American Public Media Group, the parent organization of Minnesota Public Radio, has bought a Christian radio station in Florida with plans to program it with classical music. The $20 million purchase will be funded through bond financing and paid off with donations from listeners and contributors.
"Miami is the largest city in the country that doesn't have a classical music service," APMG president Bill Kling said in a statement. "It's also a larger city than most, and since we are one of the major classical music and arts producers in the world, and the largest in the United States, making sure we can get our programming out to people is key."
In addition to being the parent of Minnesota Public Radio, American Public Media is the second-largest provider (after NPR) of public radio programming in the United States, distributing such popular series as A Prairie Home Companion, Marketplace and St. Paul Sunday. Over the past year, APMG has picked up many national classical radio programs that NPR has dropped, including Performance Today and SymphonyCast.
WMCU 89.7 Spirit FM is a 100,000 watt noncommercial station that reaches about 3,700,000 people within the primary coverage area in Miami-Dade and Broward counties. It is owned by the Trinity International Foundation, whose purpose is to support the educational ministries of Trinity International University, an affiliate of the Evangelical Free Church of America. The foundation did not sell the station under financial duress, said spokesman Gary Cantwell, and still has not decided what to do with the funds.
"We feel like we play a significant role to what God is doing globally, and these funds will help us do that better," explained Cantwell.
APMG said it will start the new classical music station "as soon as feasible."
South Florida's radio waves have been losing classical music in recent years. In 2002, classical station WTMI-FM 93.1 replaced its format with dance music; in 2005, WKAT-AM 1360 moved from classical to talk. In response, public radio station WLRN-FM launched in the summer of 2005 a 24-hour classical station available only on digital radio.
"The [other radio stations] failed because they made more money" through selling the stations than continuing to operate, Julian Kreeger, president of Friends of Chamber Music of Miami, Inc., told The Miami Herald in 2005. "If you can call that a failure."