MCALLEN, RGV – Former members of KMBH’s Upper Valley Community Advisory Board have reconstituted themselves in order to save NPR in the region.
The board was disbanded by the Diocese of Brownsville when Bishop Daniel Flores sold PBS four years ago.
At a meeting at the Corner Bakery on 10th Street in McAllen on Monday evening, members of the board signaled their intention to set up a non-profit organization to raise sufficient funds to create a new and improved National Public Radio station.
The current NPR station is being sold by Bishop Flores to Immaculate Heart Media. According to news accounts, the new owners will run religious programming. They have given no indication they will continue with NPR programming.
“NPR is such an essential part of this community. We cannot let it go. The Valley needs it and we need it for one another,” said Upper Valley Community Advisory Board Chairman Edgar Lopez.
“We are going to form a non-profit organization to the benefit of the Valley. We are here to serve. We are going to raise money from the grassroots because this effort can only succeed with the support of the grassroots. We are asking people to join us, in every capacity.”
Asked why NPR is important, Lopez said: “It is an essential part of me. I live for the news. It is non-biased news, which is a very important ingredient in this day and age.”
Shawn Seale said the Upper Valley Community Advisory Board will look to join forces with former members the Lower Valley Community Advisory Board, which was also disbanded by the Diocese of Brownsville.
“NPR is important to me because I get to learn all the things that are going on in the world without any bias. It offers intelligent news and analysis. It is part of my life. I do not want to see the Valley lose it,” Seale said.
“So, we have to get a new station going. To do this we have to raise funds and show we are all enthusiastic for it.”
Seale added: “I love NPR. I listen to it whenever I travel.”
Gerard Mittelstaedt said he would like to see if there are any institutions in South Texas that would like to join the new grassroots movement to save NPR in the Valley, such as the NPR stations in Corpus Christi and San Antonio, or UT-Rio Grande Valley. If not, the new non-profit will do it alone, with community backing.
“NPR is terrifically important to any community. It gives you news that is not covered by other stations. It does it in a way that is not shrill. It broadens your view of the world because it tell you things that other stations don’t,” Mittelstaedt said.
“It also provides great music and culture, the kind you do not get on commercial radio. I listen to NPR almost every morning. It is part of my routine and when I am traveling. It is part of my routine to go and find the nearest NPR station and tune in and get my fix.”
Mittelstaedt added: “We need to establish an independent NPR station here in the Lower Rio Grande Valley and provide the information and programming that belongs here. Let’s do it. Let’s sweep together the amount of money we need, do what we need to do and get NPR programming on the air. Let’s do it for ourselves.”
The initial cost of getting a new NPR station up and running could cost upwards of $200,000, Upper Valley Community Advisory Board members believe. They said they would use the road map drawn for them by veteran public radio broadcaster Ken Mills.
Mills, who is based in Minneapolis, Minnesota but has family in the Valley, said he expects the Federal Communications Commission to approve the sale of KHID 88.1 and KJJF 88.9 to Immaculate Heart Media.
“This is a done deal. Complaining about the Diocese is a waste of time and effort. People who want NPR on local radio in the Valley need to build something new,” Mills told the Rio Grande Guardian.
“I am passionate about public radio because I believe it is a positive force in our society and democracy. In my work as a consultant and executive in public radio I have seen the ways public radio stations has helped bring people together.”
Mills said his company, Spark News, is prepared to provide pro bono advice to any person or organization that seriously seeks to build a new NPR station.
“What is needed now is a community campaign to Save NPR in the Valley. The purpose of the campaign is to create awareness of the situation and form a nonprofit entity that will raise money to Save NPR in the Valley and plan for new station,” Mills said.
“Community leaders who want to Save NPR in the Valley should step forward now.”
The other former KMBH Upper Valley Community Advisory Board member present for the strategy meeting was Steve Taylor, publisher of the Rio Grande Guardian.
Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above news story shows former KMBH Upper Valley Community Advisory Board members Steve Taylor, Edgar Lopez, Shawn Seale and Gerard Mittelstaedt.