Radio consolidation swells in Northern Minnesota

PHOTO: Serendipiddy, Flick CC

PHOTO: Serendipiddy, Flickr CC

Back in high school in the 1990s, two radio stations impacted my life.

The first was the one I listened to: KQDS out of Duluth. Classic rock ‘n’ roll, something I preferred to pop. You couldn’t always get KQ on the Iron Range, but you could on the jacked-up antennae my dad put on our roof south of Eveleth.

The second station was WEVE-Eveleth, the first station I worked for and my home away from home for most of my junior and senior years. I learned how to do radio alone in the station late at night spinning records, carts, and CDs for truckers, shift workers and insomniacs.

This week, Midwest Communication announced it was buying five Northern Minnesota stations from Red Rock Radio, including the iconic Duluth FM classic rock station 95 KQDS and Iron Range legacy station 98 WEVE-Eveleth.

The deal also includes KGPZ, the country station based Coleraine, and some of KQDS’s repeater frequencies in Grand Marais and Babbitt.

Andrew Krueger of the Duluth News Tribune had the story on Wednesday.

Midwest already owns several stations in the Twin Ports, among them KDAL-AM 610, WDSM-AM 710, WDUL-AM 970, KDAL-FM 95.7, KTCO-FM 98.9 and KDWZ-FM 102.5. On the Iron Range, Midwest owns the iconic WMFG-FM 106.3 and 99.9 USA, the Iron Range’s most popular country station.

In other words, one company based in Wausau, Wisconsin will now own most of the highest rated commercial radio stations in Northeastern Minnesota. Nearly all of the legacy stations that date back to the early days of Iron Range and Duluth radio now fall under Midwest’s control.

Commercial radio has been moving in this direction since late 1990s deregulation allowed such consolidation. Since so many local radio station owners were retiring or kicking off about that time, cashing out by selling to a conglomerate became popular. Soon enough it became big business.

Twenty years later and radio is changing. Thanks to satellite and streaming options, fewer people listen. Radio still occupies part of the market and part of the culture, but a smaller part. Meanwhile, the companies seem over-leveraged and, like newspapers, probably overvalued. Where consolidation was once purely done for the money, now it’s being done to provide stability to remaining stations, long since gutted by progress.

I feel pretty lucky to live in a part of the state that has such a big, vibrant independent public community station in KAXE/KBXE, the station that produces my Great Northern Radio Show. They cover hundreds of miles of territory. And Grand Rapids also has a sweet little commercial station in KMFY-FM and KOZY-AM. It might seem a schmaltzy little Top 40 station on the surface, until you realize it’s still local and sounds like its community. Plus, Vikings games and Twins games when you’re on the go.

It all comes down to how you spend your time and where advertisers (and, in the case of public radio, members) put their money. Support your local station. You’ll be glad it’s there, because when they get gobbled up they stay gobbled up.


  1. It has been my experience that ownership consolidation of this sort tends to turn stations into mere repeaters. Local newsgathering ends. Canned right-wing ranters get the time slots….

    Magnetation is an evil company.

  2. Why isn’t this anti-trust?

    Propaganda pure and simple!

  3. Yup, it darn well should be anti-trust. You can thank the republican-driven and centrist democrat assisted 1990s media de-regulation legislation for this.

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