MCALLEN, RGV – Congressman Vicente Gonzalez is urging UTRGV to intervene to save National Public Radio in the Rio Grande Valley.
The Valley’s current NPR station, RGV Public Radio 88 FM, is slated to go dark in June. The reason for this is the Diocese of Brownsville, which owns the station, is in the process of selling to Relevant Radio/Immaculate Heart Radio for a reported $1 million.
The new owners have no plans to run NPR or the local news currently airing on 88 FM, which is provided by the Rio Grande Guardian, or locally produced music programs. Instead, California-based Relevant Radio/Immaculate Heart Radio plans to pipe in religious programs.
Congressman Gonzalez has sent a letter to UT-Rio Grande Valley President Guy Bailey, urging his university to step in and create not only a public radio station but also a public television station. The Diocese sold PBS to R Communications for a reported $9 million in 2014.
In his letter, Gonzalez seeks a meeting with Bailey. In a news release Gonzalez’s office said “given the recent shuttering of local NPR and PBS radio and TV stations, Congressman Gonzalez is engaging stakeholders to explore the possibility of housing them at the university.”
Gonzalez said: “Despite being home to close to 1.5 million people, the Rio Grande Valley now has limited access to public radio and TV broadcasts. This cannot be possible – not in one of the fastest growing regions of the country.”
Gonzalez said he enjoys NPR’s Morning Edition and This Old House on PBS, among others.
“NPR and PBS have something to offer for the whole family, and it is up to us to make sure we afford these same opportunities to the people of the Rio Grande Valley,” Gonzalez said.
“I am ready to work with UTRGV, the Texas Association of Broadcasters, the National Association of Broadcasters, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, National Public Radio, and the Public Broadcasting Corporation, and any others, to bring back top-rated programing that enriches the lives of children, young adults, working adults, and senior citizens.”
Gonzalez said he would like the Valley to follow the model of the University of Houston System, which houses both NPR and PBS radio and TV stations at the LeRoy and Lucile Melcher Center for Public Broadcasting at the University of Houston and the two stations operate under Houston Public Media.
In response to the pending loss of 88 FM, the remnants of the old KMBH Upper Valley Committee Advisory Committee have formed a non-profit to help save NPR in the RGV. Also, UTRGV Professor W.F. Strong, whose broadcasts appear on 88 FM, has said he plans to discuss with university leaders the possibility of UTRGV creating a new public radio station.
Below is the letter Congressman Gonzalez sent to President Guy Bailey:
April 22, 2019
Dr. Guy Bailey
The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley
1201 West University Drive
Edinburg, Texas 78539
Dear Dr. Bailey,
For years, Rio Grande Valley residents have had limited access to our National Public Radio (NPR), and Public Broadcasting System (PBS) stations. 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.
My staff in Washington, D.C., recently met with representatives from NPR, PBS, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Through these initial discussions, we learned that there are a number of resources available that may help us overcome existing obstacles. Much time and planning is needed to take on this initiative and it is important that we work together to encourage the efficient use of resources and to put all the best people to work on solutions.
I believe partnering with the University of Texas System is the best approach and that the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley would be an ideal home for the new NPR and PBS station to broadcast to more than 1.5 million listeners and viewers in South Texas. Students and the entire Rio Grande Valley community would benefit from these efforts as the radio and TV station could be used as both a teaching tool and a learning lab for aspiring journalists, meteorologists, producers, VJs, DJs, and musicians. As a strong supporter of public broadcasting, I kindly urge you to consider the University’s potential role in preserving such a valuable resource for our community.
With this in mind, I would like to meet with you, and could do so in the Rio Grande Valley or Washington, D.C. Please contact Executive Assistant, Paulina Carrillo, at [email protected], or at (202) 225-2531 to begin organizing this meeting.
Member of Congress
Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above news story shows Closer to Home presenter Mario Muñoz editing a news story in the RGV Public Radio 88 FM studios in Harlingen, Texas.