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Fargo: Room Enough For Everyone

Television stations in parts of the Great Plains and rural West face a problem unknown to broadcasters in the crowded Northeast corridor: too much space. How do you get the signal out to a market that's bigger than half the East Coast? That was the challenge facing broadcasters in Fargo, ND when they first brought television to that market. How theyâve solved that problem makes for a interesting story.

KVLY covers an area larger than Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Massachusetts, and New Jersey, with 1,000 square miles to spare. All of the other major network affiliates in the market cover roughly the same size area. Essentially, this is northwestern and west central Minnesota, the eastern third of North Dakota, and a small corner of South Dakota.

Two stations in Fargo, KVLY, the NBC affiliate, and KXJB (CBS), cover their viewing areas with unusually large towers. KVLY's tower is about 2,063 feet, and KXJBâs is about 2,060. Both are among the tallest freestanding structures in the world. According to Charley Johnson, KVLY general manager, his station originally built the tower in order to cover both Grand Forks, ND and Fargo, which are about 75 miles apart. ãIn order to serve both Fargo and Grand Forks, the designers of the signal wanted to put a tower between the two cities that was tall enough to get a signal into both.ä

The same is true for KXJB. "There are no geographical locations here that give you any height above average terrain," said Lee Wagner, general manager. "So basically, youâre taking level terrain and then in order to convert it, going up in height with a stick, as opposed to finding a place that gives you additional elevational gain."

WDAY, the ABC affiliate in Fargo, solves its spacing issues without the use of a mega-tower. Instead, it employs a satellite station in Grand Forks, WDAZ. WDAY simulcasts all network and syndicated programming to WDAZ. In order to cover the local news in each area, it employs two entirely different news staffs. KVLY and KXJB also have news bureaus in Grand Forks.