulcast a Farm/News/Talk format that consists of local information programming from 5:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and from 5 to 7 p.m., with syndicated talk from hosts such as Dave Ramsey and Jim Bohannan at other times. KMA’s 5kW signal reaches parts of four states day and night, while KMA-FM transmits with 100kW.
KMA has an interesting history, being one of two stations founded in Shenandoah by rival seed companies in the mid 1920’s: Earl May owned Earl May Seed and Nursery Company, while Henry Field of Henry Field Seed and Nursery founded KFNF. May’s station remains a commercial success decades later, while KFNF’s facilities were eventually assumed by non-commercial Family Radio station KYFR/920.
John Schneider wrote more about the stations’ rivalry in his article, “The Friendly Farmer Stations.”
Both seed companies remain in business, with the May family still owning 30 Earl May Garden Centers in four states. May Broadcasting also signed on KMTV, channel 3, in Omaha in 1949 and owned it until 1986.
Earl May was inducted into the Nebraska Business Hall of Fame in 2015:
Mason City TV Station Gets 5th Owner in 10 Years
CBS affiliate KIMT/3.1 (Mason City-Rochester) is getting its fifth owner in ten years, now going to Byron Allen’s Allen Media Group as part of a national deal.
Allen is buying KIMT and stations in eight other small and medium markets from USA TV/Heartland Media for $290 million. Allen and his companies also own four TV stations in two markets, in addition to full ownership of The Weather Channel and eight other national networks and part-owner of 21 regional sports networks. Allen’s Entertainment Studios produces 64 programs, and the company also makes and distributes theatrical movies.
KIMT has been affected by numerous industry mergers and sales over the past decade, with previous owners including New Vision Television, LIN TV, and Media General. USA TV/Heartland had owned the station since 2017, when Nexstar spun off the station to comply with ownership caps when it bought Media General.
Besides CBS on its primary channel, KIMT carries MyNetworkTV on 3.2, ION on 3.3, and Antenna TV on 3.4. It competes with Hubbard ABC affiliate KAAL (Austin-Rochester) and Quincy NBC/FOX operation KTTC/KXLT (Rochester). (10/1/2019)
Nexstar Hires New GM for New Des Moines Station
Posted on September 30, 2019 by Jon Ellis Just over a week after closing on its purchase of WHO-TV/13 (Des Moines) as part of a larger merger with Tribune Media, Nexstar has named a new general manager for the station.
The company announced Monday that Robert “Bobby” Totsch has been hired as WHO-TV’s GM effective immediately. Totsch most recently worked for Sinclair’s group in Mobile, AL, and has also worked in the Kansas City and St. Louis markets.
It appears that Totsch replaces Dale R. Woods, who left WHO two years ago.
Nexstar had previously owned ABC affiliate WOI-TV/5 (Ames-Des Moines), which it spun off to Tegna as part of the Tribune purchase. (09/30/2019)
Two Format Changes Follow Iowa Station Sale
Wennes Communications Stations is changing the formats of both stations it recently bought in Decorah, Iowa.
On Monday, Wennes launched K235CT/94.9 (Decorah) to relay KDEC/1240 and switched both to a simulcast of its “River” Adult Contemporary format already heard on Wennes’ K256CS/99.1 and KMRV/1160 (Waukon).
Meanwhile, KDEC-FM/100.5 has dropped its Adult Alternative format and is stunting.
Wennes also owns “Bluff Country” KNEI-FM/103.5 (Waukon) and Classic Hits station KVIK/104.7 (Decorah). It bought KDEC AM-FM from Bob and Colleen Holten’s Decorah Broadcasting for $1.2 million and closed on the purchase in late August.
KDEC-FM has a pending application to upgrade from its present 30kW/150m to 43.3kW/162m, remaning class C2. It would move to a different tower, maintaining its current coverage and extending farther southwest. (10/1/2019)
Southern Minnesota Classic Hits Station Rebrands
Townsquare Media has rebranded one of it southern Minnesota Classic Hits outlets to “Fun 104.3.”
KVGO/104.3 (Spring Valley) had previously been known as “Cool 104,” a slogan adopted two decades ago when the station carried an Oldies format. The playlist had moved towards Classic Hits over the years.
“Fun 104.3” posted audio of its Thursday 8 a.m. launch on its website. The new ’70s to ’90s format, positioned as “Southeast Minnesota’s Greatest Hits,” will feature 104 minutes of commercial-free music at the beginning and end of the workday. Sarah Sullivan hosts from 10 to 3 and James Rabe is on from 3 to 7.
KVGO is operated alongside Country outlet KFIL-FM/103.1 (Chatfield) from studios in Preston. The stations provide rimshot coverage of Rochester, where Townsquare also has a seven-station group including Classic Hits outlet “103.9 The Doc” (KDOC-FM Eyota).
KVGO and KDOC-FM compete with Classic Hits outlet “Minnesota 97-5” (KNXR), a standalone station in Rochester owned by Blooming Prairie Farm Radio. (9/27/2019)
FCC Reverts Status of FM Station Said to be Transmitting from Parking Lot
The FCC has rescinded its earlier grant of an Omaha-area low-power FM station’s permanent license after a national LPFM advocacy group questioned whether the station has actually constructed a permanent facility.
The South Omaha Hispanic Family Education Foundation applied for a license to cover the construction permit for KXOM-LP/101.1 (Bellevue, NE) on August 23, which was the deadline for getting the station on the air. The application stated that KXOM-LP was using a facility specified in a permit granted two days earlier.
The specified tower site appears to be in a parking lot along Iowa side of the Missouri River in Lake Manawa State Park. The CP specifies 100 Watts from an antenna 6 meters above the ground.
The informal objection from REC Networks says the KXOM-LP site is 120 feet from the river and in a floodplain. The document says REC is awaiting word from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources about whether KXOM-LP has permission to build a tower at the site.
The FCC had granted KXOM-LP a license to cover but then rescinded the grant after REC filed its objection. (REC has also recently filed objections against more than a dozen LPFM license to cover applications from groups that list Dan Alpert, KXOM-LP’s contact representative, as their representative.)
The permittee had not filed a response to REC’s objection as of Friday morning, Sept. 20.
The original application for the station listed three people with a mailing address at a church in Bellevue as the directors of the South Omaha Hispanic Family Education Foundation. The application also listed the church as being the main studio location for the proposed station.
The church’s website does not appear to have any mention of radio.(9/20/2019)
KCRO Adds Show from New Lincoln Studio
Christian Talk station KCRO (Omaha-Lincoln) has added “The Brad and Carol Show” weekday afternoons from 5 to 6.
Brad Leggett is the General Manager of KCRO and Carol, his wife, is a Christian counselor/coach and a holistic practitioner. The show focuses on faith, family, finances, health, and fun.
It’s said to be the area’s only live and local Christian talk show.
The show originates from new studios in Lincoln, where KCRO recently added FM translator K294DJ/106.7. Its main signal is on 660 in Omaha.
KCRO is owned by Walnut Radio.(9/20/2019)
One of Omaha’s “Boomer” Signals Moves East
One of the “Boomer Radio” FM signals in Omaha has moved to a different frequency and transmitter site.
The Oldies/Classic Hits format’s original FM signal, K281CJ/104.1, moved east to Council Bluffs and changed its frequency to 106.5 with the new callsign K293CX. The translator also changed its community of license to Council Bluffs.
The change reduces overlap with another “Boomer” signal, K233CO/94.5, which covers most of Omaha.
The format is also heard on KBLR/97.3 (Blair), KOBM/1420 (Omaha), and KIBM/1490 (Omaha). The stations are owned by Walnut Radio.(9/20/2019)
Nexstar-Tribune Merger Approved: What It Means for the Upper Midwest
The FCC has given its final approval to the sale of Tribune Media, a process that took so long that you’ll be forgiven if you forgot how it’s shaking out in the Upper Midwest.
Sinclair Broadcast Group first proposed buying Tribune in 2017 but Tribune pulled out the following year after FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said he had “serious concerns” about the merger as proposed. Nexstar and Tribune then announced their merger plans in December 2018.
The Nexstar-Tribune combination, which will result in the divestiture of 21 stations to three other companies, received clearance from the Justice Department over the summer. With FCC approval now in hand, Nexstar says it anticipates closing on the transactions “shortly.”
Here’s what the Nexstar-Tribune combination means for the Upper Midwest:
Tegna enters Iowa: Nexstar was required to spin off overlapping stations in the Des Moines and Quad Cities markets. Nexstar will keep its existing CBS/CW/FOX operation in the Quad Cities but take over Tribune NBC affiliate WHO-DT (Des Moines).
Nexstar spun off its ABC affiliate WOI-DT (Ames-Des Moines) and Tribune ABC affiliate WQAD (Moline-Quad Cities) to Tegna, along with CW affiliate KCWI (Ames-Des Moines). Tegna owns stations in Minneapolis and St. Louis but previously had no holdings in the early-voting state of Iowa, where political revenue is likely to be high in the coming months.
The change could shake up the Des Moines market, where Nexstar had already been trying to pull WOI out of its longtime distant third place in the ratings. Tegna’s WOI will compete with Nexstar’s WHO and Hearst CBS affiliate KCCI.
Nexstar grows in Wisconsin: The company will now have three markets in the state, adding Tribune FOX affiliate WITI (Milwaukee). It already owns the CBS affiliate in Green Bay and the FOX affiliates in La Crosse-Eau Claire.
Nexstar retains several other Upper Midwest markets: Its other regional holdings include CBS affiliates in Marquette, Sioux Falls, Rapid City, and Bismarck-Minot and the ABC affiliate in Sioux City. Tribune’s big-market stations split up: Nexstar will take over WGN-TV (Chicago) and KTLA (Los Angeles), but is spinning off WPIX (New York) to Scripps.
Divestitures that didn’t end up happening: Sinclair had announced plans to sell FOX affiliate KDSM (Des Moines), among others, when it was trying to buy Tribune and WHO-DT. KDSM remains under Sinclair ownership since the deal never happened.
In Milwaukee, Sinclair had already returned the license of WCGV in anticipation of the Tribune deal, which would’ve combined Sinclair CW affiliate WVTV with WITI. WCGV had already given up its spectrum in the spectrum auction and was sharing bandwidth with WVTV; Sinclair lost must-carry rights for WCGV in returning its license. (9/17/2019)
Sinclair Promotes Sioux City GSM to GM
Sinclair Broadcast Group has promoted the general sales manager of its Sioux City CBS/FOX operation to general manager.
Kathan Jager has been at FOX 44 (KPTH) and CBS affiliate KMEG/14 since 2012. Sinclair owns KPTH and operates KMEG through a joint sales agreement with Waitt Broadcasting.
Prior to joining KMEG/KPTH, Jager worked in sales at two other Sioux City media outlets for a combined 26 years.
“With over 30 years in media and all of those years in the Sioux City market, Kathan is extremely well suited to take the helm and will undoubtedly have an impact on the community, our viewers, advertisers and the station,” said Steve Marks, EVP & Chief Operating Officer of Sinclair’s television group, in a news release.
“I am honored to be asked to the lead the team at KMEG/KPTH,” Jager said in the news release. “This is a group of outstanding professionals that make a daily positive influence in the communities we serve. We will continue to strive to bring excellent reporting and customer service to our clients and viewers.”
Sinclair’s Sioux City group competes with a Quincy Media NBC affiliate and a Nexstar ABC affiliate.(9/14/2019)
Hard Rock Returns to Quad Cities as ESPN Moves Back to AM
Two Quad Cities stations changed format at the start of the Labor Day weekend, coincidentally returning both to formats they’d carried at the turn of the century.
As first reported by RadioInsight, Townsquare Media launched “I-Rock 93.5” on KJOC/93.5 (Bettendorf) on Friday, sending ESPN Radio back to KBOB/1170 (Davenport). The move ends a Classic Country format on KBOB and returns Hard Rock to the market.
“I-Rock” is debuting its format with a month of commercial-free music. The playlist stretches from the `90s to today with artists including Godsmack, Slipknot, Tool, Korn, Five Finger Death Punch, Nirvana, Alice In Chains, Volbeat, and Ghost.
Meanwhile, “ESPN 1170” will continue to carry “Don’t Hassle Us We’re Local” from 12 to 2 p.m., which the station says is the only local sports talk show in the market. “ESPN 1170” competes with iHeartMedia’s “FOX Sports 1230” (WFXNMoline).
1170 has a construction permit for new 250-Watt FM translator K281DB/104.1.
1170, using the KJOC callsign, had carried ESPN for a decade in the late `90s and early 2000’s before flipping to Talk, then Oldies, and then briefly back to Sports before going to Classic Country. (The KBOB callsign was previously used on two Country-formatted FM stations.)
Meanwhile, 93.5 had carried Rock formats under the names “The Planet” and “Rock 93” during the same era that 1170 carried ESPN.
Townsquare’s other Quad Cities stations include heritage Classic Rocker “97X” (WXLP/96.9 Moline), Contemporary Hits outlet “B100” (KBEA/99.7 Muscatine), and Classic Hits station KIIK-FM/104.9 (De Witt). (9/1/2019)
Nexstar Stations Back on DirecTV in Time for NFL
A week before the start of the NFL season, Nexstar and DirecTV have resolved a blackout that affected 97 markets nationally for nearly two months. Nexstar stations had left DirecTV on Independence Day due to a retransmission consent dispute. The stations returned late on Thursday, Aug. 29.
The outage had affected stations in the following Iowa markets:
Davenport: WHBF-CBS and KGCW-CW
Des Moines: WOI-ABC and KCWI-CW
Sioux City: KCAU-ABC
oth companies issued statements saying the regret the inconvenience to customers. A handful of stations owned by other companies remain off DirecTV, including Cedar Rapids FOX affiliate KFXA/28. (8/30/2019)
Powell Launches Online Christian Station for NW Iowa
Powell Broadcasting, which operates six broadcast radio stations in northwestern Iowa, has launched an online Contemporary Christian station.
“Spirit 712” is named after the region’s area code and is based out of Le Mars, targeting a region from Sioux City to Sheldon. Even though numerous similar music streams are already available online, the station says that it’s providing local weather, announcements, and other information to make the format unique to northwestern Iowa.
The station streams through a website, mobile apps, and Alexa.
Powell’s other stations in the region include “Classic Rock 99.5” (KKMA Le Mars-Sioux City), “Y Country 101.3” (KKYY Whiting-Sioux City), Hot Adult Contemporary station “Q102” (KQNU/102.1 Onawa-Sioux City), Country outlet “K-Sioux 105.7” (KSUX Winnebago-Sioux City), News/Talker KSCJ/1360 (Sioux City), and full service outlet KLEM/1410 (Le Mars). The AM stations also have FM translators. (8/24/2019)
For the Record: Recent TV Frequency Changes
Here is a roundup of several recent RF channel changes that were made as a result of the FCC’s spectrum auction repack. The industry and regulators have wisely branded these “frequency changes” to avoid viewer confusion, since the stations continue to be seen on the same virtual channel numbers due to PSIP.
KMTV/3.1 (Omaha) moved from 45 to 31
KXVO/15.1 (Omaha) moved from 38 to 29
KPTM/42.1 (Omaha) moved from 43 to 26 (8/19/2019)
FCC Approves Upgrade for Des Moines-Area Christian FM
The FCC has approved an upgrade that will improve the Des Moines signal of Contemporary Christian station “Life 107.1” (KNWI Osceola).
KNWI and the commercial formats that preceded it have long targeted listeners in Des Moines, though the station’s 30kW/193m (class C2) facility does not deliver a city-grade (70 dbu) or protected (60 dbu) signal to the capital city. It’s owned by the University of Northwestern-St. Paul.
Now, the station has received a construction permit to upgrade to 100kW/299m (class C1) from a new tower near Lorimar. With the change, KNWI will retain its current coverage area while improving its signal to Des Moines and areas west of the city.
107.1 can’t move any closer than that to Des Moines because it’s only two steps on the dial away from KKDM/107.5.
The new facility will still not deliver a city-grade signal to Des Moines, but the city will be within its 60 dbu contour. That means it will generally be receivable on most radios in the city, but still a bit weaker than other stations.
To upgrade KNWI, UNW Media Holdings bought KDSN-FM/107.1 (Denison) and applied to move KDSN-FM to 104.9, where it will retain its 6kW signal and current coverage area. The KDSN-FM and KNWI moves were granted simultaneously on August 9.
(UNW also bought KDSN/1530 and sold the combo to Crawford County Broadcasting after the KDSN-FM frequency change application was filed.) KNWI has always been unusual among Northwestern’s stations in that it isn’t a major core-market signal like the university’s longtime stations in Waterloo, Madison, Minneapolis, Fargo, and Sioux Falls and its recently-added stations in Omaha and Kansas City. (Also unusual about Des Moines is that it hasn’t had a core 100kW Christian station since KDMI-FM/97.3 went Country in 1993.) KNWI’s programming is simulcast on KNWM/96.1 (Madrid), which rimshots Des Moines and Ames. Though the two station’s signals will have more overlap after the upgrade, KNWM will still have a stronger signal to Ames. (8/12/2019)
Grain Elevator Demolition, Brush Clearing Accident Among Reasons for July FCC Filings
Everything from the spectrum auction repack to the demolition of a grain elevator to a brush clearing accident are being cited as reasons for stations seeking special temporary authority from the FCC in the past month. According to filings:
The FCC denied a request from Panther Communications’ KWIA/100.9 (Newell, IA) to transmit with 1.9kW/69m from a tower east of Storm Lake under special temporary authority. In a letter, Audio Division Senior Engineer Dale Bickel said the proposed facilities require the filing and grant of a construction permit application rather than an STA request. KWIA had said in a filing last year that its licensed transmitter site is no longer available, and the FCC says the station is apparently off the air.
KZLW/90.1 (Gretna, NE) went silent July 19 while new owner My Bridge Radio looks for a new tower site. KZLW had previously transmitted with 100kW from a tower near Wahoo that is 120 feet tall, which is much shorter than towers normally used by stations with such high power.
My Bridge Radio’s K257GW/98.3 (Nebraska City, NE) went silent July 18 while it awaits delivery and installation of a new antenna. The station’s most recent transmitter site is midway between Nebraska City and Omaha, and it has a construction permit to move another step closer to Omaha. (8/5/2019)
Longtime Eastern Iowa TV Anchor to Retire
Longtime KCRG-TV9 news anchor Bruce Aune has announced plans to retire next year.
On Monday, Aune told viewers that he and his wife Darcy made the decision after celebrating his 70th birthday and realizing that the end of his current contract in March would be the perfect time to retire.
“Darcy and I plan to spend a lot more time together. We want to do more volunteering, mission trips and other traveling, and much more,” he said. Aune has been with KCRG since 1986 and has anchored the 5, 6, and 10 p.m. newscasts the entire time. He’s interviewed three sitting presidents, reported from China, Japan, and Russia, and covered numerous Iowa Caucuses and major events such as the massive 2008 Cedar Rapids flood.
Your reporter was privileged to work with Bruce as the producer of KCRG-TV9 News at 10 with for a few years in the mid-2000’s. Bruce is an unflappable anchor who wouldn’t miss a beat even when his producer threw in an obscure name or was late writing scripts. A native of Brainerd, Minn., Aune got his start at KLIZ radio 52 years ago. After serving in the Army, he moved to TV and worked at four stations before joining KCRG, an ABC affiliate now owned by Gray TV. Aune said he and his wife plan to do more traveling and mission work. His last newscast will be on March 6, 2020.
Aune also worked at KIMT Mason City-Rochester in the 1980s. (7/15/2019)
Tropo or E-Skip? Now’s the Time to Listen for Distant FM Signals
This is the time of year when distant signals start to fill up the FM dial. Most of these distant signals are brought in by troposphere-enhanced reception, but some are caused by E-skip. What’s the difference?
Type, Distance, Duration, Cause Tropo Hundreds of miles Many hours Temperature inversion in the troposphere E-skip Thousands of miles Minutes to hours Ionization in the E layer Meteor scatter Thousands of miles Milliseconds to seconds Meteor trail On the FM and TV bands, the most common type of long-distance reception is tropospheric ducting, usually just called “tropo” by DX’ers (people who seek out distant signals).
It happens when a temperature inversion in the troposphere (the lowest layer of the atmosphere) helps FM/TV signals travel farther than normal. Hot, muggy summertime weather usually means great tropo reception. Distant stations may fade in and out but generally will come in for hours or even days.
Troposphere-enhanced reception is more noticeable in rural areas with few strong local signals. The enhanced reception will strengthen stations that usually come in weakly and also bring in stations from farther away that can’t usually be heard. Tropo is most intense during the summer but can actually happen at any time of year. It can affect FM and TV, both VHF and UHF.
The more exciting, and rarer, type of long-distance FM/TV reception is E-skip. This type of reception is less predictable because it’s not directly tied to the weather; instead, it’s caused by ionization of the E layer of the atmosphere, which sometimes happens in the summer during the midday, afternoon, and sometimes evening.
(I should note that so far this year, I have not personally observed any E-Skip but have seen a few other reports of E-Skip reaching the Upper Midwest.) During an E-skip event, listeners will hear FM stations from another part of the continent fading in and out very quickly. At their peak, the signals can be so strong that they sound like a local station and will even stop on “scan” on your car radio – but then disappear within seconds.
During a stronger event, the same station may fade in and out for hours. Often, multiple stations will mix on the same frequency. Here is an example recorded in Cedar Rapids in 2005, when a Las Vegas station was mixing with an unidentified station (with additional splatter from an adjacent regional station):
Note how it sounds as if someone is moving an antenna back and forth, or as if you’re driving down the highway and the stations are competing. In fact, this was recorded with a stationary radio and antenna – it was actually variations in the E layer ionization that were causing the stations to switch back and forth. Listening to the atmosphere – kind of cool, right?
No special type of receiver or antenna is required to hear distant stations, though a better radio and bigger antenna will always help. Car radios (while stationary) are usually your best bet. Tune to a frequency that doesn’t have a local station and see if you hear something unusual. (You can use a site like Radio-Locator to find out what stations are considered normal for your area.)
Besides FM, E-skip can also affect the VHF Low TV band (channels 2-6). However, the transition to digital broadcasting limited this phenomenon greatly, partly because digital TV signals are harder to decode when they’re rapidly fading in and out. But more importantly, there are now far fewer stations transmitting on channels 2-6 in the United States because almost all VHF Low TV stations moved to VHF High or UHF during the digital transition (but continue to identify as channel 2-6 through PSIP renumbering). There are still analog stations on VHF Low in Mexico, Cuba, and rural parts of Canada. DX’ers are still receiving these stations via E-skip, along with the few digital VHF Low stations that are on the air in the U.S.
Meteor scatter is somewhat similar to e-skip in the distance of reception, but is much shorter in duration – often it’s literally only a few milliseconds. Some DX’ers using software-defined radios are able to identify these stations using RBDS data. (A similar phenomenon can sometimes be heard when a plane is flying overhead, but instead of stations from thousands of miles away, you’d only be getting enhanced regional reception due to the sharper angle of the signal path.) It’s important to understand that the AM and FM radio bands work very differently because of their different wavelengths. I’ll talk about distant AM reception in a future article. For more information on FM and TV DX’ing, check the World TV/FM DX Association and the Wikipedia article on TV and FM DX. (7/11/2019)
FCC Approves Large Upgrade for Iowa FM
The FCC has approved a large upgrade for VCY America’s KVCI/89.7 (Montezuma). KVCI currently transmits with 3.1kW/103m (class A) and has received a construction permit to move its transmitter to a site near Bussey, using 100kW/151m (class C1). The upgrade will give KVCI a strong signal to Knoxville, Pella, and Oskaloosa and a rimshot signal to Newton.
Des Moines would be just outside of its protected coverage area, and a translator is already using the frequency in the capital city. KVCI had applied for identical facilities in 2017, but the FCC dismissed the application the following year for failure to prosecute. VCY is a Milwaukee-based Christian and talk network. This story was originally posted on June 12 and updated with news of FCC approval on July 9. (7/9/2019)
Coloff Wins Auction for New FM Signal in Waterloo
Coloff Media has won an FCC auction for a new FM signal in Waterloo. Coloff was the only bidder for the FM translator at 101.5 in FCC Auction 100, which resolved competing applications for new translators to relay AM stations. NRG Media was also qualified to participate in the auction but did not submit a bid, so Coloff won with the starting bid of $10,000. The 250-Watt translator will relay Coloff’s KCFI/1250 (Cedar Falls), which carries a “Cruisin'” Oldies format.
KCFI is already relayed on K286CI/105.1, which could potentially be switched to relay another station after 101.5 launches. Coloff’s other stations in the Waterloo market are “93.5 The Mix” (KCVM Hudson), “Corn Country” (K293CH/106.5 and KCVM-HD2), and “1650 The Fan” (KCNZ Cedar Falls). KCNZ has a construction permit to launch FM translator K272GA/102.3 (Waterloo), so Coloff will have a total of five FM signals in the market once the two new translators are launched. NRG had applied for 101.5 to relay KPTY/1330 (Waterloo), which is also relayed on K297BS/107.3 (Waterloo). (7/7/2019)
Nexstar Stations Off DirecTV
Thousands of DirecTV customers lost access to one or more of their local network affiliates on Independence Day due to a retransmission consent dispute between the satellite provider and Nexstar Media Group.
The dispute affects 97 markets nationally, including three markets in Iowa:
Davenport: WHBF-CBS and KGCW-CW
Des Moines: WOI-ABC and KCWI-CW
Sioux City: KCAU-ABC
Nexstar says DirecTV turned down an unconditional offer of an extension until August 2. DirecTV says Nexstar is demanding a fee increase that’s larger than it’s willing to pay. The outage comes just over a month after AT&T/DirectTV integrated nonprofit local station streamer Locast into its platforms and a week after AT&T announced a $500,000 donation to Locast. The streamer serves the Rapid City and Sioux Falls markets, but not other parts of the Upper Midwest. (7/4/2019)
Northeastern Iowa Radio Group Buys Competitor
The owner of several northeastern Iowa radio stations is adding two more stations to the group. Wennes Communications Stations announced Wednesday that it will buy “DC100.5” (KDEC-FM Decorah) and KDEC/1240 (Decorah) from Bob and Colleen Holtan’s Decorah Broadcasting. The deal also includes the construction permit for K235CT/94.9 (Decorah), which will relay KDEC. “DC100.5” carries an Adult Alternative format, which would be unusual for a small town except for the fact that Decorah is home to Luther College. The AM station carries Oldies and shares time with Luther’s KWLC/1240. Wennes’ existing stations include Classic Hits-formatted KVIK/104.7 (Decorah), “Bluff Country 103.5” (KNEI-FM Waukon), and Adult Contemporary outlet “99.1 The River” (KMRV/1160 Waukon and K256CS Waukon). The purchase price has not been announced. A press release said no staff changes are planned. “By combining talent, services, and excellent equipment, the overall sound and delivery of music, news, sports and informational programming will be taken to the next quality level of excellence and effectiveness,” President and majority owner Greg Wennes said in a news release. The Holtans retain a minority interest in a pair of radio stations in Marshalltown. KDEC and KWLC are in one of the last AM time-sharing arrangements in the nation. KDEC uses the frequency during the day on weekdays, while KWLC is on the air weekday evenings and on the weekend. KWLC’s license dates to 1926 and KDEC was licensed in 1947 after KWLC reduced its broadcast schedule. Five years ago, the FCC granted Luther a construction permit for a low-power FM station that would have replaced KWLC, but the station was not built by the 2017 deadline. FCC rules may allow KDEC to continue originating programming on its new FM translator signal even when KWLC is using the AM frequency. KNEI-FM recently applied for a construction permit to move its transmitter just north of the Iowa-Minnesota border. It would remain a class C2 facility (using 26kW at 210m above average terrain) but would rimshot La Crosse while retaining coverage of Waukon and Decorah. (7/3/2019)
Des Moines FOX Affiliate Returns to Air
Des Moines FOX affiliate KDSM/17 has returned to the air on its own transmitter a month after a contractor died in a fall at its tower site near Alleman. The Sinclair Broadcast Group FOX station’s programming had been simulcast on channel 13.3 of Tribune’s WHO-DT since late May. Social media posts indicate channel 17.1 returned to the air over the weekend and a simulcast on 13.3 ended Monday. KDSM had gone off the air May 17 due to problems with its transmission line. On May 22, 47-year-old PCI Communications employee Kevin D. Wright died in a fall from the tower. Wright reportedly fell from about 1,000 feet up the 2,000-foot structure, which is owned by American Tower. From Fox 17's Facebook page: KDSM FOX 17 (on Saturday) KDSM-FOX 17 is now available on 17.1. If you receive FOX 17’s broadcast signal over the air, please rescan your tv. Beginning Monday, July 1, we will no longer be broadcasting on 13.3 as this channel will return to Antenna tv. If you rescan your tv and find that it’s still not coming in, please follow these steps: 1. Unplug your digital antenna. 2. Scan the tv (this will clear the scanned memory). 3. Plug antenna back in and rescan the tv. Thank you for your viewership. From WHO's Facebook page: As of about 8:00 a.m. this morning, AntennaTV is BACK on the air on WHO 13.3...Mediacom Digital 114. KDSM Fox 17 is back on channel 17 after making final repairs on their transmission line late last week and testing over the weekend without incident. So...all channels are back where they belong. Thank you for your patience. (7/2/2019)
CBS to Launch Lifestyle Network Featuring Martha, Emeril Reruns
CBS is building its first fully-owned subchannel network with the launch of a new lifestyle channel “Dabl” on Sept. 9. According to a news release provided to national trade publications, Dabl will draw on the libraries of Martha Stewart and Emeril Lagasse. Besides cooking shows, the network will also carry home renovation, travel, and other lifestyle programming. The only other broadcast network currently in the lifestyle space is the non-commercial Create network carried on PBS subchannels. CBS will carry Dabl on subchannels of its owned-and-operated stations, which include WCCO/4 (Minneapolis). Variety reports that the network will pay for carriage in some non-CBS markets and offer a revenue share in others. CBS O&O stations also carry the Start TV network, which is owned by Weigel Broadcasting. CBS and Weigel had co-owned the Decades network when it first launched, but CBS stations later dropped the network. (6/18/2019)
Iowa FM Reapplies for Large Upgrade
VCY America’s KVCI/89.7 (Montezuma) has again applied for a large upgrade. The station currently transmits with 3.1kW/103m (class A) and has applied to move its transmitter to a site near Bussey, using 100kW/151m (class C1). The proposed upgrade would give KVCI a strong signal to Knoxville, Pella, and Oskaloosa and a rimshot signal to Newton. Des Moines would be just outside of its protected coverage area, and a translator is already using the frequency in the capital city. KVCI had applied for identical facilities in 2017, but the FCC dismissed the application the following year for failure to prosecute. VCY is a Milwaukee-based Christian and talk network. (6/12/2019)
Cedar Rapids FOX Affiliate Off DirecTV
A retransmission consent dispute has taken FOX 28 (KFXA Cedar Rapids) off DirecTV. KFXA is licensed to Second Generation of Iowa but operated by Sinclair Broadcast Group, which bought KFXA’s non-license assets 11 years ago. FOX 28 is operated alongside Sinclair CBS affiliate KGAN/2. The retransmission consent agreement between the two companies expired May 31. The agreement had been extended after originally expiring March 31. In tradition with the Kabuki theater theme for such disputes, each side blames the other: A statement posted on the KGAN/KFXA website says DirecTV “unilaterally decided to discontinue carriage” of KFXA and suggested that viewers consider another provider. Meanwhile, DirecTV put up a slate on channel 28 saying that “the owner of this channel has removed it.” The slate directs viewers to a website that says KFXA is seeking a “substantial fee increase.” Federal law allows stations to either opt for must-carry status (mandatory carriage without payment) or retransmission consent (carriage with payment). Since KFXA opted for retransmission consent, both sides must agree in order for the station to be carried. Broadcasting and Cable reported that a total of 17 stations owned by small companies are currently off DirecTV due to retransmission consent disputes. (6/3/2019)
Bryce Caldwell has been named VP & GM of KTTC Rochester.
(Courtesy: Quincy Media) KTTC Hires New GM
For the second time this year, Quincy Media’s KTTC (Rochester) has hired a new vice president and general manager. The company announced Friday that Bryce Caldwell will take over the position on June 24. Caldwell most recently served as the VP/GM of the FOX affiliate in Knoxville, Tennessee, and has also worked in management and sales in Nashville and Orlando. “We’ll be working hard to continue and enhance the leadership reputation of KTTC and our full product portfolio in serving Rochester’s vibrant and growing community. I believe strongly in local television’s role in delivering independent journalism, market leading weather coverage, quality content, and meaningful community involvement,” Caldwell said in a news release. Caldwell replaces Marvin Rhodes, who started at KTTC in January. The Rochester Post-Bulletin reported in March that Rhodes was no longer with the station. KTTC is an NBC affiliate and also runs SagamoreHill Broadcasting’s FOX 47 (KXLT). (6/3/2019)
KPTH Fox 44 celebrates 20 years on air
KPTH 20th anniversary KPTH FOX 44 is celebrating its 20th anniversary. Siouxland News spoke with past and present employees to take a look back at the last 20 years. Cherokee native Jacki Schmillen is one of the most memorable personalities in the history of KPTH right along with Homer Simpson, Al Bundy, and Simon Cowell with his merry band of talent judges. But none of that would have been possible in Siouxland if it hadn't been for a 2,000 ft tower built near Hinton. A transmitter high in the air that began sending out the FOX 44 signal on Mother's Day, May 9th of 1999. "I was really surprised they'd start a new station considering the other three had been here so long,” said Salesman Mark Dorcey. Dorcey, actually began working at the station, which was located in a South Sioux City mini-mall, before it went on the air. "And I didn't even realize when we started that we weren't going to have news. I was almost shocked, you can't have a TV station without news, Dorcey said. "You realized you were part of something a little bit different." Longtime creative services director Matt Rixner remembers the excitement. "This was kind of a scrappy upstart and that was kind of a cool feeling." "We made the station number one in being involved whether it was parades, or county fairs, or non-profits or any festival that was happening. We wanted to make sure we were there," said Jackie Schmillen. The station even teamed with Knoepfler Chevrolet to give away a new car to one of fifty entrants. "And the very first person who got a key, the car started!" KPTH also launched "Siouxland Idol", seeking talented singers from across the area who'd have a chance to appear on the big show. In 2008 during season 7, Sergeant Bluff teen Katie Admire made it all the way to Hollywood. "So, to see that talent just flourish and explode, especially on the national scene. What a treasure that we were able to do that with KPTH FOX 44." A 2005 merger with KMEG 14 and a move to Dakota Dunes added to the momentum. By October 9th of 2006, during the World Series, Siouxland got its first and only prime time newscast on FOX 44, and it had an instant impact. "We felt we had something good. But we didn't realize how much people wanted a 9 o'clock news," said Matt Rixner. The 9 o'clock news, and FOX 44 has undergone changes and expansion since 2006. Twenty years since we went on the air we look forward to serving you, our viewers, for the next 20 years! (5/28/2019)
New FM Signals in Rochester, Minnesota
New 250-Watt FM signals are on the air on Rochester, Minnesota. The translators were granted during the FCC’s AM Revitalization filing windows: iHeartMedia signed on K228FY/93.5 (Rochester), relaying “The Fan” Sports format from KFAN/1270. The FM signal began broadcasting in late April. K228FY’s sign-on comes about a month after Townsquare Media News/Talker KROC/1340 (Rochester) signed on K245CX/96.9. (5/24/2019)
Preston, MN (Austin/Rochester)
Southern Minnesota AM Station Back on Air
Townsquare Media’s KFIL/1060 (Preston) has returned to the air at reduced power following an April lightning strike. FCC filings indicate KFIL went off the air April 11 due to extensive lightning damage. The station said in its initial request for special temporary authority to remain silent that its antenna tuning unit and transmission line suffered extensive damage. A subsequent filing on May 23 says the station has been able to return to the air at about half of its normal 1kW daytime power. Repairs are underway to resume full-power operations. The daytimer relays KFIL-FM/103.1 (Chatfield). This item was originally posted May 22 and updated May 24. (5/24/2019)
Update: Des Moines FOX Affiliate Returns on NBC Subchannel
A day after a contractor was killed in a fall while trying to return Des Moines FOX affiliate KDSM to the air, the station’s programming has been moved to a subchannel of another station. Tribune Broadcasting NBC affiliate WHO-TV announced Wednesday that it had begun temporarily carrying the programming of KDSM, owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group, on channel 13.3. The move displaces both Antenna TV on 13.3 and This TV on 13.4. The two stations already had a relationship since WHO produces KDSM’s 9 p.m. newscast. KDSM had still been available on Mediacom cable since it went off the air last week due to a transmission problem, but DISH Network and DirecTV had been unable to carry the station since they receive its signal over the air. Posts on the station’s Facebook page indicate KDSM went off the air last Friday, May 17, and engineers found the problems to be bigger than they first expected. They learned that there had been a “catastrophic burn-out of the station’s transmission line.” A contractor, whose name has not been released, died Wednesday, May 22, after reportedly falling from about 1,000 feet up the 2,000-foot tower near Alleman. The station had made this post to Facebook a day before the fatality: KDSM FOX 17 Tower Update 5/21: Getting back on DirectTV, Dish and over the air continues to be our goal since we had the tower disruption late last week. The specific damage (for viewers that inquired) is due to a catastrophic burn-out of the station’s transmission line on the tower. Keeping our crew safe is also a top priority. Due to strong winds and predicted rain this afternoon, we will not be able to repair the tower today, as it is too dangerous to send the crew up to make the final repair. The weather forecast is expected to be better tomorrow except we could still have high winds. If the weather allows for the crew to safely go up the tower tomorrow, we expect to be back on the air sometime Wednesday afternoon. The KDSM FOX 17 tower is the highest priority tower of all the stations within our company and we are doing everything possible to get this fixed quickly and safely. We appreciate your patience and understanding during this outage This item was originally posted on May 21 and updated May 23. (5/24/2019)
The FCC has dismissed a northwestern Iowa station’s request for a temporary facility, alleging that the specified tower site is in the middle of a street. The application from Panther Communications’ KWIA/100.9 (Newell) requested special temporary authority to transmit from downtown Newell with 25 Watts, saying that the station’s licensed transmitter site elsewhere in Newell is no longer available to the licensee. Audio Division Senior Engineer Dale Bickel dismissed the application in a May 14 letter, saying: “The coordinates specified in the application map to the center of S. Fulton Street, just north of 3rd Street. It is obvious that no antenna supporting structure can be erected there, and no explanation by the licensee of what is intended has been supplied in the STA request. “ Last December, the FCC rejected a different proposed temporary facility for KWIA because it would have transmitted from Storm Lake and not provided a strong enough signal to Newell. The latest letter noted that KWIA has presumably been off the air since at least December since the filings said the licensed tower site is no longer available. KWIA was first licensed in 2015 with a 100-Watt facility. As a class A station, it could potentially be upgraded to 6kW to reach Storm Lake. (5/23/2019)
Preston, MN (Austin/Rochester)
Lightning Silences Southern Minnesota AM Station
Townsquare Media’s KFIL/1060 (Preston) went off the air April 11 due to extensive lightning damage. The station says, in a request for special temporary authority to remain silent filed with the FCC, that antenna tuning unit and transmission line suffered extensive damage. It wasn’t known at the time of the filing whether the transmitter had been damaged as well. The 1kW daytimer relays KFIL-FM/103.1 (Chatfield).(5/22/2019)
Contractor Dies in Fall from Iowa TV Tower A contractor has died after falling from a central Iowa TV tower.
KDSM (Des Moines) confirmed the death at its transmitter site near Alleman in a post on its Facebook page: KDSM FOX 17 has been made aware of the tragic event that occurred at the tower site where KDSM’s antenna is located. A contractor was working on repairs to KDSM’s antenna when he fell and was fatally injured. At this time, no other details have been made available. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family. As previously reported, KDSM has been off the air since last week due to a transmission line problem and the station had said Tuesday that workers were unable to climb the tower that day due to weather conditions. KCCI-TV quoted a Polk County Sheriff’s lieutenant in reporting that the contractor, who worked for PCI Communications, fell from about of 1,000 feet up the tower. KDSM is owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group, while the 2,000-foot tower is owned by American Tower. (5/22/2019)
Iowa City/Cedar Rapids/Waterloo:
After just three months as an owned-and-operated Azteca America affiliate, HC2 Broadcasting's KWKB/20.1 (Iowa City-Cedar Rapids) has switched its primary affiliation to Escape. The female-oriented network of movies and crime dramas is predominately carried on subchannels in other markets. Additionally, KWKB moved Light TV from 20.2 to 20.5 and added Laff on 20.2, Grit on 20.3, Bounce on 20.4, and infomercials on 20.6. DT1 is 720 HD, while DT2-DT4 are in 480 widescreen and DT5-DT6 are 480 4:3. KWKB transmits from West Branch, providing broadcast coverage to Iowa City, Cedar Rapids, and the Quad Cities, with cable carriage of its primary channel in Waterloo and Dubuque. (5/6/2019)
Quincy Media has added 20 new subchannels in Iowa and Minnesota markets. In addition to the Court TV reported earlier, Quincy has also added Justice Network on the DT5 signals of KWWL (Waterloo), and KTTC (Rochester). Additionally, KXLT (Rochester) added Laff on DT3, Escape on DT4, and Quest on DT5, and KTIV (Sioux City) is now carrying ION on its DT5 channel. (5/2/2019)
Oelwein/Waterloo, IA/Rochester, MN:
Several Upper Midwest FM stations have recently requested special temporary authority from the FCC to operate at reduced power due to facility issues: Townsquare Media's "Q92.3" (KKHQ Oelwein-Waterloo) is operating at 50 percent of its usual 100kW while the station waits for the arrival of a transmitter retrofit. The station transmits from Oelwein, which is about 25 miles northeast of Waterloo. Townsquare Media's KROC-FM/106.9 (Rochester) is operating at 20 percent of its usual 100kW due to an issue with its transmission line and antenna. KROC-FM transmits from the KTTC(TV) tower near Ostrander, about 30 miles south of Rochester, and is relayed on K293CV/106.5 (Rochester). (4/30/2019)
Des Moines/Sioux City/Waterloo/Mason City, IA/Rochester, MN:
Court TV has announced its founding affiliate roster, which includes more than a dozen Upper Midwest stations. The broadcast network, a revival of the former cable channel, launches May 8 on most stations. The network's website lists the following affiliates:
Des Moines, IA: WHO/13.4, which currently carries ThisTV, beginning in November
Sioux City, IA: KTIV/4.4
Waterloo, IA: KWWL/7.4
Rochester, MN/Mason City, IA: KTTC/10.4 (4/25/2019)
Three Upper Midwest stations won National Association of Broadcasters Crystal Radio Awards at the NAB's annual convention in Las Vegas. The region's winners include Iowa stations Fieldview Broadcasting's KWBG/1590 (Boone, IA), and Coloff Media's "Mix 93.5" (KCVM Cedar Falls-Waterloo). The stations were among ten winners nationally, chosen from a pool of 50 finalists, for the award that recognizes "outstanding year-round commitment to community service." (4/9/2019)
Walnut Radio's "Boomer Radio" Oldies format in Omaha has added a fifth signal: KOTK/1420 (Omaha), which has dropped Conservative Talk. "Boomer" is also heard on KOBM/1490 (Omaha), two FM translators, and a full-power FM signal just north of the metro. KOTK and KOBM have essentially the same coverage areas, but the simulcast could potentially allow Walnut to provide some separate programming on Boomer's two FM translators (K233CO/94.5 and K281CJ/104.1) by designating each as a translator of the separate AM signals. (K233CO had relayed KOTK's previous Conservative Talk format until it switched to "Boomer" in November.) KOTK's previous lineup, known as "The Answer," had included Hugh Hewitt, Mike Gallagher, Dennis Prager, and Michael Medved. (3/31/2019)
Townsquare Media has signed on K245CX/96.9 (Rochester) relaying the Talk format of KROC/1340. The new translator launched at 11 a.m. Thursday, March 28, with KROC's local hour. Its syndicated lineup includes Mike Gallagher, Clark Howard, and Sean Hannity. The 250-Watt translator was obtained during an AM revitalization filing window. (3/29/2019)
Davenport/Quad Cities/Ames/Des Moines:
Tegna is entering Iowa with the purchase of spinoffs from the Nexstar-Tribune merger in two markets: Tribune ABC affiliate WQAD/8 (Moline-Quad Cities), Nexstar ABC affiliate WOI-DT/5 (Ames-Des Moines), and Nexstar CW affiliate KCWI/23 (Ames-Des Moines). The stations are part of a $740 million deal that includes 11 stations in eight markets nationally. Separately, Nexstar is selling eight stations in seven markets (none in the Upper Midwest) to Scripps for $580 million. For Iowa, the move represents a splitup of Nexstar and Tribune's current holdings: The new Nexstar will retain Tribune NBC affiliate WHO-DT/13 (Des Moines) and Nexstar CBS affiliate WHBF/4 (Rock Island-Quad Cities), which also operates FOX affiliate KLJB/18 (Davenport). Tegna is known for competitive operations nationally and could bring a new level of competition to the two markets, battling with Nexstar's stations in both markets along with Hearst CBS affiliate KCCI/8 (Des Moines) and Gray NBC affiliate KWQC/6 (Davenport). Tegna's press release quotes CEO Dave Lougee as calling the stations "an excellent strategic and financial fit" and refers to key markets ahead of the 2020 presidential election. Tegna does not have any other stations in Iowa, but does own NBC affiliates KARE/11 (Minneapolis) and KSDK/5 (St. Louis). Nationally, Nexstar is keeping Tribune's WGN-TV (Chicago) and KTLA (Los Angeles), but is selling WPIX (New York) to Scripps. (3/20/2019)
Family Radio has dropped plans for an FM translator in Omaha. The Christian radio network had received a construction permit for K239CO/95.7, which would have used just 2 Watts, relaying programming from KYFR/920 (Shenandoah, IA) to a small part of southern Omaha. No reason for the decision is listed in public FCC records, but it appears the station was facing its deadline to sign on. A low-power FM station serves a different part of Omaha on the same frequency. (3/7/2019)
The FCC has approved a plan for Walnut Radio's KOBM/1490 (Omaha) to co-locate its transmitter with new sister station KCRO/660, leaving its longtime home in the Midtown/Hanscom Park neighborhood. FCC records indicate KOBM's current tower, located in a residential area, is 70 years old. The KCRO site is six miles to the northwest. At its current site, KOBM uses 1kW nondirectional day and night, which is standard for class C AM stations; at the KCRO site, KOBM will continue to use 1kW during the day but will drop to 240 Watts at night. KOBM serves as the flagship for the "Boomer" Oldies format, which is relayed on several FM signals. (3/7/2019)
Gray TV's KCRG-TV (Cedar Rapids) has added two new subchannels, H&I on 9.4 and Start TV on 9.5. Several other Gray stations have also added the channels in recent months. The station says the channels are also being carried by IMON cable, and that channel 9.2, which carries MyNetworkTV and local and syndicated programming, has been updated to HD. KCRG is a primary ABC affiliate and also carries Antenna TV on 9.3. (3/1/2019)
Iowa City/Cedar Rapids/Waterloo:
KWKB/20.1 (Iowa City-Cedar Rapids) has switched to Azteca America following its recent sale to HC2 Broadcasting. The change marks the first time that Spanish-language TV has been available over the air in eastern Iowa. KWKB has cable carriage across the Cedar Rapids-Waterloo-Dubuque market and its broadcast signal also reaches the Quad Cities. Under its previous ownership, KWKB had been affiliated with WB and then the CW, followed by ThisTV for the past several years. It continues to carry Light TV on 20.2. (2/22/2019)
Coloff Media has launched "Corn Country" on K293CH/106.5 (Waterloo) and the HD2 signal of KCVM/93.5 (Hudson-Waterloo). The 250-Watt translator signed on last fall with Christmas music. The "Corn Country" playlist includes some current songs and gold going back to the 1970's. Coloff also operates Adult Contemporary, Oldies, and Sports formats in the Waterloo market. (2/20/2019)
The broadcaster who's been operating "La Fiesta 97.1" in Sioux City since late 2017 is seeking FCC approval to buy the station outright. The application to transfer K246CJ/97.1 (Sioux City) and its AM originating station, KZOI/1250 (Dakota City, NE), from John Small's Cup O' Dirt, LLC to Joaquin Garza's La Fiesta 971, LLC was filed during the federal government shutdown and accepted for filing this week. The purchase price is $200,000, according to a document filed with the FCC. Garza's Fiesta Radio, LLC has been operating the stations under a time brokerage agreement since November 2017. (2/7/2019)
Omaha/Council Bluffs/Davenport(Quad Cities): Two more Gray TV stations have added Start TV subchannel network: WOWT (Omaha) and KWQC (Davenport) are both now carrying the network on channels 6.5. As already reported here, WOWT-DT3 switched to H&I last month and Gray's WBAY (Green Bay) added H&I and Start on its DT4 and DT5 channels last week. (2/5/2019)
Walnut Radio has received FCC permission to move two Omaha FM translators obtained during the AM revitalization filing windows. K293CJ/106.5, which relays the Christian Talk format of KCRO/660, has received a construction permit to move to Lincoln on 106.7 as K294DJ; 106.5 has already gone silent pending the move. Meanwhile, K281CJ/104.1, which relays the "Boomer" Oldies format from KOBM/1490, has received a construction permit to move to 106.5 and relocate to Council Bluffs. Moving east will reduce overlap with K233CO/94.5, which also relays KOBM in the western part of Omaha. The move will leave KCRO without an FM translator in Omaha unless another one is obtained. (2/1/2019)
RF CHANNEL CHANGES:
The following stations have recently changed RF broadcast channels due to the national spectrum auction repack, but likely remain on their former virtual channel numbers:
Dubuque, IA: KFXB/40.1 moved from RF 43 to RF 14. The Christian Television Network station serves remote parts of the Cedar Rapids and Madison markets. ,
Marshalltown, IA: KDAO-CD moved from RF 44 to RF 17.
Roseau, MN: Five translators owned by Roseau County recently moved to new channels, but programming information is not yet known.
Worthington, MN: KTTW-FOX translator K22HJ moved to channel 18 as K18MO. (1/17/2019)
A southern Minnesota TV general manager is moving to a station in another market. Quincy Media NBC affiliate KTTC/10 (Rochester) announced Friday that Marvin Rhodes has been hired as the station's GM; he will also oversee FOX 47 (KXLT), a SagamoreHill Broadcasting station which Quincy operates through a shared services agreement. Rhodes has worked at United Communications CBS/FOX affiliate KEYC/12 (Mankato) since 2013. (1/12/2019)
Antenna TV is off the air in Omaha after an affiliation change. At the start of the year, Gray TV's WOWT replaced Antenna with H&I on channel 6.3. The classic TV network had been seen on KMTV in 2015 before moving to WOWT in 2016. The network responded to a viewer comment on its Facebook page by saying that it's looking for a new Omaha affiliate. (1/7/2019)
NATIONAL: The non-commercial Air1 network has kicked off the new year with a new format, switching from Christian Hits to Worship music. The new playlist is kicking off with 10,000 songs in a row. Air1 is operated by the Educational Media Foundation, which also runs the larger K-Love Adult Contemporary Christian network. Air1's outlets include KXGM-FM/89.1 (Hiawatha-Cedar Rapids), & KAIP/88.9 (Wapello, IA). (1/1/2019)