Welcome to local radio on the Minnesota prairie: KLQP is one of few independent stations serving a rural market

MADISON -- Welcome to KLQP Radio, where all the lost dogs and cats are found, every church supper is above average, and every listener's birthday is worthy of mention on the air.

MADISON -- Welcome to KLQP Radio, where all the lost dogs and cats are found, every church supper is above average, and every listener's birthday is worthy of mention on the air.

This radio station is all about "localism.'' It serves listeners who want to know what's going on in their hometowns of Madison, Dawson and the other communities in Lac qui Parle County, and beyond to Canby in Yellow Medicine County.

"That's why we're here,'' said Maynard Meyer, the voice of KLQP Radio. "That's our bread and butter.''

For 23 years now, Meyer of Madison and his partner Terry Overlander of Dawson have made localism the format of KLQP Radio, 92.1 on the FM dial.

In the process, they've also made this 20,000-watt radio station on the western Minnesota prairie the exception to the rule. It is now one of the very few remaining independently owned and operated radio stations in the country.


"Extraordinarily rare,'' is how Jim du Bois, director of the Minnesota Broadcasters Association, described the station's position as a stand-alone operation. Ever since Congress opened the floodgates with the Telecommunications Act of 1996, the trend has been toward consolidation in the radio industry. Meyer and Overlander have bucked the trend by refusing tempting offers from would-be buyers.

And they've been successful. Meyer said KLQP turned in its best financial performance ever last year, and he is optimistic about the year ahead.

Small staff, big job

The station's focus on "localism'' isn't easy. While the station subscribes to services like the Minnesota News Network and the Linder Farm Network, most of its 24 hours of programming must be filled with locally produced and generated material.

It's a big job that falls to a small staff: The two partners are joined by a full-time office manager of 22 years, two part-time sports announcers, a part-time student helper, and the part-time host of a Saturday afternoon old-time music show.

"We've never been afraid to stray off the beaten path,'' said Meyer of the station's willingness to air an eclectic mix of local programming.

It's his responsibility to develop most of it. He creates four local news reports each day, with the first airing shortly after 6 a.m. and the last at 7 p.m.

He also assembles the daily play list of country and western music and 1950s to 1970s-era "golden oldies" the station features.


Meyer hosts on-the-air interviews with local residents, such as Madison Police Chief Stan Ross who dropped in the other day to remind residents about snow plowing rules. Meyer also handles everything from reading the day's birthday and death announcements and the daily rummage sale report to serving as the voice for the local advertisements the station produces and airs.

Come evening, part-time announcers Paul Raymo and Dick Newman take on the duties of covering the high school sports.

Overlander puts on plenty of his own miles as the main sales force. He calls on businesses within the 50-mile broadcast radius of the station.

Local radio relies on local advertisers

KLQP relies almost entirely on local advertisers for its revenues, said Meyer.There are more than 30,000 people -- potential customers -- living within reach of its signal.

"I know the advertising gets results,'' said Meyer. He said most advertisers base their decision to buy on performance, but some do so for the sake of boosting local sports and community activities.

"It is the single most effective thing I've done to increase my business, by far,'' said Dan Fondell, owner of TAC Computers in Dawson. For two years he has sponsored a weekly question-and-answer program. Fondell said KLQP has brought customers he could reach no other way.

Duane Amundson, owner of Madison Implement, said he is well aware of the station's importance to the community in his role as chairman of the local economic development agency. He said that the rural communities of Madison and Dawson, with populations of 1,768 and 1,480 respectively, are fortunate to have their own radio station. "Not every small, rural community has a radio station,'' he said.


Radio operations

Meyer and Overlander started the station from scratch. There was no radio station in the Madison-Dawson area when they took on the task of obtaining a frequency and license.

They grew up as friends in Benson, where Meyer graduated from high school in 1970 and Overlander in 1971. They learned radio from their fathers, who had roles with KBMO Radio in Benson.

Meyer said the business of operating a rural radio station remains challenging but is also much improved. Technology has greatly eased the work load.

When he started in radio, he had to queue up the 45 rpm records and perform many of his other duties in the three-minute time segments while they played. Today, a computer allows him to queue up a day's worth of music and programming. He can be out of the office for hours at a time.

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