Thursday, February 01, 2007

KQDS/Duluth drops liberal talk

Listeners in the Twin Ports got a rude awakening this morning when they turned on the radio expecting to hear Sam Seder, but instead heard golden oldies.

In a surprise move, KQDS in Duluth-Superior, which had been airing Ed Schultz and programs from Air America Radio for the past year and a half, has dropped liberal talk for oldies music. Kate, a local business owner and listener to the station, emailed LTR to say she immediately called the station to find out what was going on. She was told that the switch was a corporate decision made by the owners of the station, Red Rock Radio, a division of Fargo-based Red River Broadcasting.

For programming, the station has picked up ABC's "True Oldies Channel" off the satellite. There was one rumor claiming that oldies was only temporary, and that a FOX 'News'-style conservative talk format would be the permanent format, but nothing else out there would give credibility to this rumor.

The station flipped from a satellite feed of CNN Headline News to liberal talk in September, 2005. Since then, ratings have slowly climbed, and the station more than doubled its listenership during the past six months, according to the recent Arbitron survey released this week.

Red River Broadcasting also owns three FM stations in the market, in addition to KQDS-TV, the local FOX affiliate. The company is somewhat of an enigma, as they have little internet presence outside of their Duluth FM stations (which all have websites). In fact, their TV stations in Duluth and Fargo, both FOX affiliates, don't even have websites, though their NBC affiliate in Sioux Falls, SD does. Red Rock Radio itself only has a token web presence.

The only really true sign on the internet proving the existence of Red River/Red Rock is an attack site created by disgruntled former employees of the Duluth stations. There is also a Myspace page, set up by devoted listeners of "Air America Duluth," in lieu of an actual station website.

As for the reason for the switch, “We’ve had some calls claiming we did this for political reasons,” Red Rock general manager Shawn Skramstad said. “There was no political motive. This was strictly a business decision. We didn’t see the advertising dollars we need.”

Skramstad said Red Rock received “a fair number of calls” from listeners disappointed with the decision to pull the liberal talk programming.


Anonymous said...

This makes no sense, even setting aside the station's healthy increase in audience share.
If Oldies is not a stunt, Oldies is a really tough sell (given the demos it draws). Not to mention the market already has three FM Oldies stations (one of which is very dominant in the format).
If it is a stunt and they are going right-wing talk, there are two other RW talkers in town - one doing well and the other doing very well. And the top right-wing syndicated hosts are already taken; left-overs only available.
This sounds like somebody's political agenda is getting the better of their responsibilities to the company's shareholders.

ltr said...

It's pretty laughable. Red Rock's stations have been sliding for awhile. KQDS-AM was the only one to go up since the spring (this is a two-book-a-year market). And they more than doubled their ratings, which is the best this little 1000 watt station will ever do. It's been turning the format wheel for years. Let's face it, any station that runs CNN Headline News as an all-day format is basically dead. That's what they ran prior to liberal talk.

Northpine says that they're running ABC's "True Oldies Channel" satellite network (or "The Scott Shannon Channel", as some call it).

The folks over at Red and Nater are laughing about this. Then again, Red Rock/Red River has never been taken very seriously. These people are major penny-pinchers, and only recently started to actually put up websites for their stations (I do admit, the site for KQDS-FM looks pretty damn good). They don't even have sites for their FOX TV stations! That's unheard of in 2007!

Duluth is considered by many to be an awful radio market. Too many country stations. Too many rock stations. Too many oldies/classic hits stations. And way too much AC. And they're all as bland as can be. Sure, the stations report to the trades and Arbitron under distinct formats, but when it all comes down to it, they basically all sound the same. How bad? The alleged CHR station is more or less Hot AC (stations are too scared to go pure CHR). Of course, they call themselves "The Beat". Guess who owns them? Yep, Red Rock.

Many of the stations that show up in the book are severe rimshots. And, since the terrain of Duluth resembles a very frigid San Francisco, reception gets a bit crazy.

As for AM stations, KDAL is mostly local (allegedly). Sister station WDSM is conservotalk. WEBC relays KFAN out of the Twin Cities - all Minnesota sports (and a pretty good station too). WGEE is also sports (ESPN). WKLK is the other AM station. They play standards.

Radio and Records has quite a few errors on their survey. But this happens with books from small markets.

The best stations in town are basically the ones owned by Clear Channel. At least they import their formats from the Twin Cities.

All in all, Duluth is radio hell.

Anonymous said...

Usually "radio hell" is only open to those who work in radio. Nice that they include listeners, as well.
I wonder what satellite radio sales figures are like?
If the owner is cheap, what's cheaper than running turnkey progressive talk?
Websites ARE skimpy but it looks like the top talker does a fair amount of local programming (more than in a lot of markets that size).

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