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KBEW soon to have new ownership

By Staff | Apr 2, 2017

The KBEW AM and FM radio station in Blue Earth will have new owners by July 1. The station was started in August of 1963 by Paul Hedberg and sold to current owners Jerry and Pat Papenfuss in 1980.

There was big news at the KBEW AM and FM radio stations in Blue Earth this week.

The station has been sold to a company from Yankton, South Dakota, called Riverfront Broadcasting, LLC.

They will be only the third owners of the station in its 53-year history.

Current KBEW radio owner Jerry Papenfuss, of Winona, announced the sale on Wednesday last week. Papenfuss and his wife, Pat, have been involved in radio since 1962.

Their ownership of KBEW, however, dates back to 1980, when they purchased the station from Paul Hedberg, who signed KBEW on the air in August of 1963.

Papenfuss announced the sale also includes KDOM AM and FM radio in Windom.

“I am confident KBEW’s strong commitment to community service will continue under the new owners,” Papenfuss said in a statement.

The sale is expected to be official around July 1, as it needs to receive approval from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

The new owners are not worried about getting the FCC approval. They own several radio stations in both South Dakota and Iowa, and FCC approval has never been an issue in the past, says Riverfront Broadcasting co-owner Carolyn Becker.

“My husband, Doyle, and I started Riverfront Broadcasting in September of 2004,” Becker said in an interview with the Faribault County Register last week. “We first purchased a radio station in Nebraska, which we no longer own.”

Becker started in radio when she was still a 16-year-old high school student in Yankton, South Dakota.

“I went into KYNT radio and applied for a job,” she says. “They asked me what I wanted to do, and I answered I wanted to own the radio station. And 19 years later, I purchased it.”

After that, the two Beckers, sometimes with minor interest partners, starting buying other small town radio stations. They often formed different companies, but all have the name “Riverfront” in the title.

“This is our first purchase of stations in Minnesota,” Becker says of the Blue Earth and Windom stations. “Our official name here is Riverfront Broadcasting of Minnesota.”

They have two minor-interest partners in this company, Steve and Laura White, who will be moving to Minnesota and may be seen more at the KBEW station than the Beckers.

“My husband and I have another company, Riverfront Engineering. Doyle is a bio-medical engineer, but now does all of our radio engineering.”

Becker says they already had a connection to the Blue Earth area long before they decided to purchase the radio station here.

“One of the employees of our radio engineering company is Mark Croom of Elmore,” Becker says. “His wife, Janice, was the librarian in Elmore, and is now in Blue Earth.”

The Beckers also have an Ag Radio Network, where they create agri-news programming for their own radio stations as well as other radio stations in the Midwest. Their programming can now be heard in eight states.

And, if that isn’t enough to keep them busy, the Beckers, who were both born and raised in Yankton, also have four children, ages 17, 13, 8 and 6.

Becker had nothing but praise for the staff at KBEW, and said they have all been doing a great job.

“I don’t think we will be making any major changes in the radio station,” Becker says. “I mean, the saying is, if it is working, why change it? We wouldn’t make any changes until we get a feel for the community.”

She adds that she and her husband have a love for small towns, and they keep their radio stations active in the communities they serve.

“We do what we do because we love it, we enjoy it and have fun,” Becker says, “and we want to be part of the community.”