MCALLEN, Texas – U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez believes his appointment to a top new House committee will help him in his efforts to bring NPR and PBS back to the Rio Grande Valley.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi appointed Gonzalez to serve on the U.S. House Select Committee on Economic Disparity and Fairness in Growth. This panel was established in the 117th Congress to investigate and offer solutions to close an increasing economic divide in the nation.  

“Not having National Public Radio in the Rio Grande Valley is hugely concerning,” Gonzalez told the Rio Grande Guardian.

“I am now on the Select Committee on Economic Disparity and Fairness in Growth to try to close the inequality gap in the distribution of funds. One of the things I am looking at is radio connectively radio and TV connectivity.”

The Valley’s connectivity to NPR was severed three years ago. That is when the Diocese of Brownsville sold KHID and KJJF for $1.25 million. No governmental or educational entity has stepped up since to bring NPR back.

The national feed for PBS is currently being carried by Fox/Entravision thanks to the intervention of Gonzalez. But, the congressman acknowledges this is not a longterm, sustainable, fix.

Gonzalez (pictured above) said he has been appointed to the select committee in order to “focus on the connection between economic growth and infrastructure connectivity.” He said his position on the new select committee will also allow him to push for transportation infrastructure dollars. 

“We are the largest population in America that does not have a major interstate highway running to it. I am hoping we can do that. That has a direct impact on our economy, on our education, moving goods and services and people,” Gonzalez said.

“All these funds that apportioned, we will be communicating to each committee on how to be able to disburse those monies in an equitable way.”

Gonzalez noted that he was the only member of Congress from Texas to be appointed by the select committee.

“It is important Texas has representation to ensure that when the American pie gets divided up we get our fair share,” he said.

Gonzalez said the new select committee is modeled after the mission of the Temporary National Economic Committee, established by President Roosevelt and the Congress. The Committee’s mission will be to Build Back Better in a way that ensures liberty, prosperity and opportunity for all.

“As we build our nation back better from this pandemic, we must focus on upgrading our physical and digital infrastructure to promote economic fairness and growth,” Gonzalez said, via a news release.

“South Texas is not only one of the most digitally disconnected areas in the country, it also lacks connection to an interstate highway system. I hope to fully address the urban and rural divide and how we invest in our infrastructure to tackle rising levels of inequality. Everyone in the United States deserves a fair shot at the American Dream and it’s important that we start with our most basic infrastructure.”

Running NPR out of Reynosa or Matamoros

The Rio Grande Guardian asked Gonzalez if Congress could mandate the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and National Public Radio to allow the NPR national feed to be run over the air a radio station situated just across the border in Mexico. 

This idea was first proposed by Grassroots Public Radio-RGV, the nonprofit set up to bring NPR back to the Valley. 

Ron Rogers

Ron Rogers, president of Grassroots Public Radio-RGV, said the proposal was made because there are no radio stations in the Valley available. He said airtime for the national NPR feed could be purchased on a couple of radio stations housed in Reynosa.

“If we can bring back national NPR over the air, we can build a local public radio station around it. The Valley desperately needs this. We are the largest market in the country without NPR,” Rogers told the Rio Grande Guardian.

“NPR told us previously that there are copyright issues involved that stops their programming going out in a foreign country. But NPR and CPB needs to also recognize we are in a unique geographical location. We are on the border and radio stations are more affordable in Reynosa and Matamoros. In our view, Congress should mandate that NPR and PBS be brought back to the Valley, even if this means via stations located across the river.”

Rep. Gonzalez said he would be happy to look into the possibility.

“I will definitely look at it. We want to bring NPR back to our region and make it sustainable. We have got to be thinking outside of the box and have different kinds of ideas. This is one such idea,” Gonzalez said.

“We should look at all options. Being on the border makes us unique. It puts us in a different situation.”

Gonzalez said the title of the select committee – Economic Disparity and Fairness in Growth – speaks to the need for NPR and PBS to be made available in the Valley.

“This select committee can look into disparity and fairness in the delivery of vital news and communications institutions such as NPR and PBS. We need to look at every opportunity across the board.”

Editor’s Note: Full disclosure: Rio Grande Guardian editor Steve Taylor is a member of the board of directors for the nonprofit, Grassroots Public Radio-RGV.

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