Public Radio System Overview

About Minnesota Public Radio and American Public Media

Minnesota Public Radio, founded in 1967 with a single classical music radio station in Collegeville, Minn., quickly expanded into a regional broadcast network featuring news and classical music on stations around the state. Programs like A Prairie Home Companion® and Pipedreams® proved to succeed with audiences beyond state lines, so American Public Media was created in 2004 to change the way national programs are delivered to radio and to better serve stations, producers, funders, listeners and other partners. American Public Media is the largest owner and operator of public radio stations, including Minnesota Public Radio and Southern California Public Radio also producing top programs reaching millions of listeners weekly. American Public Media’s award-winning portfolio of more than 20 nationally distributed programs and specials include A Prairie Home Companion, Marketplace, The Splendid Table, The Dinner Party Download and Performance Today. American Public Media is also the largest producer and distributor of classical music programming in the United States. Headquartered in St. Paul, Minnesota, American Public Media has broadcast facilities in Los Angeles and Pasadena plus bureaus in New York City, Washington, D.C., London and Shanghai.

How are MPR and APM different from NPR and PRI?

American Public Media, National Public Radio and Public Radio International are organizations that produce and/or distribute programming to public radio stations nationwide. They vary in structure and principal activities.

American Public Media is the nation’s largest owner and operator of public radio stations and a premier producer and distributor of programming. Four of the seven shows and services with the biggest public radio audiences come from APM: BBC World Service, Marketplace Morning Report, Marketplace and A Prairie Home Companion.

NPR is a mission-driven, multimedia news organization and radio program producer. It is a network with a strong base of Member Stations and supporters nationwide. NPR operates a news department, produces Morning Edition® and All Things Considered® and other national programs—many of which are broadcast on Minnesota Public Radio. NPR is the home of The Public Radio Satellite System (PRSS), a combined satellite and internet content distribution service that distributes public radio programming and related digital content. This includes NPR’s content as well as the work of other program producers, including American Public Media (APM), Public Radio International (PRI) and independent public radio producers. NPR is based in Washington, D.C. and is governed by a board elected by its member stations.

Public Radio International is principally a marketer and distributor of programming produced by stations and other independent producers. Its products include national radio programs such as PRI’s The World®, The Takeaway, and Studio 360®. PRI is governed by an independent community-based board of directors and is based in Minneapolis.

What is public radio?

There is no technical or legal definition for public radio. There are approximately 2,500 non-commercial radio stations in the United States, but these include religious and school or community-based volunteer stations that are not included in public radio as it is commonly meant. Probably the best way to define the public radio system is to think of it as the universe of Corporation for Public Broadcasting-qualified stations, which consists of about 1000 stations that receive financial support from CPB through Community Service Grants.

For the general public, public radio has become a de facto brand, and is typically used to describe stations with formats based primarily on the NPR newsmagazines Morning Edition® and All Things Considered® and a few other major public radio programs such as This American Life®, Marketplace®, etc.

For many listeners, an important identifying trait for “public radio” is that these public radio stations ask their audiences—listeners and underwriters—for financial support.