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.