News and Views pickup odds

Some armchair quarterbacking on who might be picking up the News and Views show around the region.  There’s a lot more options on FM than on the AM band. This is based on the sense I get looking at their radio formats, ownership, and coverage areas.

AM Coverage – Western North Dakota

KVOX 740 Even Money
KLXX 1270 2:1
KDIX 1230 2:1
KZZJ 1450 3:1
KQDJ 1400 5:1
KDKT 1410 7:1
KPOK 1340 10:1
KATQ 1070 15:1

FM – Bismarck

KBYZ 96.5 5:1
KACL 98.7 5:1
KXRV 107.5 5:1
KKBO 105.9 7:1
KUSB 103.3 7:1
KKCT 97.5 10:1

FM – Minot

KTZU 94.9 5:1
KWGO 102.9 7:1
KOWW 98.1 10:1

FM – Williston

KDSR 101.1 5:1
KYYZ 96.1 7:1
KTHC 95.1 10:1

FM – Dickinson

KDXN 105.7 3:1
KXDI 93.9 7:1

New stations

4-city FM translator network 12:1
New full-power stations 20:1

Update 17 April: The announced KVOX simulcast is in question, and KZZJ may be a possibility to bring reliable AM coverage to Minot.

Bad news for Joel Heitkamp

KCJB and KFYR summarily dumped the Joel Heitkamp Show, the longtime top of the shortlist for public affairs programming in North Dakota.

Western North Dakota coverage can be temporarily kludged with carriage on 740 KVOX, but a western affiliate is sorely needed, especially if the show’s to be reliably heard in Williston.  The problem will be more urgent in the Fall, when Joel’s show airs mostly during the AM critical hours.

Does PBS even have a schedule?

Yes and no.  I’d love to be able to prove the folks working on Wikipedia’s TV lineups pages wrong, but the percentages on that don’t look good.  PBS has a national feed schedule, but most people get their PBS from a local affiliate, and the program schedules on them don’t seem to have much at all in common.

Still, I’m going through an analysis of program schedules of PBS affiliates in the top 25 markets (there’s up to three PBS stations in each, most of which have multiple program streams), in search of something resembling a common schedule.

Just looking at the major stations in the Eastern Time Zone, there seems to be near-universal acceptance of the Wednesday night lineup:  Nature at 8 ET, followed by a other science programs, usually one or two documentaries, and NOVA, which has no fixed time in the schedule, even in the national feed – other than being after Nature.

NewsHour is also aired almost universally Monday through Friday;  but here we see a major split.  A plurality of markets show it live at 6 ET, but others delay it until 7 ET (this is also done by the national feed).  NewsHour often gets juggled with BBC World News America (live at 5 ET) and the Nightly Business Report (live at 7 ET, near as I can tell).

Other familiar PBS programming like the documentary-of-the-week, Masterpiece, or Antiques Roadshow, don’t seem to have any fixed scheduling at all.  Going out on a limb, I imagine PBS is going to have a bad showing in “sweeps” again.

RTL-SDR, Round 1

sdrsharpAfter hearing from reddit all about a cool Software Defined Radio project, I obtained a BlazeVideo DVB-T dongle from eBay.  This spiffy device lets you scan almost anywhere in the RF band!  I’m still seeing what I can do with it, but it grabs local FM broadcasts without trouble.

The SDR# software recommended by one site seems to work fairly well under Windows XP.  I’ll also be making tests in Ubuntu and Windows 7 fairly soon.

Here’s some samples of what it sounds like, picking up broadcasts in my area:

Scanning for FM traffic should be easy with this thing. Programming it to decode digital ham radio modes — well, that’ll be a challenge!

TV stations KBRR, KCGE down

Doing on over-the-air scan this afternoon, KBRR and KCGE appear to be transmitting, but without any video feed.  Oddly, KGFE is transmitting normally.  According to FCC records, KBRR and KCGE share the same transmitter tower (along with KGFE).

We’ve recently had a major winter storm come through, so I doubt it’s maintenance work.  To speculate, there may be a partial loss of power at the transmitter, partial equipment damage, or a problem with the fiber line or microwave feeds.

UPDATE Jan 14:  The outage was bigger than just KBRR and KCGE; KMDE was also down, along with service to two cable systems.  John Peterson of Prairie Public was kind enough to provide this bit of information on what to took to fix the problem, an equipment failure in Fargo:

Sometime Saturday afternoon we had a piece of equipment fail. In addition to the KCGE signal, we transport the KBRR signal from Fargo to the Euclid transmitter site. The piece of equipment that allows us to combine the two signals failed. There was no indication on the front panel of the offending piece to indicate a problem so it took a bit to track down the problem. Once we determined the problem we were able to install a spare and return the signal to KCGE and KBRR. This outage also affected our Devils Lake KMDE channel 25 transmitter and direct feeds to Polar Communication and Sjoberg Cable in Thief River Falls. Programming was returned at about 4:10 pm.

What’s the deal with KSMQ?

Just doing some wiki magic today.  One of the stories I’ve been following is the KSMQ tower collapse (throw a couple bucks their way and support public TV!), but the reporting just seems to get a few things wrong, which of course trickled onto Wikipedia.  The big misnomer being that a “440 foot transmitter tower” fell.


Technically, it wasn’t the transmitter, but the Studio-Transmitter Link.  And here’s my homework:

Right off,  KSMQ’s transmitter is out by Grand Meadow, easily looked up with an FCC Media Bureau TV Query.

The media reports (Albert Lea, KTTC, Austin Daily Herald) indicated a “440 foot tower” that collapsed over an ancillary building at the KSMQ studios (at Riverland Community College in Austin MN).  Photos of the tower collapse site match this Google Map of a tall tower at the RCC campus.  There is another tower at the campus, also associated with KSMQ.


440 feet is about 137 meters, the height of the STL tower at KSMQ:  (FCC ASR search)


The STL link can be confirmed by looking at the microwave associated files in the FCC ULS:

accessed via


The transmission point is its studio tower, called the “KSMQ TV Tower”, and the receiver is the Grand Meadows “KSMQ DTV Tower”.  There is an older, cancelled set of licences for a multi-point link, which to idly speculate may have been the source of the “old microwave dish” mentioned in the Daily Herald article.

KSMQ also seems to have a link relaying its signal from the DTV tower to KTTC in Rochester.  Maybe a backup cable feed?

Last but not least, who owns KSMQ’s actual transmitter tower?  Checking the ASRs again, entering the DTV transmitter site coordinates of 43-38-35, 92-31-34…  Well, it can only be this tower — owned by KTTC!  I have to say, it’s pretty cool of them to help KSMQ out so much.

And hey, there’s an added bonus:  Poking around we can see something in the public files about KSMQ wanting to build a tower out by Winona a new transmitter or a translator, perhaps?