February 2009

Four Austin and Mason City TV stations are leaving their longtime transmitter sites and moving closer to Rochester as part of the digital transition. The biggest move is by ABC affiliate KAAL/6 (Austin), which is moving 31 miles east, leaving its longtime site midway between Austin and Albert Lea in favor of the tower near Grand Meadow used by FOX 47 (KXLT Rochester) for the last decade. Also now located at the Grand Meadow site is PBS station KSMQ/15 (Austin), which is moving 24 miles from Austin. Meanwhile, Mason City-licensed KIMT/3 (CBS) and KYIN/24 (PBS) are leaving their longtime tower near St. Ansgar and moving ten miles to the northeast. All four stations are currently broadcasting in both analog and digital. The moves mean some people to the south and west of Mason City and Austin will lose reception of some stations, while people in Rochester and areas to the north and east will see improved reception. The change is most dramatic for KAAL, which FCC maps predict will lose broadcast coverage of some households in Waseca, Blue Earth, Faribault, and Martin Counties in Minnesota and Cerro Gordo, Winnebago, Hancock, and Kossuth Counties in Iowa. (2/26/2009)

Gazette Communications, owner of ABC affiliate KCRG-TV/9 (Cedar Rapids) and The Gazette daily newspaper, announced Tuesday about 100 positions are being eliminated as part of a companywide reorganization, representing a 17% workforce reduction since last June. The announcement did not break down how many cuts are being made on the TV side. KCRG is the only locally-owned commercial TV station in Iowa; Gazette is one of only a few companies in the country to own just one "big four" network affiliate. (2/25/2009)

The U of M's "Radio K" has added a third FM signal: 99-Watt translator K283BG/104.5, transmitting from the U's Rarig Center, where "Radio K" is based. It relays KUOM-FM/106.5 (St. Louis Park), which shares time with St. Louis Park High's KDXL and is on the air from 4:30 p.m. to 8 a.m. KUOM-FM is also relayed on 10-Watt W264BR/100.7, which broadcasts from the KUOM/770 tower in Falcon Heights. 770, a 5kW daytimer, has been the home of "Radio K" since its launch in 1993.

In other Minneapolis translator news, "Air1" translator K273BH/102.5 has increased from 10W to 41W. K273BH is licensed to Fridley and transmits from the IDS Center. See all the metro area translators on the Twin Cities Class D FM Stations page. (2/23/2009)

FOX 55 (WFXS Wittenberg-Wausau) has had a series of bad luck as it tries to move from analog to digital broadcasting. The station had no digital companion channel since it was granted after the list of DTV allotments was made. After WFXS ended analog broadcasting on Feb. 17, a tower crew removed the old analog antenna, but was unable to install the new digital antenna due to wintry weather. To make matters worse, the new antenna was damaged during the attempted installation and needed to be returned for repairs. In the interim, FOX 55's programming is being simulcast on WAOW-DT/9.3 (Wausau) and WYOW-DT/34.3 (Eagle River). WFXS provides its programming directly to satellite and major cable systems. (2/21/2009)

Iowa Public Radio's News/Talk network and "Night Music" programming has been unavailable to many listeners over the past two weeks due to a transmission line failure at KUNI/90.9 (Cedar Falls). IPR says the transmission line had just been replaced last summer and the failure appears to be due to a design problem. KUNI has been operating at low power, but the signal has not been strong enough to provide the off-air feed to translators in the Quad Cities and Des Moines. The station hopes to be back at full power by Feb. 25. (2/21/2009)

Updated figures from Nielsen Media Research show a drop of more than one percentage point over the last two weeks in the number of households which are totally unprepared for digital TV in the Minneapolis and Milwaukee markets. The figure has fallen from 5.61% to 4.58% in Minneapolis and from 5.44% to 3.75% in Milwaukee. Both are better than the national average of 4.4%. The study only covered metered markets. (2/19/2009)

The owner of Grand Forks' Catholic radio station is taking over the Catholic station in the Fargo area. Real Presence Radio will pay Voice of Reason Radio $240,000 for KVXR/1280 (Moorhead-Fargo). The new owners began running KVXR on Feb. 9 through a time brokerage agreement. (2/18/2009)

DKS Communications is buying WDKM/106.1 (Adams) from Roche-A-Cri Broadcasting for $190,000. DKS is owned by Tim Jakubowski (51%) and Nick Segina (49%), both of Arkdale. They do not have any other broadcast interests. (2/18/2009)

After new FCC rules caused a few stations to change their plans, 50% of full-power TV stations in the Upper Midwest (103 of 205) will have ended analog broadcasting by midnight tonight (2/17). A few analog stations will switch to "nightlight" programming advising viewers how to switch to digital. This site's TV market pages have been updated to remove analog stations which are no longer on the air. (2/17/2009)

KIMZ/104.3 (Sibley, IA-Worthington, MN) has dropped Regional Mexican for Country as "US 104." The change occurred at 5 a.m. Monday (2/16). The station had signed with the Regional Mexican format on last July. (2/16/2009)

KHQA/7 (Hannibal-Quincy) has moved its planned end of analog broadcasting from Feb. 17 to June 12. The move may allow WGEM-TV/10 (Quincy) to end analog as planned on Feb. 17. (2/16/2009)

KLKN/8 (Lincoln) has moved its planned end of analog broadcasting from Feb. 17 to June 12. The move may allow KOLN/10 (Lincoln) to end analog as planned on Feb. 17. (2/16/2009)

Quincy Newspapers subsidiary WAOW-WYOW Television is buying WBIJ/4 (Crandon) from Selenka Communications for $1.55 million and intends to operate it as a satellite of ABC affliate WAOW/9 (Wausau). WAOW is also seen on satellite WYOW/34 (Eagle River-Rhinelander). WBIJ, which was last known to carry FamilyNet, signed on in 2001 and had been for sale since 2006. Owner Dennis Selenka died last September. WBIJ broadcasts with 4.7kW, well shy of the 100kW maximum for VHF Low analog, and its digital channel has not been built. WBIJ-DT will operate on channel 12 (currently occupied by analog WJFW Rhinelander) with 3.2kW. The FCC granted an extension for construction of WBIJ-DT until August 18, 2009. (2/15/2009)

The twelve Prairieview TV stations in Appleton went off the air permanently last Oct. 1. The stations had been scrambled and offered as a subscription service of national channels, as well as KMSP-FOX and KARE-NBC. The FCC has deleted all the licenses except for K21AK. The other stations were K15DC, K17CS, K19CW, K23DF, K25EI, K29CC, K33CR, K49ED, K52AH, K56BZ, and K60AB. Similar scrambled translator systems, owned by other companies, remain on the air in Granite Falls and Redwood Falls. (2/15/2009)

A proposal by U.S. Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Michigan) would require DirecTV and DISH Network to carry local stations in all 210 markets. Stupak says there are 31 TV markets without "local-into-local" service, including Marquette, Ottumwa, and North Platte. The 31 unserved markets account for 2.33% of the nation's TV households. Many more markets have service from only one provider. Stupak's proposal is H.R. 927, the "Satellite Consumers' Right to Local Channels Act." (2/15/2009)

KCOG, Inc. is buying translator K203EI/88.5 (Centerville) from Horizon Christian Fellowship for $7,250. The application for assignment of license indicates that an application will be filed to move K203EI to the commercial portion of the FM band so that it can be used to relay KCOG/1400. (2/14/2009)

The Pioneer Press reports that KSTC/45 (Minneapolis) will launch a 9 p.m. newscast in late spring or early summer. Like the 9 p.m. newscast the independent station aired from 2000 to 2003, it will be produced by sister ABC affiliate KSTP-TV/5. The addition will bring KSTP's output of local programming to eight hours each weekday. KSTC's only competitor in the 9 p.m. timeslot will be FOX 9 (KMSP). (2/14/2009)

The Sioux City Journal reports that KTIV/4 will keep its analog signal on the air for 60 days past Feb. 17 to comply with new FCC rules. The "enhanced nightlight service" will include simulcasts of KTIV newscasts and information on how to convert to digital, along with emergency messages. The move may clear the way for KCAU/9, KMEG/14, and KPTH/44 to end analog broadcasts on Feb. 17 as they had requested. (2/13/2009)

KDLO/3 (Florence-Watertown) has moved its planned end to analog broadcasting from Feb. 17 to June 12 in the wake of the FCC's latest rules. The move may allow KABY/9 (Aberdeen) to end analog broadcasting on Feb. 17 as it had planned. KDLO plans to convert channel 3 to digital broadcasts and had already taken KDLO-DT/2 off the air to prepare for the change; the analog extension means KDLO-DT won't be back on the air until June. (2/13/2009)

The Capital Times reports FOX 47 (WMSN Madison) has decided to move its analog shutdown back to June 12, a move which may allow WISC/3, WMTV/15, and WKOW/27 to end analog broadcasting on Feb. 17 under the latest FCC rules. (2/13/2009)

The La Crosse Tribune reports that TV stations in the La Crosse and Eau Claire areas have reached an agreement to comply with the latest set of FCC requirements for termination of analog broadcasting on Feb. 17. The analog signals of WQOW/18 (Eau Claire) and WXOW/19 (La Crosse), which had already been planning an analog "nightlight," will stay on the air until late April carrying information on how to convert to digital TV, along with emergency messages and simulcasts of the stations' 6 p.m. newscasts. Meanwhile, WKBT/8 (La Crosse) will host a customer walk-in center. The moves will allow WKBT, WEAU/13 (Eau Claire), WLAX/25 (La Crosse), and WEUX/48 (Chippewa Falls) to end analog broadcasts on Feb. 17. (2/13/2009)

The on-again, off-again, on-again transition to digital-only broadcasts may be off again for 123 stations. The FCC has released a list of stations which may not end analog broadcasts on Feb. 17 unless they issue a statement that they have met eight new requirements. The new requirements, announced six days before the transition date stations had been promoting for three years, include establishing "consumer walk-in centers" and toll-free numbers for engineering support, as well as providing detailed listings of areas which may lose reception as part of the transtion. Stations that wish to keep analog on the air until June 12 don't have to meet any of the new requirements. The FCC seems mainly concerned with making sure every area has at least one "big four" network affiliate still available in analog. In the Upper Midwest, the affected stations are in the Madison, Wausau, Eau Claire, La Crosse, Fargo, Grand Forks, Aberdeen/Watertown, Sioux City, Lincoln, Tri-Cities, North Platte, and Quincy areas. Again, here is the FCC's list and here is my list of earlier announcements. (2/12/2009)

CBS affiliate KDLH/3 (Duluth), which had been announcing plans to move forward with an end to analog broadcasting on Feb. 17 despite the extension approved by President Obama on Wednesday, will keep its analog signal on the air until June after all. The FCC denied KDLH's request for an early termination of analog broadcasting, concerned with the fact that KDLH-DT is operating at low power. Simulcasting KDLH on a subchannel of NBC affiliate KBJR-DT (Superior) apparently wasn't enough to satisfy FCC concerns. KDLH-DT is licensed for 381kW, but has been operating at 26kW since an antenna failure last year. It hopes to get back up to 381kW by June. (The maximum power for a UHF DTV station is 1,000kW.) KDLH is owned by Malara Broadcast Group and operated by KBJR under a shared services agreement. (2/12/2009)

WSCO/1570 (Appleton) is about to get an FM signal, as owner Woodward Communications trades translators with WRVM, Inc. Woodward recently bought translator W214BT/90.7 (Appleton) from Horizon Christian Fellowship and will transfer it to WRVM for $1, while WRVM transfers W237AA/95.3 (Appleton) to Woodward for $1. 90.7 is already on the air carrying WRVM. 95.3 will carry WSCO's Sports format once the license transfer is approved. It will be the first AM-on-FM translator in a rated market in the Upper Midwest. (2/10/2009)

As of Tuesday evening, at least 55% of full-power TV stations in the Upper Midwest had announced plans to end analog broadcasting by Feb. 17, despite Congress' vote to extend the deadline until June 12. That includes 14% which have already made the switch. Some stations, including KIMT Mason City, KCRG Cedar Rapids, and WQAD Moline, initially announced plans to stick with the Feb. 17 shutoff but announced a change of heart a few days later. Other stations, including KDLH and WDIO Duluth, have announced plans for a Feb. 17 shutoff on-air but do not show up on the FCC's list for some reason. Here is a list of announcements made by Upper Midwest stations. Some highlights:

  • All of the stations in the Quad Cities area will keep their analog signals on the air until June.
  • All of the "big four" network affiliates plus PBS in Minneapolis and Milwaukee will keep their analog signals on the air until June.
  • All of the "big four" network affiliates in the Sioux City, Grand Forks, Madison, La Crosse, and Eau Claire areas will end analog broadcasts on or before Feb. 17.
  • All stations in Quincy will end analog broadcasts on or before Feb. 17.
  • All full-power stations in Lincoln, North Platte, Hibbing, Aberdeen/Watertown, Mitchell/Huron, and Wausau will end analog broadcasts on or before Feb. 17, but low-power/translator stations in the cities may continue analog broadcasts after that date.

    New figures released Thursday, Feb. 5, by the Nielsen Company show 5.61% of households in the Minneapolis market and 5.44% in the Milwaukee market are completely unprepared for the digital transition. The study only covered metered markets. (originally posted 2/6/2009 and updated 2/7, 2/9, and 2/12)

    Dozens of TV stations have definitively announced they will end analog broadcasting on the original Feb. 17 date despite a vote by Congress to extend the date to June 12. Some stations have sought FCC approval to end analog on the 17th but have not decided whether to exercise that authority. Here is a list (in progress) of announced end dates. (2/5/2009)

    At least 24 full-power TV stations in the Upper Midwest have now terminated analog broadcasting. Here's the list. The latest digital converts are Red River Broadcast Co.'s seven transmitters in the Sioux Falls, Fargo, and Duluth markets, along with PBS stations in Fargo and Park Falls, WI. Dozens more stations have announced they plan to end analog broadcasting as scheduled on Feb. 17 even if Congress votes to extend the deadline.

    For the benefit of other stations about to make the digital transition, here are some of the most common issues yours truly has encountered taking calls after the analog shutoff at FOX 21 (KQDS-TV Duluth) on Feb. 1:

  • People who have never had a VCR or cable box don't understand that they use the converter box to change channels, not the TV.
  • Some DISH Network customers who don't subscribe to their local channels package don't realize they need to take action. This is not an issue for DirecTV customers because DirecTV bundles locals into its standard packages.
  • Some people are confused by the announcements saying the station will be available post-transition on digital channel xx. They don't realize that once their converter box is set up, they will continue to find the station on the old channel number. (2/4/2009)

    WRCW/105.5 (Nekoosa-Stevens Point) has replaced its locally-originated Oldies format with Dial Global's Kool Gold network. (2/4/2009)

    WisconsinBroadcasting.com reports that WISS/1100 (Berlin) is changing format to Soft Oldies on Monday, Feb. 2, its third format change in sixteen months. The station had switched from Classic Country to Oldies in October 2007, then back to Classic Country last September. WISS is also heard on FM translator W247AZ/97.3 (Berlin). Wayne Mausser is moving from FM sister WAUH/102.3 (Wautoma) to mornings on WISS. John Tesh's syndicated show will air from 5-10 a.m. on WAUH and after 10 a.m. on WISS. (2/2/2009)

    WDIO-DT (Duluth) and WIRT-DT (Hibbing) have launched a local weather channel on channels 10.2 and 13.2, replacing the Sportsman Channel. The "Storm Team Channel" consists of a recorded forecast every ten minutes followed by a loop of current conditions from across the Northland. The weather programming is also simulcast on WDIO/WIRT's main channel Friday and Saturday overnights. (2/2/2009)

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