MPR's Bill Kling stepping down

Bill Kling, the founder of Minnesota Public Radio and the only CEO it has known since 1966, says he's stepping down.

Under his leadership, MPR grew into a behemoth of public broadcasting. It also spawned American Public Media, a production house that distributes a raft of well-known public broadcasting properties, including "Prairie Home Companion," and "Marketplace." MPR estimates its reach to be 900,000 Minnesotans and 16.5 million people across the country.

Kling was also one of the founding board members of National Public Radio, a co-founder of the social network Gather, and the for-profit publishing house Greenspring Media. He was inducted into the Minnesota Broadcaster's Hall of Fame in 2004.

He said he's staying on the job until June 2011 to help with an orderly transition. A search for a new CEO is under way.

"I'm looking forward to the opportunity to collaborate with public broadcasting leaders across the country on ideas to strengthen public media's regional newsgathering capacity. This is a great time for a new endeavor, particularly with the surety that APMG and its properties are - and will remain - well managed by a great team and well-led by an exceptional board."

Impressive as his credentials are, Kling has also been a lightning rod. He led a charge against smaller radio stations being granted more powerful signals out of a fear of interference with MPR broadcasts. Under his leadership, MPR purchased a popular St. Olaf College radio station and turned it into local music-heavy The Current. And MPR gummed up the works for light rail, suing to prevent or detour a downtown St. Paul line that might have impacted the audio quality from MPR studios near by.

He also raised eyebrows in May 2009 when he only halfheartedly rejected the idea of MPR purchasing the financially strapped Minneapolis Star Tribune.

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