Format changes shake up Iron Range radio dial

PHOTO: Nathan Hughes Hamilton, Flickr CC

Last August I shared news that Midwest Communications had purchased five new stations from Duluth-based Red Rock Radio. Wausau, Wisconsin-based Midwest owns more than 73 stations in seven states.

Due to federal regulations, Midwest had to shed some of its other frequencies in Northern Minnesota to take over the new stations. On New Year’s Day, format changes revealed the results of these transactions.

Jon Ellis at the fantastic local broadcasting site “North Pine” reported the changes.

The big news is that Midwest Communication acquired pioneering Duluth FM rock ‘n’ roll station 94.9 KQDS.

KQ had several repeaters around the region under Red Rock, but shed 105.5 FM in Deer River after the Midwest deal. Midwest has now turned its longtime oldies station 106.3 WMFG in Hibbing into the western Iron Range KQ translator.

Meanwhile, 105.5 FM will be managed by Lamke Broadcasting of Grand Rapids as an independent classic rock station. The station’s new ownership deal with Midwest has yet to be approved by the FCC.

Midwest also acquired recent Red Rock pickups 97.9 WEVE in Eveleth and 96.1 KGPZ in Coleraine. WEVE will keep its tried and true adult contemporary format, but the country station KGPZ will go back to its roots as a classic country station called 96.1 “The Duke.”

Midwest’s old classic rock station, 102.9 FM KMFG, had already been sold to a Christian broadcasting company and now plays Christian music hits.

All of this adds up to surprisingly big changes in the composition of the Iron Range’s FM dial.

Midwest has another station that carries “The Duke” that I picked up on a trip to the Cities once and it’s pretty good. It will be nice to have a classic country option again.

As for the rest, for most folks its just a shuffling of the dial. However, I rather preferred the more blended mix of “oldies” on the former 106.3 format. When I say “oldies” of course, I am referring to Michael Jackson, Madonna and Billy Joel. Chuck Berry and the Supremes had already been relegated to the “really old oldies” on WMFG-AM.

Something happened when I turned 25 and I could no longer listen to KQDS. Way too much banal talk and a far too repetitive classic rock playlist. It’s like being in the waiting area at your local car dealership, listening to two fleet drivers drone on about whatever scrolls by on the news ticker of Good Morning America. They keep going and going as you anxiously await the mediocre yet welcome release of a midlevel Tom Petty song.

But that’s actually their target audience, so I get it.

Ninety percent of my listening time goes to my beloved Northern Community Radio and their total variety of commercial free music, local news and special programming. If you’re shopping for a new station in all this tumult, give them a try.


  1. so whats the christian station named?

  2. Karin Schultz says

    I am not sure what it is named…but from listening to it…it is not worth it…took me a year to realize it was “Christian” at all…the music might as well be on the Rock station….

  3. No 102.9 Why that was the best……… Not good

  4. Hello Aaron,

    I agree with you on the stations changes. All they did was make it worse than it already was and that’s not good considering all the options available online. The 96.1 change is fine with me. 102.9 and 106.3 were two of mine and many other peoples favorite local stations. That was really Stupid to dispose of them! That Christian station is already picked up on the range on 101.3 and now right next to it on 102.9. You shouldn’t be able to take two area frequencies with the same material playing on both of them. I also like KAXE, but listen to a large variety of music so I’m flipping to and through all the stations a lot. They Sure didn’t make anything better and thanks for the info. I was wondering what the deal was.

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