|HARLINGEN, March 25 - The Diocese of Brownsville is selling KMBH-TV, the Rio Grande Valley’s PBS station, for $8.5 million, plus $500,000 for production services.
The buyer is MBTV Texas Valley LLC, which is part of MB Revolution, LLC, which in turn belongs to R Media Trust, an entity owned by media mogul Roberto Gonzalez of Del Rio. Gonzalez owns six radio stations in the Valley, including News Talk 71 KURV, and 12 others in Laredo, Eagle Pass, Uvalde and Del Rio.
Details on the purchase price are contained in a 24-page asset purchase agreement that is attached to an application made to the Federal Communications Commission to transfer the KMBH-TV license from RGV Educational Broadcasting, Inc., to MBTV-TV.
Click here to read the filing and the asset purchase agreement.
RGV Educational Broadcasting has operated KMBH-TV and KMBH 88 FM for the Diocese of Brownsville for many years. It recently entered into a local management agreement with MBTV under which MBTV runs KMBH-TV. MBTV has so far maintained PBS programming.
Under the sale agreement, RGV Educational Broadcasting will keep ownership of the KMBH studio and premises in Harlingen. MBTV will be allowed to continue to use the studio for up to six months. MBTV will also lease space on the KMBH tower to RGV Educational Broadcasting so that its radio station, KMBH 88 FM/Rio Grande Valley Public Radio can get its signal out.
Also under the agreement, for a period of up to ten years, MBTV will provide up to $500,000 in production services to RGV Educational Broadcasting. This will allow designated studio, personnel and equipment to be deployed so that the Diocese can continue to produce its religious programming. Eight hours of that programming will be broadcast per month on MBTV’s .2 multicast channel during this period.
Brenda Nettles Riojas, who handles communications for the Diocese of Brownsville, was asked to comment on the sale of KMBH-TV, the application to transfer its license and the potential loss of PBS in the Valley. She referred the Guardian to the FCC website.
There is no mention in the application filed with the FCC of MBTV maintaining PBS broadcasting. Lawrence Miller, the Washington, D.C., based attorney working for RGV Educational Broadcasting, said this is because the FCC does not concern itself with programming. Miller is a partner in the law firm of Schwartz, Woods & Miller, which specializes in work with the FCC. Miller told the Guardian on Tuesday that MBTV is looking to run commercial programming on KMBH-TV. Nonetheless, Miller said, efforts are afoot to keep PBS on the air in the Valley.
“They are trying to figure out the best way of distributing PBS in the Valley,” Miller said. Asked who “they” are, Miller said: “They being the FCC, PBS, CPB, the new buyer and other public broadcasters in the state. They are trying to figure out the best thing to do.” CPB stands for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
KMBH-TV lost its annual $700,000 community service grant from CPB last fall. From Oct. 1, 2013, to March 1, 2014, it has been operating on donations from the public and funding from the Diocese. Since March 1, 2014, KMBH-TV has been operating on donations from the public and funding from the Diocese and MBTV’s sister organization, R Communications.
Miller told the Guardian that RGV Educational Broadcasting will be filing an application with the FCC to have the KMBH license renewed. He said this is likely to be filed next week. The license expires on August 1 of this year. Asked if RGV Educational Broadcasting can transfer the KMBH license to MBTV before it has renewed the license, Miller said, “no.” He said the FCC will not grant an assignment application while a renewal application is pending.
Miller said the general public will have an opportunity to contact the FCC to comment on both the proposed license renewal and the proposed license transfer. “The station will be announcing that there is a window of opportunity for the public to make its views known. This will be announced on air and in a local daily newspaper. It will be well-publicized. The public can comment.” Miller said KMBH-TV must publicize the license renewal on air and the license transfer application on air and in a local daily newspaper.
While Miller is the contact person named on the license transfer application as representing RGV Educational Broadcasting, the attorney representing MBTV is Gregory L. Masters of Washington, D.C., based Wiley Rein, LLP. Masters did not return a call for comment at press time.
On the application to transfer the KMBH license, Alvaro Gonzalez, chairman of the board of RGV Educational Broadcasting, is listed as the “assignor” and Roberto Gonzalez, manager of MBTV is listed as the “assignee.”
If and when it collects the $8.5 million from MBTV, RGV Educational Broadcasting will pay CPB the approximately $695,000 it owes the agency.