Radio & TV Stations in Minnesota

In light of the fact that (most) TV & radio stations east of the Mississippi have call letters beginning in W and that (most) stations west of the Mississippi have call letters beginning in K, what about those in Minnesota? Is it possible that a station in Minneapolis would have a K sign and one in St. Paul would have a W sign?

Furthermore, are there any stations based in MN cities north of the source of the Mississippi?

One need only take a quick glance at the TV listings for Minneapolis-St. Paul to that WCCO and KSTP coexist peacefully with KARE and WFTC.

North of the Mississippi headwaters, you’ll find Duluth, home of WDSE and KBJR.

For that matter, here in St. Louis you’ll find WEW and WIL as well as KMOX and KSDK.

The east/west division has changed over the years, as well as being more and less rigidly enforced at different times, which is why WFAA still broadcasts in Dallas, WHO in Des Moines and WOWT in Omaha, to name a few.

The three main stations:
ABC-KSTP in St Paul and “East” of the Mississippi (actually, North).
CBS-WCCO in Downtown Minneapolis West of the Mississippi
NBC-KARE in Golden Valley and West of the Mississippi (it used to be WUSA and WFTC back in the days, but have since changed)

Although KSTP has a St. Paul address, its studios and offices are actually located precisely on the Minneapolis-St. Paul border.

From Wikipedia:

Fifteen years ago, I walked under the legs of that tower (it extends into the building) every night at midnight to begin my job as producer of the morning news show.

For those unfamiliar with Twin Cities geography, the Mississippi river takes a bend and flows almost due east from Minneapolis to St. Paul. So downtown Minneapolis is technically west, geographically south, of the river and St. Paul the opposite. IOW, you have to cross the river somewhere to go from one to the other.

You have a KDKA in Pittsburgh and kYW Philadelphia both are historical exceptions. In general Minnesota and Louisiana stations can apply for either “K” or “W.”

Here is a great website that explains it all from Early Radio History.Us

Here’s a map that shows exceptions outside of the states of Minnesota and Louisiana

There’s a station in Texas that applies every couple of years for an N call, getting rejected every time by the FCC. The FCC could, if it wanted, assign N and even AA-AL calls to broadcasters, but chooses not to for its own reasons, which it generally doesn’t see fit to share.

Also, the K/W convention applies only to the broadcast services; in the other services the first letter is not used to indicate geography at all.

By the way, the actual regulation at stake here is found in 47 CFR §73.3550(e):

A station which is neither east nor west of the Mississippi River (being either north or south of it) would fall under neither branch of that prohibition and would be eligible for either initial letter.

In 1987, many of the call letters restrictions were deregulated, and the Federal Communications Commission even proposed ending the traditional K/W split. The broadcast industry was appalled, however, and the FCC kept it in place. Also, quoting from the webpage Markxxx linked to – which is mine, by the way – “The source of the Mississippi River is in upper Minnesota, so using it as the K/W boundary leaves a gap in the northern part of the state. In 1987 the Federal Communications Commission noted that the current staff practice was to define the remainder of the boundary as ‘a line from the headwaters of the [Mississippi] to a point [at the Canadian border] just east of International Falls’.”