In the news tradition, here's a summary of the major Upper Midwest broadcasting stories of 2012:
Big year for Contemporary Hit Radio: With a resurgence in Top 40 hits, new CHR outlets popped up in Milwaukee (Energy 106.9), the Quad Cities (101.3 Kiss FM), Omaha (96.1 Kiss FM), Wausau (Hot 96.7), Bismarck (Y93), Grand Island (2Day FM 103.1), Worthington, MN (104.3 The Party), and Iron Mountain, MI (100.7 Radio Now). Milwaukee ended the year with three CHR outlets, while there were two in Winnipeg, Green Bay, Wausau, the Quad Cities, Cedar Rapids*, Des Moines, Omaha, Grand Island, Bismarck, and Grand Forks. (*Cedar Rapids has four CHR's if you count two out-of-market rimshot signals.)
Canadian TV shutdown: Wide swaths of Canada no longer have broadcast TV service afer the CBC and TV Ontario decided to shut down the vast majority of their transmitters rather than convert them to digital. In our region, CBC is now only available over the air in Thunder Bay and Winnipeg, and TVO's only remaining transmitter will be in Thunder Bay by the end of 2013. Elsewhere in northwestern Ontario, Dryden no longer has broadcast TV service, Fort Frances can only receive U.S. channels, and Kenora has only one analog channel. In Manitoba, most areas outside of Winnipeg that have any TV service can only receive CTV.
Radio ownership shakeup in the Dakotas: The two largest radio groups in Fargo and Sioux Falls and one group in Bismarck were sold. Midwest Communications expanded westward with its purchase of groups in Fargo and Sioux Falls, while Townsquare Media took over groups in Sioux Falls and Bismarck as part of a national deal with Cumulus Media. Triad Broadcasting agreed to sell its four groups, including Fargo, to L&L Broadcasting. Meanwhile, the FCC approved the sale of KFNL/92.7 (Kindred-Fargo) to a commercial broadcaster, who flipped it to Rock and entered into an agreement with Triad. Bakken Beacon Media, headed by J. Scott Hennen, bought AM stations in Fargo and Tioga. And Radio Bismarck Mandan bought KKBO/105.9 (Flasher-Bismarck) and flipped it from Variety Hits to Country.
End of Alexandria TV news: After 54 years, the last TV newscast out of Alexandria aired in June. Hubbard Broadcasting decided to end newscasts on KSAX/42, saying the station could not remain profitable. Some of the 17 affected employees found work at other Hubbard stations. Newscasts had originated from Alexandria since 1958, first on KCMT-TV/7 (now KCCO) and continuing on KSAX after the Alexandria market was folded into the Minneapolis market.
Twin Cities format shakeups: The end of the longtime Adult Contemporary format at WLTE/102.9 was followed by an evolution of the "Love 105" signals from Oldies to Adult Contemporary as the new "K-Twin" 96.3 launched a broad AC/Adult Alternative format. "K-Twin" announced later in the year that it will become the new home for the Twins in 2013.
Clear Channel's Minneapolis translator plans: It's still unclear exactly what will happen with four pending FM translator moves in Minneapolis. The FCC approved applications to move 92.9 and 93.3 to downtown Minneapolis, while applications to move 99.9 and 102.5 remain pending. The translators are owned by the Educational Media Foundation, which has worked with Clear Channel in other markets. The applications specify that Clear Channel stations, presumably HD2 channels, will be rebroadcast. Clear Channel did some late-year shuffling on its HD2 signals, returning "Kool 1-0-80's" to KQQL/107.9's HD2 signal and reviving "The Score" Sports format on the HD2 signal of KTCZ/97.1.
No new AM for the Cities: The FCC cancelled a construction permit for a new AM station in the southwest suburbs at the permittee's request.
New radio group east of the Twin Cities: Zoe Communications completed its move of Country-formatted WDMO from Durand, WI (95.9) to Baldwin, WI (95.7) and later bought WIXK/1590 (New Richmond, WI) from Hubbard Broadcasting, flipping it from Country to News/Talk. WDMO's sign-on forced a KNXR translator in Hudson to leave the air, and it's applied to move to West St. Paul. Meanwhile, WDMO's former AM sister (WRDN/1430 Durand) returned to the air under separate ownership.
FM translator move-ins face trouble: Radio Power, Inc. abandoned apparent plans to move two translators into the Twin Cities and the FCC raised questions about Radio Power's move of a translator into Milwaukee.
More AM-on-FM translators: AM stations getting FM translators included KLIN (Lincoln), WRIG (Wausau), KNSI (St. Cloud, MN), KGYM (Cedar Rapids), WPCN (Stevens Point), KWSN (Sioux Falls), KTOQ (Rapid City), KJAN (Atlantic, IA), WOBT (Rhinelander, which changed from Sports to Classic Country), KDDR (Oakes, ND), KLGR (Redwood Falls, MN), KIJV (Huron, SD), WJJQ (Tomahawk, WI), KYSM (Mankato, MN), KMHL (Marshall, MN), WBEV (Beaver Dam, WI), and KXRA (Alexandria, MN). Meanwhile, an FM translator of WNOV (Milwaukee) left the air due to interference complaints.
FM Talk: In addition to numerous AM-on-FM translators across the region, Cedar Rapids and Fargo got FM talkers in the form of a standalone Talk format in Fargo and a simulcast of an AM talker in Cedar Rapids.
AM Oldies: Stations in Fargo (KQWB), Waterloo (KCFI), Waseca, MN (KRUE), and Sioux Center, IA (KSOU) dropped other formats for Oldies, while WBKK/820 (Wilton-Bemidji, MN) signed on with Oldies. Meanwhile, KWLO/1330 (Waterloo) flipped from Oldies to ESPN Radio and WGBW/1590 (Denmark-Green Bay) is due to make the same flip on Jan. 1.
New talkers: WLFN/1490 (La Crosse) and WLKD/1570 (Minocqua, WI) both flipped from Soft Oldies to News/Talk, while KPMI/1300 (Bemidji, MN) signed on with News/Talk.
Dropping Talk for Sports: Stations switched from political talk to sports talk in Omaha (KOIL/1180), Madison (WTDY), Rapid City (KTOQ), Eveleth, MN (KRBT), and Sault Ste. Marie, MI (WKNW).
The Blaze is extinguished, and so are two successors: Three Eagles Communications killed the Active Rock "Blaze" brand in the Fort Dodge, Mankato, and Mason City markets, and then ended up killing the replacement formats in Fort Dodge and Mankato. "The Blaze" continues to burn in Lincoln.
More Country: KMNB/102.9 (Minneapolis), KKOR/92.1 (Waseca, MN), KLXS-FM/95.3 (Pierre, SD), KQDJ/1400 (Jamestown, ND), WRJC/1270 (Mauston), and KRDS/95.5 (New Prague, MN) flipped to Country, while Clear Channel moved "Kiss Country" to a stronger signal in Cedar Rapids. KQDJ and WRJC both have FM translators.
Short-lived formats: KWSL/1470 (Sioux City) dropped Oldies for Classic Country, only to switch to Comedy eight months later. In the Dickinson market, KZZQ/101.9 (Richardton) signed on with News/Talk in the spring but was sold to a Catholic broadcaster by fall.
More format changes and sign-ons: KXGT/98.3 (Carrington-Jamestown, ND) flipped from Adult Contemporary to Classic Hits, WCHY/105.1 (Waunakee-Madison) flipped from Variety Hits to Hot AC, WUPN/95.1 (Paradise-Sault Ste. Marie, MI) signed on with Classic Hits, KJKQ/99.5 (Sisseton, SD) signed on with Variety Hits, and WKZG/104.3 (Seymour-Green Bay) traded a 70s-80s mix for an 80s-90s mix.
Iowa Public Radio changes: IPR dropped the longtime News/Classical format at WOI-FM/90.1 (Ames-Des Moines) in favor of more News/Talk programming during the day and Adult Alternative in the evening and overnight. Classical music moved to WOI-FM's HD2 signal and several smaller central Iowa signals, with another promised to sign on this winter.
More public radio: South Dakota Public Broadcasting signed on a new station in Watertown, Wisconsin Public Radio signed on a new station in Superior, and community stations KJGT/88.3 (Waconia, MN), KSOI/91.9 (Murray, IA), and KHOI/89.1 (Story City-Ames, IA) began operations.
FCC Auctions: The FCC sold construction permits for new commercial FM stations in Sanborn, IA; Baudette, MN; Medina, ND (Jamestown); Sarles, ND; Williston, ND (2 stations, one licensed to Tioga); Lead, SD; and Murdo, SD (Pierre). Meanwhile, an auction is set for April 2013 for three Grand Portage, MN stations that could serve Thunder Bay. The auction will also include stations in Edgemont, SD; Rosebud, SD; Crandon, WI; Tigerton, WI; and Tomahawk, WI.
FM move-in attempts: The FCC ended a years-long discussion of whether KQMG-FM/95.3 (Independence) could move into the Cedar Rapids market, saying no. The commission also denied the first plan to move KTIA-FM/99.3 (Boone) into the Des Moines market, but the station has submitted a new application to only move half way. And there's another attempt to activate 107.7 in the Omaha market, with KIMI/107.7 (Sidney, IA) applying to move closer to Omaha.
TV upgrades and sign-ons WIWN/68.1 moved its transmitter to Milwaukee and started carrying WeatherNation TV, KSNB/4.1 moved its transmitter closer to Lincoln and is being sold to Gray Communications, and WMWC/53.1 (Galesburg-Quad Cities) signed on with TBN.
Continued subchannel growth: Antenna TV added affiliates in Minneapolis and Lincoln. Live Well Network added affiliates in Minneapolis, Sioux City, the Quad Cities, Des Moines, Lincoln, and Green Bay, displacing RTV in the last four cases. BounceTV added a Minneapolis affiliate. Me-TV added affiliates in Eau Claire, La Crosse, the Quad Cities, and Sioux Falls, and is adding a Fargo affiliate in the new year. Cozi TV made a soft launch at the end of the year but has not announced any Upper Midwest affiliates. Meanwhile, The Cool TV lost its Minneapolis, Madison, Cedar Rapids, and Des Moines affiliates.
TV Departures: Mike Pomeranz left KARE 11 for a job with the San Diego Padres, Larry McCarren resigned from WFRV and showed up doing blogs on WGBA's website, John Walters left WOI-TV for a job at Iowa State, John Campbell retired from KCRG, and Jim Flowers and WOWT parted ways.
KLKS signs off: The long-running Nostalgia/Easy Listening format at KLKS/104.3 (Breezy Point, MN) ended after longtime Minnesota broadcaster Ernest Bundgaard, better known by his on-air name Allen Gray, exited from ownership of the station and it was sold to Minnesota Christian Broadcasters.
Winnipeg changes: CJGV-FM/99.1 and CFJL-FM/100.7 both launched new formats at the start of the year, but they remained near the bottom in BBM ratings.
Rapid City shakeup: ESPN moved from KRKI/99.5 to KTOQ/1340, displacing News/Talk. Shortly later, KIMM/1150 dropped most of its Classic Country music for syndicated talk. KRKI switched to FOX Sports but reportedly switched to Country about six months later. Meanwhile, a battle erupted when the winning bidder of a new Lead station suggested that a Hot Springs station should be moved so it could upgrade, while two other new Rapid City rimshot FM's have not yet begun full operation.
Radio network news changes: CNN Radio left the air and a revived NBC Radio picked up many of its former affiliates.
All-Christmas: WCHK-FM/104.3 (Seymour-Green Bay) was the first in the Upper Midwest to go all-Christmas on Nov. 1 as it changed format. Minneapolis' "Love 105" and Fargo's "FM 105.1" were among new entrants to all-Christmas. Previous all-Christmas station WMYX/99.1 (Milwaukee) left the holiday hits to a web-only stream this year, ceding the seasonal format to WRIT/95.7.
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