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Iowa Public Radio Adjusts Weekend Lineup

Iowa Public Radio is adjusting its weekend lineup, adding Travel with Rick Steves and XPoNential Radio while it drops some other shows.

The changes begin Saturday, July 4. The network said in an email to members that it is making the changes after an analysis of audience data.

Rick Steves will air on Saturdays at 1 p.m. and Sundays at 7 p.m. on IPR News, which is heard on a statewide AM network and an FM translator in Ames. The addition is part of a schedule shuffle that includes dropping the TED Radio Hour and a Sunday repeat of Live From Here, which was recently cancelled nationally but still airs in reruns on Saturday afternoon on IPR News.

Meanwhile, IPR’s Studio One service, heard on the network’s largest FM signals, will make a change to its late Friday night programming. The Jazz Department will be dropped in favor of XPoNential Radio, an Adult Alternative service from Philadelphia’s WXPN.

XPoNential Radio will also run weekday afternoons on Studio One’s streaming service, when the terrestrial Studio One stations are simulcasting with the News network.

And IPR Classical, heard mostly on smaller FM signals, will drop From the Top and replace it with a repeat of Choral Tradition on Sundays at 7 p.m.

A complete rundown of the changes is posted on IPR’s website. (7/2/2020)


It’s tropo and E-skip season. What are they?

This article was originally posted in July 2019.

This is the time of year when distant signals start to fill up the FM dial. Check the normally-empty spots between your local stations and you may hear signals coming from hundreds of miles away.

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.

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.

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. Check this article from 2019 for information on distant AM reception.

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. (6/19/2019)


Nexstar Names New Quad Cities GMs


Nexstar Broadcasting has named J. Patrick Baldwin its new vice president and general manager for the Quad Cities market.

The group includes CBS affiliate WHBF/4 (Rock Island) and CW affiliate KGCW/26 (Burlington), and Nexstar also provides newscasts for FOX affiliate KLJB/18 (Davenport) through a shared services agreement. KLJB has a separate sales team and station manager.

Baldwin has more than three decades of experience in the industry and most recently served as VP and GM of the Sinclair ABC affiliate in Tulsa for 22 years. He immediately replaces Marshall Porter, who is retiring after 16 years in the position at WHBF.

“WHBF-TV and KGCW-TV have a rich legacy of dedicated local news and programming content and unparalleled service to the local communities of the Quad Cities region. I am excited to work alongside the exceptional staff at WHBF-TV and KGCW-TV and I am grateful to Nexstar for the opportunity to put my 35 years of experience to work while joining this dynamic company,” Baldwin said in a news release announcing his appointment. (5/17/2020)


Cedar Rapids Station Drops Nostalgia for Oldies


iHeartMedia’s KMJM/1360 (Cedar Rapids) has flipped to the `60s and `70s “Real Oldies” format, dropping Nostalgia.

KMJM retains the “Leo 1360” moniker from its previous format but the playlist is a departure from the Nostalgia tunes that the namesake of the station, the late Leo Greco, played on his “Variety Time” show on WMT/600 prior to his 2011 death. The “Leo” Nostalgia format had launched in October 2017.

KMJM is rebroadcast on K268CY/101.5, but the 30-Watt translator only reaches the far northeastern part of the metro area due to its location at the WMT transmitter site north of Marion. The translator is not mentioned in station imaging.

The new format does not have direct competition, with NRG Media Classic Hits outlet KOKZ/105.7 (Waterloo) and Sellers Broadcasting’s KMRY/1450 and K226BO/93.1 (Cedar Rapids) focusing on `80s hits.(5/6/2020)


“Planet,” Dave and Darren Return to Quad Cities Area


A radio moniker and a morning team are returning to the Quad Cities airwaves.

Virden Broadcasting’s KQCJ/93.9 (Cambridge, IL) dropped the “Jack FM” Variety Hits format on Wednesday in favor of Alternative as “Planet 93.9,” picking up the slogan that had been used by the former KORB/93.5 (Bettendorf, IA) in the late 1990’s.

The new format will reunite Dave Levora and Darren Pitra in morning drive.

Levora had been let go from another Quad Cities station as part of iHeartMedia budget cuts earlier this year. Levora writes on his new station’s website that station president Fletcher Ford gave him give the opportunity to build a radio station on his own terms.

“I told him I’d want to bring back the two brands I’d been a part of that I felt really resonated with listeners here in the Quad Cities. And the station would have to sound unlike anything else here or anywhere else,” Levora wrote.

KQCJ’s 4.2kW/120m (class A) signal provides good coverage to the eastern Quad Cities area. (4/23/2020)


Gray TV Launches National Late-Night Newscast


Gray TV has launched a late-night national newscast focusing on the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Full Court Press Now” is an extension of the Sunday morning public affairs program hosted by Greta Van Susteren. The half-hour nightly newscast is hosted by Van Susteren and Investigate TV’s Lee Zurik, featuring reporting from Gray’s dozens of stations around the country.

The newscast launched on April 6. Van Susteren is anchoring from home while Zurik is at his home station, WVUE in New Orleans.

The newscast runs live at 10:30 p.m. Central time on SBTV. It airs live at that time on some stations, and later at night on some “big three” network affiliates.

According to TV listings, Full Court Press Now airtimes are:

Cedar Rapids: 10:30 p.m. on KCRG-DT2 (Ind.) and 1:07 a.m. on KCRG (ABC)

Mankato: 10:30 p.m. on KEYC-DT2 (FOX)

Quad Cities: 1:07 a.m. on KWQC (NBC) (4/10/2010)


New TV Newscasts in Cedar Rapids


In Cedar Rapids, Gray TV’s KCRG-TV/9 has added an hour of news at 4 p.m. It’s the only newscast at that time in the market.

“KCRG-TV9 First News at 4” launched April 6, bringing the ABC affiliate up to six hours of local news each weekday. Former morning anchor Nicole Agee is co-anchoring the new hour with evening anchors Beth Malicki and Chris Earl.

Jay Greene has replaced Agee on the morning newscast. (4/7/2020)


Changes in Control at Radio Stations


In northwestern Iowa, Lakes Area Christian Radio is donating K257CH/99.3 (Estherville) to the University of Northwestern-St. Paul.

K257CH had previously carried the Christian Hits “Refuge” network via K210CG/89.9 (Spirit Lake, IA), which was owned by Refuge Media Group. The Refuge network was donated to UNWSP last year.

K210CG switched to UNWSP’s “Life 96.5” (KNWC-FM Sioux Falls, SD) following closing. (3/27//2020)


FCC Delays Next FM Auction Indefinitely


Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the FCC has postponed an auction of FM allotments that had been set to begin this spring.

FCC Auction 106 was to have begun April 28 and would have included allotments in the Mason City and Waterloo markets. (See the earlier report for more details.)

The FCC said the delay is necessary “in order to protect the health and safety of Commission staff” during the pandemic “and to allow parties additional time to prepare to participate.” A new date for the auction has not been announced.

“Many Americans have had to make tough decisions on how they do business in this rapidly changing environment, and the FCC is no different,” Chairman Ajit Pai said in a news release. “After consulting agency staff within the relevant Bureaus and Offices, we determined that it was in everyone’s best interest to make these changes.”

The commission also delayed an auction of 3.5 GHz spectrum, FCC Auction 105, until July.

The delay of the FM auction could give bidders more time to prepare for the expected economic downturn. The Iowa allotments are all in small or unrated markets where advertising revenue is limited. Once the auction is held, winning bidders will have three years to build their stations once construction permits are issued. (3/26/2019)


FOX Offers Free Streaming of KMSP, WITI, FN

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, FOX Corporation has removed sign-in requirements to view live online feeds of its owned-and-operated affiliates, as well as FOX News Channel.

Regional FOX O&O stations include KMSP/9 (Minneapolis) and WITI/6 (Milwaukee).

The stations and FNC can now be viewed through FOX.com and the FOX Now app without having to sign in to a cable or satellite provider. The local station feeds are separate from the free online streams of local newscasts.

Additionally, FOX News Channel is going into free preview mode for cable and satellite customers who don’t normally receive the channel, according to the announcement.

FOX News Channel appears to be the first major U.S. cable news network to drop sign-in requirements. Several Canadian networks took the same step last week. (3/19/2019)


Court TV Comes to Omaha

Scripps Broadcasting’s KMTV (Omaha) has added Court TV.

The network is now seen on KMTV’s channel 3.2 and Cox Cable channel 125.

The addition of Court TV bumped KMTV’s previous subchannels each down one position, with Laff now on 3.3 and Court TV Mystery (formerly Escape) now on 3.4.

KMTV is a primary CBS affiliate. (2/25/2020)
Tegna Names GM for its New Des Moines Stations

Tegna has named a former Univision executive as the new general manager of its ABC and CW affiliates in the Des Moines market.

David Loving will take over as the GM of WOI-TV/5 and KCWI/23 on March 2. Loving worked for Univision for 21 years, most recently as the general manager of the network’s Houston TV and radio stations.

Tegna acquired the stations last year as a spinoff from the Nexstar-Tribune merger. Nexstar had previously owned WOI/KCWI but instead decided to instead keep former Tribune NBC affiliate WHO-DT/13, which has long had higher ratings.

“David is a first-rate leader and innovator with a strong record of success, from launching new programs to providing outstanding service and solutions to clients,” said Lynn Beall, Tegna’s executive vice president and COO for media operations, in a news release. “His inclusive management style, proven ability to build and grow teams and commitment to the communities he’s served make him a perfect match for Des Moines.”

Loving and his wife Patty will be relocating to Des Moines from Houston.(2/21/2020)
Stations Report Tech Difficulties

Townsquare Media’s KJOC/93.5 (Bettendorf-Quad Cities) has been operating at half of its usual 6kW since early January due to a “major transmitter malfunction.”

Wennes Communications Stations’ KDEC/1240 (Decorah) is broadcasting from a temporary site after the site of its licensed facility is slated to be sold. The station normally uses 1kW and is temporarily broadcasting with 250 Watts from the site of sister station KVIK/104.7 (Decorah) while it seeks a permanent site. (2/18/2020)
Juan Launches on 2nd Northwest Iowa Station

Community First Broadcasting has brought the syndicated “Juan” Spanish Variety Hits format to a second northwestern Iowa market.

Community First Broadcasting’s KSOU/1090 and K268CZ/101.5 (Sioux Center) switched to Juan under the name “Sioux Ritmo” on Monday. The company’s KAYL/990 and K260BS/99.9 (Storm Lake) also carry “Juan.”

“Sioux Ritmo” replaces a Classic Hits format that had launched eight years ago on the AM station and a little over three years ago on the FM translator.

The station’s announcement of the new format says news, weather, and sports updates will be in English, but community calendar and school announcements will be in Spanish. General Manager Piet Westerbeek told the Sioux Center News that’s because Spanish speakers have told them that they want to hear some English as they learn the language.

Census data indicates about 8 percent of people in Sioux County speak Spanish at home. KSOU also has a fringe signal to Sioux Falls and Worthington, which both have significant Hispanic populations but no Spanish-language stations.

In Sioux Center, Community First also owns Adult Contemporary outlet KSOU-FM/93.9 and “Hawk Country 107” (KIHK/106.9 Rock Rapids). (2/6/2020)
Sinclair’s Cedar Rapids Stations Become “Iowa News Now”

Sinclair Broadcast Group has rebranded the newscasts on its CBS and FOX affiliates in Cedar Rapids as “Iowa’s News Now.”

KGAN and KFXA continue to brand as CBS2 and FOX 28 for other programming, but use the new branding within newscasts and online. Iowasnewsnow.com redirects to cbs2iowa.com (though a similar domain name, iowanewsnow.com, is owned by someone else).

The “News Now” branding has been adopted in numerous markets in recent years, including by Gray TV stations in Mankato and Sioux Falls within the past month. Gray owns a competing station in Cedar Rapids.

Sinclair owns KGAN and operates KFXA through an agreement with Second Generation of Iowa. (2/4/2020)
Gray TV’s Mankato Stations Rebrand Monday

Gray TV’s Mankato stations are poised to rebrand as “KEYC News Now” on Monday, Feb. 3, and add a newscast.

The stations include CBS affiliate KEYC/12.1, FOX affiliate KEYC/12.2, and NBC affiliate KMNF-LD/7.1, which goes by “KEYC NBC.” In announcing the rebrand, KEYC also reported that the NBC channel will add a 6:30 p.m. newscast hosted by Lauren Andrego.

Gray uses similar branding in other markets, including the recently-launched “Dakota News Now” in Sioux Falls.

Since its broadcast launch in November, KMNF has been added by DirecTV on channel 7 and by DISH Network on channel 11 in the four-county market. It replaced out-of-market NBC affiliate KARE (Minneapolis). (2/1/2020)
Hank Takes Over The Party in Waterloo

“Hank” has replaced “The Party” in Waterloo.

The Classic Country format has launched on K297BS/107.3 and KPTY/1330. The stations are owned by NRG Media, which has no other Country stations in the market.

“Hank” competes with Townsquare Media’s “K98.5” (KOEL-FM Cedar Falls-Waterloo) and Coloff Media’s “Corn Country” (K293CH/106.5 and KCVM-HD2), as well as the regional signal of Townsquare Farm/Classic Country outlet KOEL/950 (Oelwein).

The previous “Party” Contemporary Hits format had launched in 2015 with 107.3’s launch, competing primarily with Townsquare’s “Q92.3.” (1/31/2020)
Locast Adds Sioux City

Free non-profit online TV streaming service Locast has expanded to Sioux City as it fights a court battle with the major networks.

Locast’s website lists 20 channels now being carried in the Sioux City market. The list includes all of the market’s major commercial network affiliates and their subchannels as well as South Dakota Public Broadcasting, but not Iowa PBS.

The service is now offered in 17 cities, including the adjacent Sioux Falls market.

Locast restricts viewing of the stations it carries to the Designated Market Areas as assigned by Nielsen Media. The Sioux City market includes most of northwestern Iowa, parts of northeastern Nebraska, and one county in southeastern South Dakota.

The stations being carried are owned by Quincy Media, Nexstar, Sinclair Broadcast Group, and SDPB.

Locast contends that it does not need permission to stream TV signals under a provision in the 1976 Copyright Act allowing non-profit TV translator systems to relay stations without consent. The major networks filed a federal lawsuit alleging that “Locast is nothing like the local booster services contemplated by Congress in creating this narrow exemption.”

Though it does not charge a fee, Locast accepts donations, including a $500,000 donation from DirecTV owner AT&T last year. Both DirecTV and DISH Network have integrated Locast into some of their receivers, potentially allowing them to continue offering network affiliates in the event of a retransmission consent dispute.(1/24/2020)
Iowa Station to Receive Crystal Heritage Award

A Waterloo-market station is poised to receive the National Association of Broadcasters’ Crystal Heritage Award, which has been awarded to only eight other stations in its 33-year history.

Coloff Media’s “93.5 The Mix” (KCVM Cedar Falls) will receive the award in April at the NAB Show in Las Vegas. The award is given to stations that have won five Crystal Radio Awards, which honor exceptional year-round community service efforts.

“KCVM has served Cedar Falls for over 22 years and exemplifies radio’s strong connection and service to local communities,” said NAB’s Executive Vice President of Industry Affairs Steve Newberry in a news release. “This award commemorates KCVM and Coloff Media’s storied history of living up to their motto: Service to Listeners, Clients and Communities.”(1/22/2020)
FM Sign-On Creates Room for New Cedar Rapids Format

The sign-on of a Sports station’s new FM translator in Cedar Rapids is creating an opening for a new format on its old FM home.

KGYM/1600 is now being relayed on K272GB/102.3 (Cedar Rapids). K272GB was granted as part of the FCC’s AM revitalization effort.

K272GB’s coverage area is essentially the same as K298BM/107.5, which also carries KGYM programming. A reply to a post on the station’s Facebook page by the station’s program director says the change creates room for new programming on 107.5.

KGYM’s programming is also relayed on K292FZ/106.3 (Iowa City), with HD3 and HD4 channels of sister station KZIA/102.9 used to feed 106.3 and 107.5. The practice allows the FM signals to carry separate play-by-play coverage at times, marketed as “The North Gym” and “The South Gym.”

Since K272GB was granted as part of the AM revitalization initiative, it is required to simulcast KGYM full time “in perpetuity.”

KGYM carries ESPN Radio with local programming from 3 to 6 p.m.

Besides KZIA’s Contemporary Hits format, KZIA, Inc. also operates a Classic Rock format called “Smart FM” originating on KZIA-HD2 and carried on translators in Cedar Rapids and Iowa City. (1/21/2020)
iHeart Reverses Course, Hires Back Des Moines Sports Staff and Moves Them to FM

Two days after the cut of six jobs at a Des Moines Sports Talk station caused listener backlash, iHeartRadio has decided to not only bring back the hosts but to move their format to FM.

WHO-TV quoted KXNO/1460 General Manager Joel McCrea as saying that he had received approval from the corporate office to rehire the six workers and that KXNO would be simulcast on KDXA/106.3 (Ankeny-Des Moines) starting next week. The change will displace “Alt 106.3.”

Heather Burnside, Andrew Downs, Travis Justice, Ross Peterson, Sean Roberts, and Chris Williams had been among hundreds laid off at iHeart stations nationally this week. As noted in a previous report, the KXNO story was among the most-read news items in Des Moines this week, and dozens of listeners complained on the station’s Facebook page. (1/16/2020)
Western Iowa FM Station Moves, Making Way for Des Moines Upgrade

KDSN-FM (Denison) has completed its move from 107.1 to 104.9, clearing the way for another station to improve its signal to Des Moines.

KDSN-FM retained its coverage area with the frequency change, continuing to broadcast with 6kW. It made the move on Tuesday, according to a post on its Facebook page.

HELLO 104.9 FM. Goodbye 107.1 FM and hello to our new frequency 104.9 FM. We made the switch on Tuesday. Remember to reset your radios for the best in local news, sports, music, and so much more from Tom, Amy, Randy, JJ, and all your friends at KDSN!

KDSN-FM and its sister station, KDSN/1530, are owned by Crawford County Broadcasting. Both stations carry a large amount of local news and information, with a mixture of Classic Rock and Adult Contemporary on the FM side and Country on AM.

KDSN’s move will allow the University of Northwestern-St. Paul’s KNWI/107.1 (Osceola) to strengthen its signal to Des Moines. Currently licensed for 30kW/193m (class C2) from a site south of Des Moines, KNWI will move to a new tower southwest of Des Moines using 100kW/299m (class C0).

KDSN’s move to 104.9 likely forced translator K285ET/104.9 (Kiron) off the air. The translator, owned by the West Iowa Fellowship of Evangelicals, relayed UNWSP’s KGBI/100.7 (Omaha) and has not applied to move to a new frequency. (1/16/2020)

iHeart Cuts Hit Several Upper Midwest Stations


A national round of job cuts at iHeartMedia hit numerous stations in the Upper Midwest, including stations in Sports stations in Des Moines and Madion, a News/Talk station in Davenport, and Country stations in Madison, Bismarck, and Omaha.

In Des Moines, social media posts and local media reports indicate at least six people from KXNO/1460 lost their jobs, with the station’s local morning and afternoon shows cancelled. Those affected include Heather Burnside, Andrew Downs. Travis Justice, Ross Peterson, Sean Roberts, and Chris Williams.

News stories about the KXNO layoffs were among the most-read on Des Moines media websites Tuesday evening, and KXNO’s Facebook page contained dozens of complaints.

News stories about the KXNO layoffs were among the most-read on Des Moines media websites Tuesday evening, and KXNO’s Facebook page contained dozens of complaints.

In the Quad Cities, Dave Levora is out at News/Talk station WOC/1420.

And in Omaha, All Access also reports that Ritch Cassidy is out as morning host at Classic Country outlet KFFF/93.3.

The layoffs came after iHeart announced changes to its organizational structure and investments in new technology and artificial intelligence.(1/15/2020)
IPTV Becomes Iowa PBS

Iowa Public Television started the year with an official name change to Iowa PBS.

The change, first reported here back in November, comes as part of a move by member stations nationally to include PBS in their names. Other regional name changes in recent years have included PBS Wisconsin, Twin Cities PBS, and Pioneer PBS.

“Iowa PBS better represents who we are and how we deliver content in today’s digital age,” Executive Director and General Manager Molly Phillips said in a December news release announcing the change.

“As Iowans increasingly look to new ways to view information and entertainment, our new name will help ensure they will easily find their favorite locally produced programs as well as PBS programs where and when they want to watch.”

Iowa PBS has nine full-power stations and eight translators covering the state. Each carries four channels: PBS, PBS Kids, World Channel, and Create. Though the network didn’t cite it as a reason for the change in its announcement, dropping the IPTV name may also remove any confusion with the acronym for internet protocol television. (1/7/2020)

Today is an exciting day for us - we're pleased to announce our new name! Starting January 1, we'll become Iowa PBS. Learn how we're going to continue to serve you the same way while better positioning ourselves for the future >>> Iptv.org/iowa-pbs
Update: Hearst Stations Return to DirecTV

Hearst Television stations have returned to DirecTV after a retransmission consent outage that lasted less than two days. The outage began Friday, Jan. 3, affecting Hearst stations in 26 markets. They included ABC affiliates WISN-TV/12 (Milwaukee) and KETV/7 (Omaha) and CBS affiliate KCCI/8 (Des Moines). “Hearst and AT&T regret any inconvenience to their customers and viewers and thank them for their patience,” said a Sunday statement announcing the deal. Terms were not disclosed, as is routine. (1/5/2020)

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