WCCO (830 kHz) is a Class A clear-channel radio station located in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA and owned by CBS Radio. Its studios are located in the CBS Radio Building at 625 Second Avenue South in downtown Minneapolis. Its transmitter is located in Coon Rapids, Minnesota. WCCO features talk radio and news programming, with local hosts most hours of the day and night. With 50,000 watts of power, and a non-directional signal, WCCO reaches a wide area of North America at night.
WCCO began broadcasting in the region on September 4, 1922 as WLAG, known as "the Call of the North", from a hotel near Loring Park in Minneapolis. However, the station soon landed in financial trouble and closed down in 1924. Washburn Crosby Company, forerunner of General Mills, took over the station and renamed it WCCO for the company's initials. Broadcasts resumed less than two months later on October 2, 1924 from its current transmitter site in Coon Rapids.
In 1927, WCCO was one of the original 21 stations of the NBC Red Network.
In the early days of radio, WCCO was a powerful force in the development of better and more powerful transmitters. On November 11, 1928, with the implementation of the Federal Radio Commission's General Order 40, WCCO changed its frequency to 810 kHz and was granted clear-channel status. It signed on with 50,000 watts for the first time in September 1932. In the 1930s, two additional 300-foot towers were added to increase the range of the station's signal. Later in 1932, CBS bought WCCO from General Mills, and it remains affiliated with the CBS Radio Network to this day. In 1952, CBS sold majority control of WCCO to the Murphy and McNally families, who formed Midwest Radio and Television as a holding company for WCCO radio and its new television sister. CBS was forced to sell off its stake in the WCCO stations in 1954 due to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) ownership limits in effect at the time. CBS reacquired the WCCO stations outright in 1992 when Midwest Radio and Television merged with the network.
WCCO constructed a new 654-foot tower in Coon Rapids in 1939. This is the same tower used today, although the broadcast frequency was changed to 830 kHz as a result of the 1941 North American Radio Broadcasting Agreement.
Due to the station's power, as well as Minnesota's mostly flat landscape, WCCO boasts one of the largest coverage areas in the country. During the day, it provides at least B grade coverage to almost all of Minnesota (as far north as Duluth and as far south as Rochester), plus large portions of Iowa and Wisconsin. Under the right conditions, it reaches into portions of North and South Dakota. At night, the station's signal typically reaches across 28 U.S. states and three Canadian provinces. Certain conditions can make the signal stretch much farther. Legendary station personality Howard Viken says that he once picked up the station while he was stationed at Guadalcanal in 1943. In 2005, WCCO began broadcasting its signal with HD Radio.
Programming and personalities
WCCO broadcasters were substantial celebrities across the Midwest. Perhaps the greatest of them all was Cedric Adams who first appeared on WCCO in 1931, and broadcast on the station until his death in 1961. Pilots flying over the Upper Midwest reported watching the lights go out all over the region each night when Adams finished his 10 p.m. newscast. Howard Viken, Maynard Speece, Charlie Boone and Roger Erickson, Jergen Nash, Joyce Lamont, Randy Merriman and others were so well known and loved that when distinguished broadcaster Steve Cannon "the Iron Ranger" and his cast of characters, including Backlash LaRue, Morgan Mundane and Ma Linger arrived at WCCO from KSTP in 1971, he was still thought of by many as the "new guy" nearly until his retirement 26 years later.
WCCO Radio plays a news and talk-oriented format, with a strong news element, opinion and a number of shows throughout the day, with occasional short stories. The format also included a broad mix of music, which leaned toward traditional MOR and easy-listening fare until the 1980s, when the playlist shifted more toward adult contemporary. The music was gradually phased out by the early 1990s, when the format was changed to all news/talk.
Severe weather coverage
WCCO also had a longtime reputation of being the station to tune to for emergency information, especially severe weather and school closings in winter. Listeners would call in during severe weather events and describe what they were seeing at their locations, supplementing information from the National Weather Service. For many years, it was famous for its "klaxon" alert tone for tornado warnings. WCCO is also a PEP station for the Emergency Alert System
For a series of public service, live, emergency broadcasts in 1965 – the St. Patrick's Day Blizzard, the record April floods on the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers, and the May 6 onslaught of 24 tornado touchdowns in the Twin Cities area – the station earned a 'trifecta' of the George Foster Peabody, the DuPont, and the Sigma Delta Chi, awards, all in one year.
FM Sister: W9XHW to WCCO-FM to Lite FM to BUZ'N
WCCO engineers were experimenting with frequency modulation by 1939, operating W9XHW at 42.3 MHz, but at just 50 watts. The station continued to only consider the medium tepidly. In 1969, WCCO-FM was broadcasting at 2,700 watts atop the 450-foot Foshay Tower in downtown Minneapolis, and only for the minimum number of hours required to keep a license to the frequency. The FM station moved its antenna to 1,250 feet near the top of the Shoreview, Minnesota, Twin Cities antenna farm, with a power of 100,000 watts, in 1973. A full day's programming of music and a large news operation could be heard clearly for 150 miles in all directions. By the late 1970s, "WCCO-FM 103" had come into its own and established its own identity with a very popular adult-contemporary/soft rock format. In 1983 it became WLTE 102.9 FM, an identity it would keep until Christmas 2011, when WLTE switched to a country music format as "BUZ'N @ 102.9", with new call letters KMNB. Like its AM sister, KMNB broadcasts in HD Radio, and rebroadcasts WCCO programming on its HD-2 side channel.
WCCO was the top-rated station in the Twin Cities for decades until shifting demographics and a decline in listening to AM Radio saw several FM stations, including Classic rock 92.5 KQRS-FM and Top 40 101.3 KDWB-FM overtake it. One sign of the changing times: the well-known farm report was dropped in early 2004, reflecting the fact that many farmers began to rely more on the Internet for such information and that the number of farmers in Minnesota has drastically shrunk since the station first began broadcasting (though agriculture remains vital to the region).
More recent WCCO personalities have included longtime Star Tribune columnist Sid Hartman, "Whole-Lotta Woman" Ruth Koscielak, Tim Russell, also a cast member on Garrison Keillor's A Prairie Home Companion. Some notable sports broadcasters have included Baseball Hall of Fame member Herb Carneal the longtime voice of the Minnesota Twins, Halsey Hall, Ray Scott and Ray Christensen, longtime voice of University of Minnesota's Gopher Football and Gopher Men's Basketball. Some of WCCO's current programming includes the morning show with Dave Lee during the week days from 5 to 9, the afternoon drive with John Williams from 3 to 7, Mike Max from 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm, and Jordana Green from 9:00–11:00 p.m.
WCCO became the radio home of Minnesota Timberwolves basketball starting with the 2011–2012 season, having recently acquired the broadcast rights from rival KFAN. WCCO broadcast University of St. Thomas football beginning in the 2011–2012 season. Games will be hosted on air by David Lee. WCCO was the former home of University of Minnesota Golden Gophers athletics, Minnesota Wild hockey and Minnesota Twins baseball. The Minnesota Twins had been on WCCO since arriving in Minnesota in 1961, but because of a dispute between WCCO parent CBS and XM Satellite Radio over compensation for its Major League Baseball broadcasts, CBS did not renew many of its MLB contracts. WCCO was the radio home of the Minnesota Vikings from 1961–69, 1976–84, 1988–90 and 1996–2000.
Eleanor Mondale, the daughter of former Senator and Vice President Walter Mondale, started her career in radio at the station in 1989 as the entertainment reporter, but left after eight months. She returned to Minnesota in 2006 to co-host a weekday morning show on WCCO-AM with Susie Jones.
In August 2008, as a cosmetic change to make WCCO in the norm with CBS' other talk radio stations, the station changed from "News/Talk 830 WCCO" to "News Radio 830 WCCO".
On September 15, 2011, WCCO was awarded the for Large Market Station of the Year.