EDINBURG, RGV – UTRGV President Guy Bailey says he will look at proposals to “save” National Public Radio in the Rio Grande Valley.

In an exclusive interview with the Rio Grande Guardian, Bailey said he has yet to receive a proposal on the subject.

NPR went off the air in the Valley on Thursday when the transfer of ownership of KHID 88.1 FM and KJJF 88.9 FM was complete. Immaculate Heart Media purchased the stations from the Diocese of Brownsville for a reported $1.2 million. Immaculate Heart Radio immediately replaced NPR programming with a Christian talk radio format. 

A banner promoting Rio Grande Valley Public Radio is mounted on the walls of the 88 FM studios in Harlingen.

The Valley is now the largest metropolitan area in the United States to be without an NPR station.

On Thursday, Bailey gave his “State of the University” report at a luncheon hosted by Edinburg Chamber of Commerce and held at the Edinburg Conference Center at Renaissance. He made no mention in his remarks about Rio Grande Valley Public Radio 88 FM, even though it was set to go dark that same afternoon.

Asked after his speech if “saving” NPR in the RGV was on his radar, Bailey told the Rio Grande Grande Guardian:  “No one has sent me a proposal or anything. The only thing I know about this is what I have read in the newspaper. They may be working on it in the college and just not finished it, but no proposal has be sent to me. I hope when they send it they will have some funding sources as well. We love NPR and we would love to be part of it but the only things I know about it are what I have read in the newspaper.”

Bailey asked when the NPR station was going off the air. When told it was that very day, Bailey said: “Um.”

W.F. Strong

Earlier in the day, UTRGV communications professor W.F. Strong had given the impression that the university was not interested in “saving” NPR in the RGV. Strong posted this message on the Save NPR in the RGV Facebook page: “You may consider the university has opted out on the NPR station. There is no official word, but the silence from up top says it all.”

Strong broadcasted his “Stories from Texas” show on 88 FM for many years. When the Diocese announced its intention to sell the station, Strong said he would work on a budget to “save” NPR in the RGV. He believed a three-year operating budget could reach $1 million.

Since forming the impression that UTRGV would not step in to help, Strong has pledged to help at the grassroots level. He has set up a crowdfunding operation and announced a public meeting on the subject, due to take place at UTRGV in Brownsville on the evening of June 6.

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U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez

U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez has also been working to “save” NPR in the Valley. On April 22, Gonzalez issued a news release that included a letter sent to Bailey. The letter requested a meeting between the two.

The letter stated: “I am committed to bringing this problem to the attention of federal, state, and local officials, and build a coalition of educators, broadcasters, elected officials, philanthropists, and concerned citizens from throughout the state and country to work with federal regulators to get any required approvals to restore access in our region. Together, I believe we can turn this challenge into an opportunity.”

In an exclusive interview with the Rio Grande Guardian on Friday, Gonzalez said he would be hosting a high-powered meeting at UTRGV during the congressional recess in August. He said he would be inviting executives from ABC, CBS, NBC, Univision, Telemundo, and others.

“I was saddened to learn that NPR in the Rio Grande Valley shuttered its operations Thursday afternoon, forever changing access to public radio in our region,” Gonzalez told the Rio Grande Guardian. “But this is not the end. When I first learned of this station shutting down, I immediately began pooling local resources and gathering community leaders to help tackle this problem.”

Gonzalez said: ”I am organizing a meeting in August at UTRGV to discuss with leadership there about the possibility of housing Rio Grande Valley Public Media at the university. I will invite executives from all major broadcasting corporations, including ABC, CBS, NBC, Univision, and Telemundo, as well as the Texas Public Broadcasters Association and the National Broadcasters Association. NPR, PBS,  the Corporations for Public Broadcasting, and the Federal Communications Commission will also be invited, as they are experts in these matters.”

Gonzalez added: “I cannot do this alone, and we as a community will need to support this effort. Our region, after all, deserves the very best.”

Jose Borjon, Gonzalez’s chief of staff said that anyone interested in helping with these efforts should contact Fred Castro in Gonzalez’s office. His email address is: [email protected].

Veteran public radio broadcaster Ken Mills is also working to help “save” NPR in the Valley. Although based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Mills has roots in the Valley. He has worked as a consultant to those looking to “save” NPR in the region on a number of occasions.

Mills is set to publish a story about the demise of RGV Public Radio 88 FM on Monday. His article is titled: “Rio Grande Valley Public Radio Dies Without a Whimper.” The Rio Grande Guardian will have a link to the story as soon as it is posted on Mills’ Spark News blog.

Editor’s Note: Rio Grande Guardian reporter Steve Taylor assisted with this story from Austin, Texas.