|McALLEN, April 5 - R Communications, which wants to buy KMBH-TV, acknowledges it does not have any background in television in the United States but says it can draw on a wealth of experience in Mexico.
The company has purchased 22 radio stations along the South Texas border region over the last few years. Purchasing KMBH-TV, the Rio Grande Valley’s PBS station, from the Diocese of Brownsville would be its first foray into television.
Carlos Rodríguez, R Communications’ chief executive officer, said the company has plenty of TV experience in Mexico. He said the owner of R Communications, Roberto G. González, is the son of an experienced TV station operator in Mexico, Roberto Casimiro González.
“In the United States it is the first (TV) acquisition, yes. But, we have experience in Mexico. Roberto's father owns a company, Grupo Empresarial RCG, and they own two TV stations, one in Saltillo and one in Acuña. He (Roberto Gonzalez) is the son,” Rodríguez said, at a recent news conference in McAllen.
In sales literature, R Communications states that it is “one of the largest privately owned Hispanic-targeted radio groups in the U.S. with 22 unique radio stations serving some of the fastest growing markets in the U.S. today.” The literature says R Communications was “born out of 50-plus years of accumulated wealth of knowledge and experience.”
The sales literature lists its mission statement: “At R Communications Radio & Television, our commitment is to provide to our clients and listener audience, high quality advanced solutions to allow success, exposure, entertainment and information. In telecommunications there is a need to adapt, but R Communications performs extensive research to understand the market and innovates to predict market trends and fluctuations. We R (sic) leaders in our industry and we pride ourselves in our responsibility to our community, the creativity that our marketing consultants offer, and the long lasting relationships we establish with our clients.”
R Communications’ sales literature also states that Roberto G. González is founder and president of R Communications. “Mr. González comes from a family with a vast knowledge in the telecommunications industry. His family is the founding family of the first cable system in Mexico and now, one of the largest in the state. RCG Radio y Television is the leading cable, radio, and television company in the state of Coahuila. Mr. González served there many years as chief advisor and senior executive vice-president instilling inspired creative ideas that would keep the company moving forward and keeping it on the forefront of the industry. By profession, Mr. González G. Gonzalez is a talented attorney but his heart his passion and dedication are in the telecommunications industry.”
R Communications held a news conference recently explain its interest in running PBS in the Valley. Rodríguez said that through a local management agreement with the Diocese of Brownsville, MBTV Texas Valley LLC is currently providing PBS programming in the Valley and will continue to do so all the time PBS wants it to. Rodríguez said MBTV and R Communications are “part of the same company.”
Rodríguez said R Communications will keep PBS available “over the air,” meaning it can be picked up for free by TV viewers who cannot afford cable or satellite services. Over 20 percent of KMBH-TV’s viewers watch its programs over the air.
“Right now, we will not make any changes. We will keep PBS where it is at. Later we will talk to PBS, if they want us to change the location. At the end, the viewership in the Valley is not that big in cable. The main channel is basically the one that is on the must-carry rule. What PBS wants is to have a broader audience. If we are on the sub-channels, over the air, it is going to be available throughout the Valley,” Rodríguez said.
He later elaborated on this theme.
“For now they (PBS) have agreed to stay with us. We are the only commercial station that will be carrying PBS. They have agreed to stay with us. We are very interested in them staying. They have a very interesting programming,” Rodríguez said.
“We are dedicated to the community and this is a community channel. We definitely want to keep them on air and keep the public in the Rio Grande Valley be able to see the programming of PBS both on air, free, and on cable. We need the help of the public. We need for the public to be more involved. We have only 300 members of PBS in a community that has 364,000 potential members. You can imagine - we have some work to go. For now, what we are going to ask is our audience in our radio stations to help us too.”
At the news conference, Rodríguez said R Communications wants to partner with other media outlets in the Valley in order to maintain PBS programming.
“We will promote PBS on any station. The partnership with any media is important. We have to separate the commercial from the non-commercial. We are limited in resources but we have community. PBS has to partner with Telemundo, has to partner with any other media outlet, to promote PBS. We have to. In order to keep it free we need money, not profit money, to make technology better. They (KMBH-TV) have cameras that are old. We have to buy new cameras. We need to have a better studio. We would like to have people over at the studio. We need a membership,” Rodríguez said.
Rodríguez also said R Communications is committed to local programming and investing in the local community. “We are very committed, and I think we have shown it on the radio, with the growth of the community, one being local. The investment that is being made here is to bring more jobs, to bring taxes, so, the intent with having PBS over the air continues with the same philosophy. It is educational, family-oriented. We are positive thinkers, so, nothing will change,” Rodríguez said.
Rodríguez said R Communications will make a decision on whether to keep KMBH-TV in Harlingen at some point in the future. He said the station does need to upgrade its equipment. He also said the jobs of the dozen or so staff members at KMBH-TV are safe.
“What we need is membership. PBS has only 300 members right now. We have a lot of viewership in PBS but nobody wants the cough up the money. So, we need the help of you guys, to help us continue to invest and make the studios better,” Rodríguez told reporters at the news conference. He said KMBH-TV needs better technology and broader membership. “The commitment of Mr. Gonzalez is to invest money to bring it to the same facilities that you see here and that you see in any of the stations that we have. Make it as state of the art as we can.”
Rodríguez said that radio stations within R Communications, such as News Talk 710 KURV, will help promote KMBH-TV and its PBS programming. Asked if KMBH-TV would do local programming, Rodriguez said: “We have to adhere to the rules of PBS. We are local. As much as can do local, we will do local. As long as we are allowed by PBS, we will do local - news, local, entertainment local.”
Rodríguez added that under the ownership of R Communications, KMBH-TV would be the only commercial TV station to run PBS programming in the country. “We do not have a problem running PBS,” he said. “Until now, they (PBS) have not cancelled us. Until they say they do not want to run on a commercial station that is not our call. So far, they have said they want us to stay.”
Rodríguez was asked if R Communications would continue with the public advisory committees that a PBS station is required to have. He responded: “We invest about $50,000 to $60,000 a year listening to our audience in the market. We would not only have advisories but we would conduct the market studies to see what is needed in the community. There are also FCC rules that make us listen to the community. We have to be involved in the community. It is not only a matter of would we like to, we need to because it makes good sense.”
Also at the news conference was Sergio Sanchez, general manager of KURV. “This is an interesting hybrid because it is the first commercially licensed TV that will be carrying PBS programming,” Sanchez said, referring to an R Communications-PBS tie-up.
Also at the news conference was Brian N. Byrnes of Chicago-based Paramount Media Advisors, Inc. Byrnes said he was retained by the Diocese of Brownsville to find a buyer for KMBH-TV.
“The Diocese, from when this process started, which was September, 2012, their very first concern was to keep PBS in the Valley. I said we perhaps can find a buyer who will do that. If not, to look for an alternative outlet. From the moment I met Mr. Rodríguez, he said that is not a problem. He said ‘we will keep PBS on one of the channels, 1, 2, 3, or 4. It is not a problem. We will keep them as long they want to stay.’ We found the perfect buyer,” Byrnes said.