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Published September 18 2012

UPDATE: Radio Fargo-Moorhead, including KFGO, awaits approval for sale to Wis. company

FARGO – Six local radio stations, including ratings leader KFGO, have been sold to a Wisconsin-based media company, the station announced Tuesday.

Midwest Communications, based in Wasau, Wis., is set to acquire the Radio Fargo-Moorhead stations from Fargo owner Jim Ingstad.

The sale is pending Federal Communications Commission approval. Midwest owns 47 radio stations in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and three other states.

Midwest president Duke Wright said in a statement the company has had “a long-term interest” in getting into North Dakota radio.

“We are very excited about becoming involved with these great stations,” he said in the statement.

Ingstad, meanwhile, praised both his outgoing employees and the new owners.

“I know Duke and his team will continue the tradition of excellent broadcasting with the Radio Fargo-Moorhead group,” he said in a statement.

Ingstad and Wright couldn’t be reached immediately for comment Tuesday after word of the sale broke in the afternoon.

Joel Heitkamp, operations manager for Radio Fargo-Moorhead, said he’s been told the new ownership, a family-owned company, is committed to local programming.

“That to me is what I wanted to hear from Jim Ingstad so bad,” Heitkamp said.

He said Ingstad told him Midwest intends “to keep things as much the same as they possibly can.”

But he also said it’s realistic to expect some changes under new ownership, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Heitkamp said he found out about the sale Tuesday, and doesn’t yet know the details of what might change.

This is the second time Ingstad has sold KFGO. He first bought it and a handful of other stations in 1998 from an Otter Tail Power Co. subsidiary, and sold it two years later to Texas-based media giant Clear Channel Communications.

Critics said Clear Channel eroded the station’s “live and local” mantra in favor of syndicated programming – an outcry that grew particularly loud after KFGO dropped the popular “Jack and Sandy Show” in 2004.

Heitkamp said he doesn’t think this ownership will be a repeat of that experience.

“It sounds like that’s not going to happen to us,” he said.

Ingstad bought the station and others back from Clear Channel in 2006. He made out handsomely between the two sales, selling the stations for $46.5 million and buying them back for $14 million.

KFGO first went on the air in 1948. It has changed hands a half-dozen times since then.

The other stations in the sale are BOB 95 FM, Y94 FM, 104.7 Popster FM, 101.9 Talk FM, and 740 The FAN.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Marino Eccher at (701) 241-5502