Death of a greater Minnesota TV station

We don’t often hear about television stations going off the air but KCCO, Channel 7 in Alexandria, Minn., will fade to black at the end of the year, ending 59 years of broadcasting to the region, the St. Cloud Times reports.

KCCO, originally KCMT, was a local TV station until a company that later merged with WCCO’s owners bought it in 1987. But in 2002, WCCO shuttered the studios and local operations, and rebroadcast the Minneapolis station on KCCO.

The station’s frequency has been sold to wireless providers, who will use it to enhance streaming services in central and west-central Minnesota, including in St. Cloud and Willmar, a further indication of the erosion of terrestrial, over-the-air TV.

“Undoubtedly a significant number of these households subscribe to cable, satellite or other television services which will not be affected by KCCO-TV’s shutdown,” a CBS executive said.

Undoubtedly, a number don’t subscribe to cable and they’re out of luck.

For those who do, an increase in cable bills may be likely since the cable providers will now have to pay satellite companies to receive CBS programming. The CBS executive says people will still be able to buy CBS’ streaming service.

“It’s something of a big deal,” said Bruce Hanson, owner of Hanson Communications and Fort Randall Cable Systems in Willmar, who doesn’t think many people use rabbit ears in the remote areas anyway.

In a 2015 article, one of KCMT’s original employees, Jon Haaven, said that the TV station propelled Alexandria to importance in the state.

Soon, Alexandria became a natural stopover for political candidates – presidential, senatorial, governors and anyone running for a national or statewide office. They quickly learned how they could get exposure by stopping by the local TV station and they also discovered our great airport into which candidates could fly.

Main street businesses throughout the viewing area – for the first time – were able to advertise on television. Thousands of homes in a wide area of Central Minnesota were finally able to watch snow-free, crystal clear television. KCMT had an envious monopoly as it was the only channel available in this part of the state. The station had sold stock to area residents for startup funds and within a few years had retrieved all of it back.

Station facilities soon moved from its location in the basement of the Runestone Electric building to its own, large building on the corner of Seventh and Hawthorne (replacing an old, wooden framed ice warehouse where the harvest from area lakes in the winter was kept year-round. A vivid transformation from the old to the new.) The minimal start-up staff eventually jumped to some 80 or more employees.

Newcomers to this area have no idea (and many others have just forgotten or never realized) just how important KCMT was to the growth and development of the Alexandria area.

This is a cautionary tale for any community that wants to matter. Support the local news.

  • Mike Worcester
    • Greg W

      “I’d be curious to know how many other News Cut readers kept up with the world — both large and small — thanks to those gentlemen.”

      I did.

      Our household tuned in to KCMT (later KCCO) for a lot of our news when I was growing up. It was a natural lead-in to Dan Rather and the CBS Evening News. It was one of the few broadcast channels we could pick up on our antenna. No NBC. ABC was pretty fuzzy. We did get CBC (Canadian Broadcast Channel) pretty clearly for a few years.

      Froyd and Rather were a big part of my excellent scores in Current Event quizzes during Social Studies classes.

  • Jay Sieling

    There was a reunion held in 2010. This was eight years after local operations shut down and a bout 20 years after becoming a satellite of ‘CCO.

    • Jay Sieling

      One of the biggest losses felt when local programming was cut back was the local Jingle Bells telethon put on by the area Jaycees. This fundraiser has been going on for 64 years, starting on radio, then moving to KCMT when the station started. KCCO ceased local operations after the 50th telethon, and it was moved to the other local station KSAX. KSAX was Hubbard broadcasting affiliate with KSTP. They shut down local operations in 2012. The broadcast of the telethon continues through community cable access and streamed on-line. It’s a fun opportunity to see local talent and raise money for food and toy baskets for the needy. Check it out on 12/9/17 if you want to see a bit of what community television used to be like.

  • Paul

    The spectrum auction was interesting to watch unfold. Many PBS affiliates have gone dark in the last few months or are sharing transmitter space.

    TMobile of all providers. spent the most – 10.05 billion.

  • Anna Wagner

    This article could’ve benefited from more Alexandria-area perspective. Bruce Hanson’s quote that it’s “something of a big deal”, but that he “doesn’t believe most people in remote areas use rabbit ears anyways” was quite odd. For one, the Alexandria area actually gets quite a few stations via antenna alone so that’s all my parents have ever used and this change will almost force them to get cable for basic network TV – a huge added expense. Besides that, Alexandria isn’t exactly “remote”.

    • If you follow the link to the article, he’s referring to remote areas, not Alexandria proper.

      • Anna Wagner

        Hmm. Perhaps I’m missing something as I don’t see a link that features a Hanson quote, nor does the link to the 2015 article mention remote areas. In any case, Selective TV is an antenna system in the area that does reach a lot of the rural areas surrounding Alexandria and that’s what my parents have always used to get CBS, ABC, etc through antenna (and likely why I grew up without cable).

        Besides finding that quote a bit odd, I did enjoy the article and it’s certainly a good reminder to support local news.

        • Ah, you’re right. I never made the text linkable. Fixing it now.

          And apparently, Hanson is in Willmar. I’ll fix that too.

  • Niklas_E

    This stinks that Channel 7 KCCO-TV is going off the air. Before the spectrum auction began, CBS (the owner of KCCO-TV) indicated that KCCO-TV would “channel share” with another TV station’s transmitter after the spectrum is sold. I presume that other station was going to be Channel 42 KSAX. But now just recently, out of the clear blue, CBS says KCCO-TV will be going dark and there will be no channel sharing. CBS LIED! Many viewers who use antennas will no longer be able to receive CBS programming. I suspect low-power TV translator company Selective TV in Alexandria will add Channel 4 WCCO-TV out of Minneapolis to it’s lineup. But the signal of the translator will be much weaker than the full-power signal that KCCO-TV had. I also wonder if the picture will be HD on the translator? 2 other translator companies that currently retransmit KCCO-TV (UHF TV in Wilmar and MVTV in Granite Falls) will have to switch over to WCCO-TV instead. Viewers of Channel 12 KCCW-TV from Walker should be grateful that CBS didn’t kill Channel 12 also. Why is that KCCO-TV was killed but KCCW-TV wasn’t? Former KCCO-TV viewers should be entitled to free mobile phone service because the spectrum used for KCCO-TV, a FREE over-the-air television staton, was taken away in order to sell the spectrum to phone companies.