HARLINGEN, March 1 – The Rio Grande Valley’s PBS station could “go dark” for a couple of weeks before re-emerging as a commercial, Spanish-language station.
This is the view of KMBH President and CEO Robert Gutierrez. In a Jan. 15 letter to Marta Salazar in Hidalgo County’s purchasing department, Gutierrez wrote:
“When and should the sale become final, KMBH will transition from a non-commercial to a commercial station. During this transition there is a possibility that KMBH may go off the air for approximately seven to 14 days. In addition, KMBH will begin to transmit Valley-wide as a Spanish language network on each of its channels. We believe this timeframe will occur in either March or April of 2014.”
The sale of KMBH-TV is believed to be final now that the Federal Communications Commission has given permission to RGV Educational Broadcasting, Inc., which ran KMBH Television and Radio for the Diocese of Brownsville, to change the television broadcast station license from non-commercial to commercial. KMBH 88 FM is not being sold and will remain an NPR station.
Gutierrez was writing to Salazar to warn her that KMBH may no longer be able to run Hidalgo County Commissioners Court meetings on KMBH-TV. The station also currently runs Cameron County Commissioners Court meetings. That service is also now likely to end.
Gutierrez did not respond to a text message Saturday asking for comment on the issue of the station “going dark” for a couple of weeks.
On Friday, the Guardian reported that the FCC had given permission to RGV Educational Broadcasting to change the television broadcast station license from non-commercial to commercial. The move was considered a formality because it was originally a commercial license.
With the KMBH-TV license now commercial, the lease marketing agreement (LMA) RGV Educational Broadcasting, Inc., entered into with MBTV Texas Valley LLC kicks in. MBTV Texas Valley LLC is thought to be front group for R Communications Radio and Television.
According to an employee at KMBH-TV who asked not to be named, TV staff has been told that they are now employees of R Communications. "We were told today (Friday) that our next paycheck will be from R Communications," the employee said.
Also Friday, the Guardian reported on a corporate power point presentation produced for R Communications which showed a proposed affiliation with MundoFox, a commercial, Spanish language station. There was no mention of KMBH-TV retaining PBS on the power point. The power point was on a cloud server but within an hour of the Guardian’s story being posted it was pulled down.