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Duluth, Minnesota/Superior, Wisconsin
United States
CityDuluth, Minnesota
BrandingFox 21 (general)
Fox 21 News (newscasts)
ChannelsDigital: 17 (UHF)
(to move to 18 (UHF))
Virtual: 21 (PSIP)
TranslatorsSee below
Affiliations21.1: Fox
21.2: Antenna TV
OwnerRed River Broadcasting
(KQDS Acquisition Corporation)
FoundedDecember 9, 1991
First air dateSeptember 20, 1994 (25 years ago) (1994-09-20)
Call letters' meaningQuality Duluth-Superior
(from former sister station KQDS-FM)
Former callsignsKRBR (1991−1994)
KNLD (1994–1999)
Former channel number(s)Analog:
21 (UHF, 1994–2009)
Former affiliationsIndependent (1994–1999)
Transmitter power1,000 kW
Height299 m (981 ft)
297 m (974 ft) (CP)
Facility ID35525
Transmitter coordinates46°47′37″N 92°7′4″W / 46.79361°N 92.11778°W / 46.79361; -92.11778
Licensing authorityFCC
Public license informationProfile

KQDS-TV, virtual channel 21 (UHF digital channel 17), is a Fox-affiliated television station licensed to Duluth, Minnesota, United States, and also serving Superior, Wisconsin. The station is owned by Red River Broadcasting. KQDS-TV's studios are located on London Road in Duluth (along I-35), and its transmitter is located west of downtown in Hilltop Park. Master control and some internal operations are based out of the studio facilities of sister station, fellow Fox affiliate and Red River flagship KVRR on South 40th Street and South 9th Avenue in Fargo, North Dakota.


The station first signed on the air on September 20, 1994, as KNLD. Very few people knew the station was actually on the air at this time, as it transmitted at low power with an extremely limited schedule of programming, usually airing only for only four hours per day each morning—the minimum required by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to cover the license. The station was Duluth's first independent station. While the Northland had grown large enough to support an independent station at least a decade earlier, it is a very large market geographically. UHF stations do not cover large areas very well. Additionally, the major stations in the market need sizable networks of translators to adequately cover the market, and the cost of building a translator network scared off perspective owners. By the 1990s, cable television—a must for acceptable television in much of this market—had gained enough penetration to make an independent station viable.

Although its lineup once included Big Ten college football, most of the station's schedule was filled with programming from the Shop at Home Network by the late-1990s.

In 1998, Red River Broadcasting (via sister company KQDS Acquisition Corporation) purchased KNLD and several area radio stations including KQDS (1490 AM), KQDS-FM (94.9 FM), WWAX (92.1 FM) and KZIO (94.1 and 104.3 FM), and later changed the television station's call sign to KQDS-TV. The new owners immediately set about giving the station a technical overhaul, but not without controversy. They had won a construction permit for a new tower to replace its old transmitter facility located adjacent to Duluth Central High School, which would give it a coverage area comparable to the other Duluth stations. However, some school and city officials expressed concern about the danger of ice falling from the tower onto the school's parking lot. Eventually, Red River agreed to build the tower further from the parking lot than initially planned.

On September 1, 1999, KQDS-TV activated its new transmitter tower, along with the sign-on of eight translators. That same day, the station became the Duluth–Superior market's first Fox affiliate. Prior to affiliating with the network, Fox programming was available in the market only through cable systems that had carried the network through either Foxnet or Fox's affiliates in the Minneapolis–Saint Paul market (KMSP-TV from 1986 to 1988 and WFTC from 1988 onward). Some areas of the market received Fox on cable via KVRR from Fargo (KQDS' sister station), WLUK from Green Bay (which replaced WGBA-TV in 1995), WGKI from Cadillac, Michigan, or even WKBD from Detroit (prior to that station disaffiliating from the network in 1994).

Digital television[edit]

Digital channels[edit]

The station's digital signal is multiplexed:

Channel Video Aspect PSIP Short Name Programming[1]
21.1 720p 16:9 KQDS-DT Main KQDS-TV programming / Fox
21.2 480i 4:3 ANTENNA Antenna TV

Analog-to-digital conversion[edit]

KQDS-TV discontinued regular programming on its analog signal, over UHF channel 21, on February 1, 2009.[2] The station's digital signal remained on its pre-transition UHF channel 17, using PSIP to display KQDS-TV's virtual channel as 21 on digital television receivers.


Syndicated programs broadcast on KQDS include Divorce Court, Family Feud, The People's Court and The Big Bang Theory among others.

News operation[edit]

In its early years as a Fox affiliate, KQDS entered into a news share agreement with NBC affiliate KBJR to produce a 9 p.m. newscast; the program was broadcast out of KBJR's studios on South Lake Avenue in Duluth, and was anchored by Mark Mallory with weather and sports segments respectively helmed by meteorologist Paul Heggen and sports anchor Tom Hansen. The program was canceled after about nine months due to low ratings, and was replaced by a half-hour simulcast of CNN Headline News. KBJR would not produce a primetime newscast again until September 2002, when that station launched a UPN affiliate on its second digital subchannel.

In its first ratings period in May 2007, KQDS placed third among all evening newscasts in the Duluth market. The station drew more viewers than KBJR's Northland's NewsCenter Tonight at 9 and KDLH's 10 p.m. newscast. In August of that year, after just six months on the air, KQDS's news operation was nominated for three Upper Midwest Emmy Awards in the categories of "Best Newscast", "Best News Special" and "Investigative Series". In July 2009, KQDS registered its best newscast ratings period to date, placing third with about 8,650 viewers (about 2,000 fewer viewers than KBJR's 10 p.m. newscast). In the fall of 2009, the station won two regional Emmy Awards for "Best Newscast" and "Overall Station Excellence". On June 28, 2010, KQDS debuted a half-hour weeknight newscast at 6 p.m.[3]

Notable former on-air staff[edit]


Red River Broadcasting owns and operates seven translators that relay KQDS-TV's programming to areas of the market outside its primary signal contour. All of the translators, except for K31GH and K39GG, had construction permits to air low-powered digital signals, but the permits expired without any of the stations converting from analog to digital transmission. To comply with FCC mandates related to the digital television transition, all of the stations had to obtain new permits and convert to digital by September 1, 2015 in order to remain on the air.[4] On April 24, 2015, it was announced that the conversion date for standard LPTVs and translators still broadcasting in analog had been suspended until further notice, due to economic problems that may arise from the then-upcoming spectrum auction. After the auction's completion in 2017, the FCC announced on May 12 of that year that all analog low-power stations and transmitters must convert by July 13, 2021.[5]

All translators except for K39GG have been upgraded to digital as of November 1, 2016, and via PSIP, remap to virtual channel 21.

Call letters Channel City of license Transmitter location
W15EE-D 15 Ashland, Wisconsin east of city
K29EB-D 29 Grand Rapids, Minnesota northwest of Taconite
K31GH-D 31 Hayward, Wisconsin east of city
K15GT-D 15 Hibbing, Minnesota southwest of downtown
W32CV-D 32 Ironwood, Michigan Hurley, Wisconsin
K20NR-D 20 International Falls, Minnesota east of city
K21KY-D 21 Marcell, Minnesota
K22MR-D 22 Virginia, Minnesota Midway

An additional translator relaying KQDS-TV's programming is owned by a third party, EZ-TV, Inc.

Call letters Channel City of license
K38MJ-D 33 Max, Minnesota

Defunct translator[edit]

Call letters Channel City of license Transmitter location
K39GG 39 Aitkin, Minnesota
(in the Minneapolis market)
east of Rabbit Lake Township along the Crow Wing and Aitkin county line

K39GG went silent sometime in June 2018, and its license was canceled by the FCC on June 27, 2018. KQDS stated the translator's viewership was insufficient to support its continued operation. It also was located in the Minneapolis–Saint Paul television market, which is claimed by KMSP-TV, and Fox has strictly enforced stations remaining in their DMA boundaries since the early 2010s in their affiliation agreements for ratings tabulation purposes.[6]


  1. ^ RabbitEars TV Query for KQDS
  2. ^ List of Digital Full-Power Stations Archived 2013-08-29 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ "Fox 21 News adding 6 p.m. newscast". Duluth News Tribune. April 7, 2010. Retrieved April 7, 2010.
  4. ^ FCC Sets Deadlines for LPTV, TV Translator and Class A Stations To Convert to Digital - And Gives Hints When Television Spectrum May Be Reclaimed for Broadband Broadcast Law Blog July 19, 2011
  5. ^ "The Incentive Auction Task Force and Media Bureau Announce Procedures for Low Power Television, Television Translator and Replacement Translator Stations During the Post-Incentive Auction Transition" (PDF). Federal Communications Commission. May 12, 2017. Retrieved May 25, 2018.
  6. ^ "Exhibit 1 - Suspension of Operations" (PDF). Licensing and Management System. Federal Communications Commission. June 18, 2018. Retrieved June 18, 2018.

External links[edit]