McALLEN, November 21 - If any member of the public went along to Wednesday night’s RGV Educational Broadcasting, Inc., annual meeting hoping to learn more about the possible sale of KMBH by the Diocese of Brownsville they were out of luck.
There was no discussion of the matter in the public part of the meeting and no opportunity for those in the audience to ask a question. The meeting took place in the conference room of Our Lady of Sorrows Church in McAllen.
Yolanda Shoffeitt, a community activist from Harlingen, asked about the sale of KMBH TV but was not recognized by board Chairman Alvaro Gonzalez because no public comment was allowed. Gonzalez said public comment is permitted only at the discretion of the board of directors. “I am here to offer to buy the station,” Shoffeitt told the board. Even with that comment, Shoffeitt was not recognized.
Afterwards, Shoffeitt said it would be a “tragedy” if PBS and NPR are lost to the Valley. “I was disappointed there was no public comment period. I want to know if KMBH is going to be sold and if so what happens to PBS and NPR. We cannot afford to lose them. They are part of the fabric, part of the culture of this community,” Shoffeitt said.
After the meeting had ended, Bishop Daniel Flores, a member of the board, told Shoffeitt and a reporter that there is “no news at this time” about the sale of KMBH-TV. Told that many members of the community want PBS and NPR to survive and thrive in the Rio Grande Valley, Bishop Flores replied: “The Diocese wants to keep PBS, in as much as it can.”
KMBH TV and KMBH Radio are owned by the Diocese of Brownsville. RGV Educational Broadcasting oversees operations of the stations for the Catholic Church. Notification that a sale of the TV station may be in the offing was made by KMBH President Robert Gutierrez at a KMBH Community Advisory Board - Upper Valley meeting in McAllen last month. Gutierrez told the panel that KMBH staff members have been told about a possible sale. He also told the panel that KMBH Radio might stay with the Diocese.
Wednesday night’s RGV Educational Broadcasting, Inc., annual meeting started with a video presentation on the top programs that have been aired on KMBH TV and Radio in recent months. After the minutes of the last meeting were approved the board of directors went into executive session. When they came out of executive session about 45 minutes later board member Richard Walker offered a motion regarding a letter from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB). When that motion was adopted the meeting was adjourned.
Like, Shoffeitt, Harlingen engineer Jerry Moore is concerned about the possible loss of PBS and NPR in the Valley. Moore told the Guardian after the meeting that he would have liked to have asked some questions of the board.
“I know the Diocese owns KMBH TV and KMBH Radio. But, the stations have been supported over the years by public donations and by grants from CPB and non-governmental bodies. So, this is not a private matter,” Moore said. “My concern is, someone comes in and buys the station and puts PBS on a cable channel only. Many poor people cannot afford cable. Does this mean that children in poor families miss out on all the great educational programing that is on PBS? There are lots of great pre-school programs on PBS.”
On Thursday, Brenda Nettles Riojas, director of Diocesan Relations, issued this statement: “I don’t have any new details (about a possible sale of KMBH TV) at the moment. As information becomes available I will get back to you. In regard to the public comment period at board meetings, I think Robert should have information about the procedures.”
Robert Gutierrez, president of KMBH, said he had researched the matter and best he could tell there was no compulsion on the part of RGV Educational Broadcasting, Inc., to have a public comment period. “That is what our community advisory boards are for, for the public to make their views known. Allowing the public to speak at the board of directors meeting is at the discretion of the chairman of the board,” Gutierrez said.
Shoffeitt and Moore said they are thinking of setting up a “Save Our PBS” campaign on social media sites. “We are very concerned KMBH TV could be sold and PBS would be lost. And what about NPR, will we lose this too?” Moore said.
During Wednesday’s meeting, Chairman Gonzalez questioned why a reporter was taking pictures of the board of directors with a still camera. He said he was concerned the photos could be blown up and sensitive and private information on the board table could be read by a third party.