Minnesota Public Radio (MPR), is a public radio network for the state of Minnesota. With its three services, News & Information, Classical Music and The Current, MPR operates a 44-station regional radio network in the upper Midwest serving over 9 million people. MPR has 127,150 members and more than one million listeners each week, the largest audience of any regional public radio network.
Minnesota Public Radio has won more than 875 journalism awards, including the Peabody Award, both the RTNDA Edward R. Murrow Award and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting award of the same name, and the Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Gold Baton Award.
Minnesota Public Radio, operating as American Public Media, is the nation's second-largest producer and distributor of national public radio programs, reaching 18 million listeners nationwide each week. It is the largest producer and distributor of classical music programming in the country.
Minnesota Public Radio's 1,058-seat Fitzgerald Theater and 100-seat UBS Forum provide a venue for live remote broadcasts, discussion forums, political debates, cultural programming and more.
As of 1999 the company operates on $32 million a year with 30 stations in 6 states, and it has a $110 million endowment.
As of September 2011, MPR was equal with WNYC for most listener support for a public radio network, and had the highest level of recurring monthly donors of any public radio network in the United States.
Minnesota Public Radio began on January 22, 1967, when KSJR signed on from the campus of Saint John's University in Collegeville, just outside St. Cloud. The Director of Broadcasting for the station was William H. Kling, a graduate of Saint John's.
It soon became apparent that St. Cloud and surrounding Stearns County didn't have enough listeners for the station to be viable, so Kling more than tripled KSJR's power in hopes of reaching the Twin Cities. However, it only provided grade B coverage to Minneapolis and the western portion of the metro, and completely missed St. Paul and the east. Realizing that the station needed to cover the Twin Cities to have a realistic chance of survival, St. John's signed on KSJN, a low-powered repeater station for the Twin Cities, in 1968. However, the operation was still awash in debt. By 1969, St. John's realized it was in over its head operating a full-fledged noncommercial radio station, so it transferred KSJR/KSJN's assets to a community corporation, St. John's University Broadcasting. This corporation later changed its name to Minnesota Educational Radio, and finally Minnesota Public Radio. Kling led MPR as president and CEO for 44 years, before retiring in 2011.
MPR was a charter member of National Public Radio in 1971, and had helped lay the groundwork for forming that organization during 1969 and 1970. In 1971, the network moved its operations from Collegeville to St. Paul, funded in part with a news programming "demonstration" grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. New studios were built and KSJN became the flagship station. During the 1970s, additional stations were added and the network expanded across Minnesota. It was during this period KSJN's news department won numerous regional and national awards and became one of the region's most highly regarded news Operations.
In 1974, MPR began live broadcasting of Garrison Keillor's A Prairie Home Companion, one of the best-known programs on public radio, from the Park Square Theatre in Saint Paul. In the early days of the program, production staff were said to have to work hard to fill the theatre seats, sometimes bringing in radio station staff and urging people to come into the theatre from the street outside. In 1980, MPR originated the Peabody Award-winning show, Saint Paul Sunday, which went national via syndication in 1981.
MPR assisted in the formation of American Public Radio (now known as Public Radio International) in 1983.
Originally, MPR played a mix of classical music and NPR news/talk programming. However, as NPR expanded its offerings, Kling made plans to split MPR into separate classical and news/talk networks. MPR sought to buy a second FM frequency in the Twin Cities from the late 1970s onward. As a fallback, in 1980 it bought WLOL (AM 1330), one of the oldest stations in Minnesota, and changed its calls to KSJN (AM), a simulcast of KSJN-FM. In 1989, AM 1330 changed its calls to KNOW and began airing an expanded lineup of NPR programming. In 1991, MPR bought WLOL-FM, AM 1330's former FM sister, allowing it to finally split its services into two networks. The KSJN calls moved to WLOL-FM's former frequency of 99.5, which began playing classical music full-time. The KNOW call letters and intellectual unit, including the NPR news and talk format, moved to KSJN's old frequency of 91.1.
MPR acquired Marketplace Productions, which produces Marketplace, "Marketplace Morning Report" and "Marketplace Money" from studios in Los Angeles, in association with the University of Southern California, in 2000. That same year, MPR founded Southern California Public Radio, which entered into a public service operating agreement with Pasadena City College for the operation of KPCC in Pasadena, California.
In 2004, MPR announced it would buy WCAL (89.3 FM), the classical music station operated by St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota. WCAL (and a repeater station, KMSE in Rochester), were sold in a deal valued at $10.5 million, which was approved by the Federal Communications Commission in 2004. The next year, following the acquisition by MPR, WCAL changed its call letters to KCMP and was transformed into MPR's third service, "The Current".
In 2008, a WCAL advocate group took St. Olaf College to court for breach of trust for selling the radio station. (A June 2008 judge's opinion described the station as a charitable trust and not the college's property to freely dispose with. )) MPR's General Counsel and three attorneys took part in the proceedings.)
Today, MPR serves a regional audience of one million listeners through 43 stations presenting three broadcast network services.
With the addition of later stations, MPR originally offered a mix of classical music and NPR news/talk programming on a single service. Beginning in 1991, MPR's programming split in two, forming separate news and classical music services (although one station in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan still carries a combination of those two services). The 2005 acquisition of WCAL in Northfield, Minnesota, which covers the Minneapolis-St. Paul and Rochester areas, provided the opportunity to launch another music service, "The Current". This third service has gradually expanded to most of southern eastern Minnesota.
News and information
The MPR newsroom has garnered international acclaim, most recently earning the inaugural Knight News Innovation EPpy Award in 2008. MPR's newsroom is known for its Public Insight Network, a database of citizen sources who contribute their expertise on a wide array of topics. The Public Insight Network grew to 140,000 sources in 2011 and partners with other news media, journalism schools, foundations and community groups.
As of 2011, 49 transmitters carry MPR's News and Information service.
is a non-profit news website maintained by MPR. This online news source covers issues that affect the state including politics, business, education, health, environment and the economy. MPR News offers headline news, video, blogs, audio and multiple ways for readers to become involved in the news-making process.
Like its news and information service, MPR's classical music service originates from KSJN (99.5 FM) in the Twin Cities. MPR's classical music library consists of over 50,000 compact discs.
MPR's classical music service features several online initiatives, such as the "Classical Love Notes," which allow listeners to send romantic classical music selected by MPR on-air hosts to their loved ones.
In the spring of 2011, MPR's classical music service reaches over 382,000 weekly listeners.
There are 36 transmitters broadcasting the classical music service, including one station in Sun Valley, Idaho.
Several people on The Current's initial staff are well known in the area for previous work at stations that highlight music from Minnesota and the Upper Midwest. Many of the staffers and on-air personalities came from other similar stations, such as the University of Minnesota's KUOM, community-oriented KFAI, and commercial alternative rock outlets REV 105 and Cincinnati, Ohio's WOXY.com.
Programming on The Current is mostly locally produced. The Current is carried on seven transmitters, serving a majority of the state's population. The main transmitter is KCMP (89.3 FM), licensed to Northfield on the southeastern periphery of the Twin Cities, though the signal covers most of the metro area. A lower-power station, KMSE (88.7 FM), serves Rochester and southeastern Minnesota, and KCMP translators serve Hinckley and Mankato. In addition, the station is broadcast on a HD Radio sideband channel to listeners of KNSR in St. Cloud and KPCC in Los Angeles. The Current also streams online at in a variety of formats.
Minnesota Public Radio also programs several other music services, all available online, with a few offered on HD Radio in the Twin Cities area.
is a service programmed by the staff of The Current, and featured music from Minnesota artists. Local Current airs on the HD2 subchannel of KCMP and via a separate webstream.
is also programmed by personnel at The Current, and airs a variation of their AAA format, with music geared toward children and parents. Wonderground Radio airs via a separate webstream.
features an eclectic mix of acoustic, Americana and roots music. The service can be found on the HD2 subchannel of KNOW-FM and also via a separate webcast. KNOW-FM also features an HD3 subchannel consisting of programming from BBC World Service and repeat airings of NPR shows.
Subsidiary Communications Authority (SCA's) are used to transmit a Minnesota version of the Radio Talking Book Network to disabled listeners around the state, in cooperation with Minnesota State Services for the Blind. MPR also serves as the radio backbone for the radio portion of the state's Emergency Broadcasting System, and as the backbone for the state's AMBER Alert System.
Plans are in place to add the digital HD Radio system across all of MPR's transmitters. Special receivers are required to decode these broadcasts. They will enable the main channel on each frequency to be broadcast with digital quality and to reduce the multipath interference that sometimes affects FM analog broadcasting. This move will also make additional digital channels possible.
Minnesota Public Radio regional programs:
American Public Media programs heard on Minnesota Public Radio:
Other programs heard on Minnesota Public Radio:
Minnesota Public Radio is a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) organization and relies on contributions from listeners, foundations, educational partners and corporations for its general operations. It also receives support through underwriting on the air and on the Web.
Listener contributions, corporations, foundations and educational partners account for approximately 60 percent of MPR’s total budget. Additional funding is provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. The State of Minnesota provides modest capital grants to upgrade infrastructure and equipment in greater Minnesota, but does not provide operating funding to the organization. MPR also receives operating funding through the sale of on-air and online underwriting.
The for-profit Rivertown Trading Company, once a subsidiary of MPR’s parent company, was sold in 1998 for $124 million. Profits went toward creating MPR’s endowment, a percentage of which contributes to MPR's overall annual budget.
Minnesota Public Radio broadcasts on 44 stations that serve Minnesota and its neighboring communities and 42 translators providing additional local coverage. Stations are located in Minnesota, Wisconsin (La Crosse), South Dakota (Sioux Falls), Michigan (Houghton), Iowa (Decorah), and Idaho (Sun Valley). MPR also operates KPCC in Pasadena, California.
Most areas are served by both a classical music station and a news and information station. One location is covered by a single station that combines both services. Two locations are served by a classical music station, a news and information station, and The Current.
Minnesota Public Radio also broadcasts all three of its services — News, Classical and The Current — on HD Radio in several communities throughout the state of Minnesota. In the Twin Cities, MPR multicasts "Classical 24", BBC News and Local Current, and , a service specifically geared towards children.