Editor’s Note: This story has been updated considerably since its original posting on Feb. 19, 2019.
MCALLEN, RGV – Congressman Vicente Gonzalez plans to help National Public Radio stay on the air in the Rio Grande Valley.
NPR’s future in the Valley has been thrown in doubt by the Diocese of Brownsville’s decision to sell RGV Public Radio 88 FM. This station, on 88.1 FM in the upper Valley and 88.9 FM, has carried the NPR feed for decades.
RGV Educational Broadcasting, Inc., which is owned by the Diocese, has filed an application with the Federal Communications Commission to sell its station to Immaculate Heart Media, Inc. A figure of more than $1 million has been floated.
“National Public Radio has provided Rio Grande Valley residents with high-quality informational and entertainment services for decades,” Congressman Gonzalez told the Rio Grande Guardian.
“Upon hearing that a transition of ownership has been authorized, it would be my hope that Immaculate Heart Media continues offering NPR to South Texans. In the past, I have advocated for public broadcasting, this is no different. My door is open to NPR and I plan to help them in any way possible.”
Reaction of supporters
Reaction to the news that the Valley could lose its NPR station has been swift.
Former members of the radio station’s community advisory board have told the Rio Grande Guardian they plan to meet to see how they can save NPR in the Valley.
“Reports that membership dues at the station was only $5,207 do not tell the full story. Several years ago all attempts to increase or advertise membership ceased. Advertising for underwriting was either minimal or next to non-existent,” said Gerard Mittelstaedt, a former community advisory board member.
“I have little doubt the Diocese would be happy to be shed of this money losing project. However, I feel blind-sided that it seems no effort was made to find an organization which would preserve the NPR feed in the Valley.”
Some supporters of NPR are wondering if the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley could acquire the license. Among those voicing concern on Facebook are Gloria de Leon and Mary Helen Flores. De Leon said: “UTRGV should step up. Great programming is an asset for Valley.” Flores said: “Oh My God.”
Also reacting on Facebook, Jorge Mendez said: “This is my favorite station.” Eric Davila said: “I like NPR (versus any other RGV station) but damn if I could never pick up the signal clearly. NPR App and Bluetooth to the rescue. Jose Albu said: “Well, this sucks.”
Community activist Marco Córdova urged the community advisory board to advise Bishop Flores not to sell NPR. However, the community advisory board was disbanded by the Diocese when it stopped seeking federal funding for the station.
Calls to Immaculate Heart Media were not returned at press time.
Veteran news reporter and anchor Ron Whitlock of Ron Whitlock Reports went by RGV Public Radio 88 FM’s office in Harlingen to see if RGV Educational Broadcasting, Inc., had notified the general public about the potential sale of the radio station. This is what Whitlock found on the front window:
The Diocese of Brownsville issued this statement about the proposed sale:
“RGV Educational Broadcasting, Inc., licensee of FM radio stations KJJF, 88.9 and KHID, 88.1, filed an application on Feb. 13 with the FCC for approval to sell the stations to Immaculate Heart Media, Inc.
“The board reached the conclusion that it made financial and operational sense for RGV Educational Broadcasting, Inc. to end its radio station ownership. RGV Educational Broadcasting, Inc., a nonprofit organization formed in 1983 with the support of the Catholic Diocese of Brownsville, has served the Rio Grande Valley community for more than 35 years.
“The Most Rev. Daniel E. Flores, bishop of the Diocese of Brownsville, said he is thankful that the diocese has contributed generously all these years to providing public radio programming to the Rio Grande Valley community.”
The statement had this comment from Flores: “While we wish we could continue, we recognize that as a growing diocese we must be prudent with our resources and make sure they are in line with the mission of the Church. We expect the programming of the new licensee to further that mission.”
Editor’s Note: The Rio Grande Guardian has had a news sharing arrangement with RGV Public Radio 88 FM. Its news stories have appeared regularly on presenter Mario Muñoz’s Closer to Home show most weekday mornings.