KFYR AM Radio/KFYR-TV (Meyer Broadcasting)
KFYR is both an AM radio station and the local NBC affiliate for the Bismarck-Mandan area. Its former locally-owned operator – Meyer Broadcasting – was among North Dakota’s largest privately owned companies, chiefly through its television and radio stations across the state.
Both broadcasters have roots to 1925 when local entrepreneurs Philip Meyer and his wife Etta Hoskins-Meyer established KFYR Radio, a 10-watt AM station that began broadcasting the following year, in 1926. KFYR later became one of three North Dakota stations to begin television broadcasts in 1953, including the first from Bismarck.
The Meyers later added full-fledged satellite TV and radio stations in Fargo, Minot, Dickinson, and Williston.
The radio and television divisions was split in 1998 when the Meyer family sold each group, separately, for a combined total of nearly $70 million.
The Provident Life Weather Beacon has been operated continuously by KFYR Radio since its construction in 1954.
KFYR AM Radio broadcasts on the 550 AM frequency. Its coverage reaches into five U.S. states (North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, and Minnesota) and two Canadian provinces (Saskatchewan and Manitoba), yielding one of the widest coverage areas.
Philip Meyer and his wife Etta Hoskins-Meyer founded KFYR, a 10-watt AM radio station, in 1925. KFYR’s first broadcast was the Elk Band Concert on February 8th, 1926. The radio studio was located in the music room of the Hoskins-Meyer building, in the same building housing KFYR-TV today. Until erecting a dedicated transmitter tower in 1930, which was the second-tallest man-made structure in the nation at the time, KFYR’s signal broadcasted from a rooftop antenna.
In 1963 (some sources say 1966), KFYR established an FM counterpart on 92.9 (now Y-93, KYYY).
Jacor Communications – then the nation’s third-largest radio broadcaster – acquired both radio stations in 1998 for a reported $4.8 million.
Over the years, KFYR Radio has been known for such radio personalities as Phil Parker & Mark Armstrong (The “Phil & Mark Show”) and “Ol’ Reb” Jack Fisher, of whom the Rebel Burger at Scotty’s Drive-In is named for. Today, KFYR Radio, along with sister station KYYY (“Y-93”), are owned by iHeartMedia, Inc. (previously Clear Channel Communications).
KFYR-TV has always had an affiliation with NBC, and once held a partial affiliation with ABC.
KFYR-TV officially signed on the air on December 19, 1953. The FCC originally granted four television channels for Bismarck. KFYR elected channel 5 to correspond with its 550 AM signal. KFYR’s original cost estimates for adding a TV signal were $280,000.
KFYR-TV originated local content until its first national network broadcast – the World Series on September 28, 1956.
In 1998, the Meyer Family sold KFYR-TV and its sister stations to Sunrise Television for $63.75 million, splitting KFYR with its radio sibling. Since then, the station group has been sold three times. Its current owner, since 2014, is Gray Television, who also acquired the local FOX affiliate at the same time.
Meyer Broadcasting was the parent company of KFYR and its partner entities, which eventually evolved into one of North Dakota’s largest privately owned companies, encompassing several North Dakota radio and television stations, along with Bismarck-Mandan’s cable provider.
In 1991, Meyer sold Bismarck-Mandan Cable TV to Dakota Cable/Meredith Cable.
In 1998, Meyer Broadcasting sold, separately, its television operations – to Sunrise Television – and radio operations – to Jacor Communications (later Clear Channel Communications, now iHeart) which resulted in splitting KFYR-AM and KFYR-TV. This effectively ended Meyer Broadcasting as a company. Despite separate owners, however, both entities remained housed within the same building for several years thereafter.
The multi-tenant structure anchored by KFYR-TV and its West Dakota FOX sibling is technically comprised of three buildings, 2 of which molded to appear as a single structure. The core of these is a historic building that was originally known as the Tribune Block, then the Hoskins Block.
The building was completely renovated at a cost of $300,000 in 1949, adding the granite and bluish-grey porcelain panels visible today. While the original foundation remains largely intact, much of the original building itself was demolished as part of the renovation.
When first renovated, the main stairwell leading to KFYR-TV’s home on the second floor were lined with a mural depicting the progress of communications, past to present. It also contained a quote by David Sarnoff, then chairman of the board of directors for RCA: “The richest man cannot buy for himself what the poor man gets free by radio.”
Studio A, the main studio of 4, also boasted an auditorium seating 110. The building was second only to the Capitol in electrical systems.
Notable KFYR-TV Anchors (past and present)
- Monica Hannan
- Cliff Naylor
- Lee Timmerman
- Kevin Lawrence (2001-Present, previously at station station KMOT)
- Alan Miller (2001-Present)
- Chuck Bartholomay (?-2001)
- Dick Heidt
- Jerry Bartz
- I.E. Solberg (Esky the Weather Wizard)
- Rog Higgins