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KUMD takes on new name, ownership under WDSE

The radio station is now called The North 103.3 FM. Dual ownership of TV and radio stations is uncommon in public media; the purchase is the first of its kind in Minnesota.

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The North 103.3 FM is formerly known as KUMD. Contributed / WDSE-WRPT

Ownership of Duluth's local, public radio station KUMD has officially transitioned from the University of Minnesota Duluth to Duluth-Superior Area Educational Television Corporation, more commonly known as WDSE-WRPT.

The only change listeners can expect to notice beginning Wednesday morning is a name change to The North 103.3 FM with a call name of WDSE, Tom Jamar, WDSE director of marketing, communications and membership services, said.

"There's been a lot of change in the radio landscape, particularly in Duluth in the last two years, where stations have had a dramatic shift in the format they are hearing. That is not happening in this case," Jamar said. "Where some might see the (sale) as a loss, in actuality we're saving and preserving the station. The opportunities will remain great."

UMD Chancellor Lendley Black proposed selling the station to WDSE at a University of Minnesota Board of Regents meeting in February 2020. The university's tight operations and maintenance budget was struggling to support the station, Black said, and it would be better positioned to thrive under WDSE's ownership, while still continuing opportunities for students.

PREVIOUSLY:

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  • University of Minnesota Duluth gets first approval in intent to sell KUMD The college wants to sell its radio station to WDSE due to difficulties financing ongoing operations.
  • UMD considers selling radio station Chancellor Lendley Black presented to the Board of Regents the details of the non-binding letter of intent to sell KUMD.

The hope for both parties is for the new ownership to open up student opportunities in television. Dual ownership of TV and radio stations, like the BBC, are relatively rare in public media and the public television station's purchase of KUMD makes it the first of its kind in Minnesota, Jamar said.
"We're super excited about the opportunities that come with that," Jamar said. "The TV station and the radio station have their own personalities and we don't want to lose sight of that, but the combination of the two is really unique and brings a lot of unique opportunities for membership, for our underwriters and certainly for our staff to really have this new, larger public media group."

All four full-time employees of KUMD were offered to stay in their jobs, with one person choosing to leave. Lisa Johnson, who's been with the station for 30 years and was the host of the Northland Morning, left the station this week. Interim program director Chris Harwood will fill in for Johnson until the station hires a replacement. WDSE is also in the process of hiring a general station manager, a point of leadership the station hasn't had for some time.

Volunteers, who go a long way in supporting the station, will remain integral to its operation as well. At least 50 volunteers and approximately 20 students, including student employees, are currently involved in running the station, which will continue. Opportunities for students have included marketing as well as student program director and student music director positions.

UMD has offered to allow WDSE to continue using the station's existing space on campus for the next three years while a plan is determined for a "cohesive facility plan," he said. WDSE owns its building on Niagara Court, which is also on the UMD campus.

If WDSE were to make any changes to programming, Jamar said it would be at the request of the community and listeners

"We're really excited about the growth and giving the station resources they haven't had in quite some time," Jamar said. "If anything, there's going to be more opportunity for people, not less."

WDSE purchased the station for $175,000. The station was founded by students in 1956 and first aired from the basement of the former Washburn Hall using hand-me-down turntables and transistors from the Twin Cities campus.

UMD spokesperson Lynne Williams, who also oversaw the station from the administrative level, said that while she's sad to see the station's history within the university come to close, she's excited for the opportunities that will be available under the leadership of a public media corporation.

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"I'm excited that it's going to prosper; it's going to a place that understands public media. That is not the university's core. I will never be able to provide them the leadership and the insight of the industry they'll get from WDSE," Williams said. "It transformed from a university radio station to a public radio station and WDSE is the right place for it to be now."

Christine Dean, the interim station manager, said she's looking forward to having the ability to hire staff again and having more people to work with students.

"I'm just looking forward to us building ourselves up in all areas and being able to create more great, local programming," Dean said. "I think it opened up a lot of possibilities for us."

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