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The board of trustees for RGV Educational Broadcasting, Inc., met at Our Lady of Sorrows Church in McAllen. The board administers KMBH Radio for the Diocese of Brownsville.

McALLEN, RGV – Members of KMBH Radio’s community advisory board say they may not be required by the owners of the station but they are needed.

“Whether they like it or not we have a right to have our say and give our input. It is our radio station. Without the support of the general public this radio station would not exist,” said Edgar Lopez, chair of the KMBH Upper Valley CAB.

KMBH Radio is the Rio Grande Valley’s non-commercial NPR radio station. It is owned by the Diocese of Brownsville and run for Bishop Daniel Flores by RGV Educational Broadcasting, Inc.

Doubt as to whether the Upper and Lower Valley CABs will exist in the future surfaced at a recent meeting of RGV Educational Broadcasting’s board of trustees. Chairman Alvaro Gonzalez talked about not seeking federal funding for KMBH Radio. David Garza, KMBH Radio’s attorney, was asked to check to see if advisory boards are surplus to requirements if the station does not take federal funding. The station would be forging about $100,000 a year if it said “no” to federal Community Support Grant monies.

“If we don’t seek the funding from the sources available to us, then obviously we would have to get clarification (on whether to keep the CABs). We have requested that,” said Gonzalez. “If we need to have one of those (CABs) then what we need to do is find someone out there that is willing to conduct those and willing to hold those. Correct me if I am wrong, I did not know these were our obligations to house them and host them and call them. I thought the advisory board meetings were to be established and then eventually they became independent so that they ran on their own. We weren’t supposed to call them.”

Gonzalez said his understanding is that KMBH has to announce that a CAB meeting is being held but that is about all. “We are supposed announce the forum but we are not supposed to call it or run it. It is supposed to be independent of (the radio station)… that is the whole idea. They (the CABs) are supposed to come in and report what their findings are and what their thoughts are as far as programming and ideas and comments, but not necessarily we run the whole thing. We have got this one to take care of and this takes a long time.”

Garza responded: “We have not made an application for CPB funds for this year, community grant funds for the radio. I am not sure if we have to (have CABs) as a result of last year and that is the part I am trying to clarify with the FCC and our attorney in D.C.”

The FCC is the Federal Communications Commission.

Gonzalez said he did not like the fact that Garza has had to answer questions from the media about why CAB meetings have not been held on a regular basis. “The emails are quite demanding on information that could be found on the Internet. Your time is much more valuable than to be answering a lot of those questions,” Gonzalez told Garza.

CAB members believe KMBH is obliged to have CAB meetings this year because RGV Educational Broadcasting took community support grant money last year. Five Upper Valley CAB members were at the RGV Educational Broadcasting board of trustees meeting but they were not permitted to speak. Lopez asked if he could speak with Bishop Flores but Chairman Gonzalez said that would have to happen after the board meeting had ended.

As soon at the meeting ended, CAB members flocked around Flores to seek assurances that they were still wanted by KMBH.

“We would like to have input. Why not take advantage of our support?” Lopez asked Flores. “When I first got here, didn’t the advisory committee provide a written report?” Flores asked. “We would like to come back. We did a lot of work for KMBH,” said Upper Valley CAB member Lupe Saenz.

Lopez said the last scheduled Upper Valley CAB meeting was cancelled at the last minute by a member of the KMBH staff. He said it was supposed to have been held on Ash Wednesday. “We had minutes. We meet at our own place. All the expenses were our own. We were not taking anything from KMBH,” said Upper Valley CAB member Shawn Seale.

CAB member Gerard Mittelstaedt said the CABs used to meet four times a year. “Generally, the (KMBH) manager attended the meeting and he made it very clear to us that if we wanted to meet on our own that was just fine by him. He brought news of what was going on at the station to us, which made us more valuable to the community,” Mittelstaedt said.

In response to a comment Chairman Gonzalez made in the meeting about the board of trustees not getting recognition for the work it puts in, Mittelstaedt told Flores: “Don’t feel ignored, just because you haven’t got a pat on the back.”

“The radio station has potential to grow. It will solidify us as a community,” Lopez said. “I agree. It is potentially a very powerful medium,” Bishop Flores responded.

Some CAB members told Flores they did not like the rationale Chairman Gonzalez gave for not seeking CSG monies from the federal government. Gonzalez said roughly 25 percent of the monies had to go towards a federal audit and that the requirements from the Corporation of Public Broadcasting were too onerous.

“I will pay $25,000 for $100,000 all day long. I could not see the problem with that,” said Seale. Mittelstaedt defended RG Educational Broadcasting on this point, however. “I can thoroughly understand that there are some grants that you just don’t apply for. It is not worth it,” he said.

Lopez, though, sided with Seale. “Let’s say you are left with $40,000 (out of the $100,000). There is still a net profit there. It is easier than getting donations from the public.”

Seale said what concerns her is that there is a lot of confusion about the future of the radio station. “People want to know who owns the station. There is a lot of confusion that needs to be cleared up.”

Bishop Flores concluded the conversation by asking CAB members to keep the Diocese’s communications manager, Brenda Nettles Riojas, in the loop about CAB activities. “She is my communications person. She is good at keeping me informed,” Flores said.

In interviews afterwards with the Rio Grande Guardian, Upper Valley CAB members had different takes on whether KMBH and the CAB could co-exist.

“I think the likelihood of having some sort of public committee, even if we are doing it on our own, is good. If they (RGV Educational Broadcasting) are receiving our reports then we are, at least, a voice in the wind. That could be valuable to them. In thinking about, they will realize that a voice from the community feeding information to them about what the community is interested in will be valuable to them. In the long run, I believe, wisdom will prevail and they (RGV Educational Broadcasting) will accept input from the community. I expect things will turn out for the best,” said Mittelstaedt.

Asked if he was reassured by the conversation with Bishop Flores, Lopez, chair of the Upper Valley CAB, said: “I can’t say that I was. We can generate a lot of friction or we can generate a lot of support for KMBH. If they work with us we can help get the word out to the community. I hope they will continue to work with us. We want to work with them.”

Editor’s Note: This is the third in a three-part series about KMBH Radio, the Rio Grande Valley’s NPR station. Click here for Part One, which focused on the station’s finances. Click here for Part Two, which focused on the station’s call letters, staffing and programming.