WESLACO, RGV – Congressman Vicente Gonzalez has joined the Public Broadcasting Caucus, a bipartisan group set up in Congress 20 years ago by U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon.

There are more than 100 other members of Congress in the group, which believes the federal government has a responsibility to support public broadcasting.

U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer

“With more than 1.4 million people living in the Rio Grande Valley, it’s the largest market in the nation without a public broadcasting station,” Gonzalez said. “This caucus will provide a wealth of knowledge and resources for our endeavor to bring PBS and NPR back to the Valley.”

The Rio Grande Valley lost its NPR station exactly a month ago when the Diocese of Brownsville sold KHID 88.1 FM and KJJF 88.9 FM to Immaculate Heart Media/Relevant Radio. The new owners immediately dropped NPR programming in favor of Catholic talk radio programming. Local news, culture and music programs were also lost. 

Gonzalez, a Democrat from McAllen, is working to secure a new public broadcasting station in the Rio Grande Valley. He plans to take a delegation of Valley residents interested in NPR to see the NPR station in Houston. He also plans to bring senior executives from various national media entities to the Valley in August to brainstorm ways of establishing not only an NPR station but also a PBS station.

Gonzales said members of the Public Broadcasting Caucus support a strong and financially sound non-commercial, universal, educational broadcasting service for the American people and policies that ensure continued growth of public broadcasting programs and services.

U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez

Blumenauer, a Democrat, currently chairs Public Broadcasting Caucus. On his congressional website he devotes a page to caucus activity. The page states:

“Public broadcasting provides valuable commercial-free educational, informational, and cultural programming for communities all across the country. 

“Many communities rely on public broadcasting stations as their only source of news and information. Some even use the public broadcasting system for day-to-day or emergency communications.

“Public broadcasting connects people with their local community, their nation, and their world in a way that no other outlet can or does. 

“Because American citizens have come to rely on these services and programs, the U.S. Congress has a responsibility to support public broadcasting.”

Blumenauer said the Public Broadcasting Caucus has over 100 members “committed to ensuring the continued services of local public television and radio stations.”

He said members of the Public Broadcasting Caucus support:

  • A strong and financially sound non-commercial, universal, educational broadcasting service for the American people;
  • Policies that ensure the continued growth and vitality of public broadcasting programs and services;
  • A high-level of financial support for public broadcasting’s transition to digital production and transmission;
  • Increased funding for the role that public broadcasters play in ensuring our hometown security; and,
  • Strategies and policies that allow the public broadcasting community to take full advantage of new technologies to produce and deliver quality educational, cultural, and informational programs and services.

“The Public Broadcasting Caucus has undertaken a variety of activities, including briefings and information sessions on public broadcasting issues, congressional communications and information efforts such as dear colleagues and congressional record statements, and general support for legislative and regulatory initiatives that serve to promote and enhance public broadcasting’s programming and services,” Blumenauer’s website states.

Grassroots Public Radio RGV

Grassroots Public Radio RGV board members Fred Garza and Edgar Lopez.

Meanwhile, Grassroots Public Radio RGV, the nonprofit set up to secure an NPR station in the Rio Grande Valley, held a board meeting in Weslaco last week and reiterated its position that no one proposal merits the group’s support at this stage.

“We want to hear about all of the proposals currently being developed,” said spokesman Marco Solis. “We want to talk to as many potential stakeholders as possible. We want to speak to our local universities, community colleges and school districts. We want to speak to other NPR stations in Texas that might want to help us, such as those in Laredo, El Paso, Corpus Christi, San Antonio, and Austin. We want to keep all options open.”

The board of directors said they also made progress in collating all the information the IRS needs to approve the group’s application to become a 501c3. 

“Once the application is underway we can start asking for donations,” said board chairman Edgar Lopez. “We are working meticulously and diligently on this with our accountant, Fred Garza.”