The parent company of Minnesota Public Radio and American Public Media on Wednesday appointed its chief operating officer to succeed chief executive officer Bill Kling, who will step down this summer from the organization he started 44 years ago.
Jon McTaggart, a longtime MPR executive, was named by American Public Media Group's board to oversee MPR's 42-station public radio network and a diverse portfolio of national programs that includes the business program Marketplace and Performance Today, a daily hour of classical music.
Starting July 1, he will guide the company into what many see as the next era for public radio, one that's rife with political controversy, financial uncertainty and technological tumult.
In a news release, McTaggart said he's looking forward to it.
"We have within our walls the ability to do great things that impact the world far beyond our organization. That's a challenge that any executive would welcome," he said.
Inside the company McTaggart is seen as an affable, yet intense leader, who has loyally carried out the founder's vision while carefully keeping the complex, ambitious operation focused.
American Public Media Group began searching for Kling's replacement last year, and McTaggart was picked from a "deep pool of interested and highly qualified candidates," said Ian Friendly, U.S. retail chief operating officer at General Mills and the board member who led the succession committee.
Bill KlingBesides MPR and American Public Media, APMG also controls Southern California Public Radio, Classical South Florida, the Fitzgerald Theater and Greenspring Company, which publishes Minnesota Monthly. APMG has 609 full and part-time employees, including 475 at MPR, American Public Media and the Fitzgerald Theater.
McTaggart, 50, was first hired in 1983 to help MPR expand its reach in northern Minnesota. He has worked for the company for most of the years since then and has been chief operating officer since 2003. He left the company for two separate three-year stints, one at a hospital foundation and the other at a university.
During the time McTaggart was chief operating officer, the company launched the Public Insight Network -- a nationwide system that connects audiences to news organizations -- and started two new music stations: The Current in the Twin Cities and Classical South Florida in Miami.
About 900,000 listeners tune in to MPR stations each week, and the organization claims 110,000 members, people who have contributed money. American Public Media programs reach about 16 million listeners on nearly 800 stations nationwide. It is the second-largest distributor of national programs behind NPR, and is the largest producer and distributor of classical music programming.
American Public Media Group reported revenue of $97.2 million as of June 2010, up slightly from $96.3 million a year earlier, according to company officials. AMPG's operating budget for this year is $103 million. The value of the APMG earned endowment is $124.3 million. Three other smaller endowments bring the total value of endowments to $147.2 million.
The organization grew from a single classical music station that Kling started in Collegeville, Minn., in 1967. Over the years it has flourished, and been held up as a model nationwide.
But APMG's radio stations and programs face the challenge of reaching new, younger audiences at a time when a growing segment of the population gets most of its news and music from the Internet. For instance, the median age of its news audience is 49 and the median age of its classical music service is 55.
Like many media organizations, APMG is still developing its digital products and defining the role online content will play in its efforts to grow its audiences.
Certain technological advancements could also threaten the organization's business model. Audio feeds available on mobile devices could make regional radio stations less necessary. And subscriber-based radio alternatives like Pandora are popping up in more places, including in people's cars, where many current public radio listeners tune in.
Those will be key questions for McTaggart as he assumes his new position. In an extended bio released by the company, he acknowledged the media business is changing, comparing it to the 1990s when the Internet became a new factor. He said APMG will handle it well.
"We have just the right strengths for the times we live in," McTaggart said. "In some ways, it's like the '90s in that there's a great willingness to experiment and innovate. This time it's at a fundamental level of new audience experiences, business models, technologies and structures."
Randy Hogan, chairman of the APMG board and CEO of Pentair, Inc., said the CEO transition will begin immediately.
(MPR reporter Annie Baxter contributed to this report.)