Bill Kling vs. KFAI: The paper trail

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Did MPR's lawyers try to sabotage KFAI's funding in the 1970s?
In 1973, a group of Minneapolis residents had an idea for a 10-watt radio station.

Instead of hiring experienced radio personalities to read news or play classical music, they would open up the airwaves to other community members to talk about whatever issues they wanted. They called it Fresh Air -- known better today as KFAI.

By late summer 1974, they were all but ready to go on the air. But to the surprise of those trying to launch the station, their licensing application had stalled.

Though they had yet to transmit a single broadcast, someone was already opposing the station's existence with a formal petition with the Federal Communications Commission. That man was Bill Kling, the tenacious founder and CEO of a burgeoning public radio empire, then called Minnesota Educational Radio.

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The complaints from Kling and his lawyers stated that Fresh Air's signal would interfere with their signal and that KFAI wasn't financially sustainable.

Jeremy Nichols, then a Fresh Air board member and recent University of Minnesota grad, put his engineering degree to work. According to his analysis, the two signals would not interfere with one another. The Fresh Air crew also found donors and applied for community grants to prove to the FCC that they could sustain.

For the next three years, the legal letters and technical analyses went back and forth. Ultimately, the FCC sided with Fresh Air and approved its license. To this day, Nichols -- who is still on KFAI's board of directors -- stands by his analysis.

Kling maintains the dispute was not personal, and that the channels would have interfered if they had not found a way to reroute their signal after Fresh Air's license was approved.

"It would have taken us off the air," says Kling. "It was a legally legit objection."

In researching this part of the story, we came across a few interesting documents related to the FCC dispute.

Here are two typed depositions that claim Tom Kigin, one of MPR's lawyers, was calling donors who had committed to Fresh Air and trying to persuade them not to give money.

This first one comes from William Hatton, then the program director of Southside Community Enterprises:

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Here's a similar letter from then Powderhorn Community Council Coordinator Michael Rothman, who believes Kigin was "trying to influence PCC decision-making by his phone conversation:"

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And here's the full letter Kling wrote to Fresh Air after the FCC approved its license, warning he will appeal the decision all the way to Washington:

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2 comments
Johnny Steelman
Johnny Steelman

After the attack on KFAI, I have refused to give a penny to MPR. I contribute to KBEM, KFAI, KMOJ, even KAXE, even though I don't get to listen to them in the cities. I used to love WCAL, and what MPR did to them was criminal theft. Fuck Bill Kling and all the pretentious assholes involved with his crap radio.

Commonmandan
Commonmandan

 I just came across this story. Much thanks to City Pages for sticking out their neck and exposing the whole bloody, vile MPR gorgon, headed by Bill Kling. Kling is a typical loathsome piece of fucking shit who should not even have command of a one watt wireless station in a toilet that says, "Thanks for using us."

Want to get Kling and his mediocre tinhorn network off the air? Use the same tactics he and his schleppermen use. In this case, make copies of the correspondence in this article and/or use your own words of disgust and write the Federal Communications Commission in Washington DC. Get their exact address. And write that you feel that MPR stations don't deserve license renewal because they are acting in bad faith, etc. In effect, they do NOT serve the community. They are an evil empire.

In the meantime, keep supporting KFAI, etc. I had these stations figured as just amateurs. But now I am completely on the side of ANY radio station that is not an MPR station. We need the true community stations where the common and uncommon man have their say.

I read where some housewives didn't like a particular TV network show that the considered immoral. I can't recall the exact number of letters. But it wasn't very many! Some 16 letters come to mind. And the FCC forced CBS and its affiliates to cancel the show. So it can be done!

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