MPR parent looks to expand east

The parent organization of Minnesota Public Radio is in talks to buy a radio station serving Washington D.C.

Columbia Union College, an affiliate of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, voted earlier this month to pursue a bid for WGTS-FM from American Public Media Group, which owns Minnesota Public Radio in St. Paul and Southern California Public Radio of Pasadena.

Columbia College spokesman Scott Steward says tough financial times are prompting interest by the school's board of trustees to sell the station.

"They saw this as an asset that had matured, and they were interested in seeing what that might be able to do for the college," he said, noting American Public Media Group is the preferred bidder.

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"We don't know what the outcome of this process will be, and the college continues to operate the station. If APMG's proposal is chosen, APMG plans a new service for Washington, DC with an emphasis on global government issues," according to a statement released by Bill Kling, the president of American Public Media Group. "As the parent to Minnesota Public Radio and to Southern California Public Radio, APMG has the experience and track record of success to help the station realize its full potential."

Kling says it's rare that stations go up for sale in influential markets such as Washington, and he sees great opportunity in the station.

Kling would not say how much American Public Media has bid. But he did not dispute figures in a Washington Times report putting the bid in the $20-million range.

Kling says national funders will be sought if the deal goes through. He says Minnesota Public Radio listeners will not be asked to subsidize the endeavor.

A spokesman for Columbia Union College said that American Public Media Group is currently the preferred bidder.

Negotiations are ongoing and a decision on a possible deal is expected in September.

The college is expected to make a decision in September. Meanwhile, supporters of WGTS's Christian-radio format have created two Web sites in an effort to prevent a change.