|Austin/Albert Lea/Rochester, Minnesota/|
Mason City, Iowa
|Channels||Digital: 36 (UHF)|
Virtual: 6 (PSIP)
|Branding||ABC 6 (general)|
ABC 6 News (newscasts)
|Affiliations||6.1: ABC (secondary until 1954)|
6.2: This TV
|Owner||Hubbard Broadcasting |
|KSTP-TV, KSTC-TV, WDIO-DT|
First air date
|August 17, 1953|
Former call signs
Former channel number(s)
6 (VHF, 1953–2009)
33 (UHF, 2001–2009)
DuMont (secondary, 1953–1955)
NTA (secondary, 1956–1961)
Call sign meaning
|ERP||RF 36: 620 kW |
RF 33: 8.3 kW
|HAAT||RF 36: 326 m (1,070 ft) |
RF 33: 72.5 m (238 ft)
|Translator(s)||33 (UHF) Mason City|
Public license information
KAAL, virtual channel 6 (UHF digital channel 36), is an ABC-affiliated television station licensed to Austin, Minnesota, United States, serving Southeastern Minnesota and Northern Iowa. The station is owned by Saint Paul-based Hubbard Broadcasting. KAAL's studios are located in the TJ Maxx-anchored shopping center on Salem Road in Rochester, Minnesota, with a secondary studio on 10th Place Northeast in Austin. The station's transmitter is located in Grand Meadow Township.
The station signed on the air on August 17, 1953 as KMMT and aired an analog signal on VHF channel 6. Its first owners were local businessmen Martin Busted, Harry Smith, and Palmer Ulland, who also owned KAUS radio (AM 1480 and FM 99.9). Originally, the station was a primary CBS affiliate with secondary ABC and DuMont relations. After KGLO-TV (channel 3, now KIMT) launched from Mason City in late 1954, KMMT switched its primary affiliation to ABC. DuMont would eventually be dropped in 1956 after that network shut down operations. This station is the longest-tenured ABC affiliate in the Upper Midwest.
During the late-1950s, the station was also briefly affiliated with the NTA Film Network. It shared studios with KAUS radio on MN 105 in Austin where the two radio stations continue to operate today. The television station produced a few local programs most notably The Family Hour hosted by Christian Pastor Joe Matt. The program aired until April 2001 and was one of the longest-running, locally produced religious shows in the United States.
KMMT and KAUS radio were purchased by Waterloo, Iowa-based Blackhawk Broadcasting in 1958. The station would add color television in 1967. Its call letters became KAUS-TV (for AUStin) in 1968 to match its radio sisters. The outlet would begin carrying the yearly Jerry Lewis MDA Labor Day Telethon in 1973 and remained the area's affiliate until the event ended its run in 2015. KAUS-AM-FM-TV separated operations in 1974 after the television station moved to its current location on 10th Place Northeast along I-90. The building previously housed a Volkswagen dealership and showroom. The call letters were changed to the current KAAL-TV in 1975 referring to Austin and Albert Lea. Blackhawk sold KAAL to the News-Press & Gazette Company of St. Joseph, Missouri in 1980.
In December 1985, Dix Communications acquired the station and the new company added stereo programming in November 1990. Another ownership change occurred in 1997 after Grapevine Communications of Atlanta purchased KAAL. It would eventually drop the use of the -TV suffix on September 23, 1998. Grapevine, in turn, divested the station to GOCOM on January 1, 2000. Exactly a year later, current owner Hubbard Broadcasting assumed control. The year 2001 also saw the launch of KAAL's digital signal on UHF channel 33. KAAL's broadcasts became digital-only, effective June 12, 2009.
Its previous digital allotment would eventually be used to sign-on a fill-in translator to cover Mason City. During the analog era, its signal used an FM audio carrier which could be heard at 87.75 in areas where the video signal could be received (and some where it could not). The same practice was true of all analog channel 6 television stations in North America. However, this analog FM carrier no longer exists for full-powered stations after the conversion to digital-only transmission.
At 8 p.m. on June 17, 2009, Austin was struck by an EF2 tornado in the city's north side. It passed one half mile to the north of KAAL's studios. This tornado was powerful enough to take out power for the entire city including this station. However, it continued to cover the severe weather event with a backup generator only able to power a few lights, computers, and camera set up in the weather center. The station would remain without electricity until 2 p.m. the next day. Normal operations resumed with the 5 p.m. newscast on June 18. The EF2 tornado caused structural damage to buildings on the north side of the city from US 218 near 4th Street Northwest to the golf country club.
The station's digital signal is multiplexed:
|Channel||Video||Aspect||PSIP short name||Programming|
|6.1||720p||16:9||KAAL-DT||Main KAAL programming / ABC|
|City of license||Callsign||Channel||ERP||HAAT||Facility ID||Transmitter coordinates|
|Garner, IA||KAAL (DRT)||33||8.3 kW||72.6 m (238 ft)||18285|
Local news, weather, and sports have been provided on the station since its first day of broadcasting in 1953. Under News-Press & Gazette Company control in the early-1980s, its news department was significantly expanded complete with new equipment for live reporting from the field. Since KIMT is licensed to the Iowa side of the market, it has traditionally focused coverage on that state compared with the area's other stations (KAAL and KTTC, channel 10) which are based in Minnesota.
Most of KAAL's technical operations are currently based at its studios in Austin. However, it also operates a full facility on Salem Road in Rochester that allows the station to have a solid presence in that area as opposed to a smaller bureau. For several years during its weeknight newscasts, KAAL maintained special technology to offer the unique practice of producing live newscasts from its Rochester studios while also featuring live weather forecasts and sports highlights originating from the Austin studios. As of February 2015, KAAL has moved all of its studio operations to their building on Salem Road in Rochester, and feed it back to their main broadcast operation in Austin where it is sent to their broadcast transmitters.
Notable former on-air staff
- Ross Becker – morning anchor; now CEO of TVnewsmentor.com
- Butch Stearns – sports anchor; now with WFXT in Boston
- Bill Weir – reporter; now with CNN
- "Require Prime Evening Time for NTA Films", Boxoffice: 13, November 10, 1956
- "Austin, MN Tornado Of June 17, 2009". noaa.gov. June 20, 2009. Retrieved September 1, 2011.
- "KAAL plans $1M studio in Rochester". 27 June 2014.