CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – KEDT-FM, the National Public Radio station in Corpus Christi and the Coastal Bend area of Texas, is looking to provide NPR in the Rio Grande Valley.
The Valley has been without ‘over the air’ NPR since the Diocese of Brownsville sold 88.1 FM and 88.9 FM earlier this year.
KEDT cannot, yet, provide ‘over the air’ NPR in the Valley but it has started to stream its programming into the region in various digital formats. As an added bonus, Valley news is included in its coverage thanks to a partnership with the Rio Grande Guardian.
Don Dunlap is president and general manager of KEDT-TV/FM. KEDT-TV is the PBS station for Corpus. Dunlap answered questions from Rio Grande Guardian editor and publisher Steve Taylor, about his efforts to ensure the Valley does not lose out on NPR.
Here is the Q&A:
Mr. Dunlap, can you give us an overview of the efforts KEDT-FM has made over the years to make sure the Rio Grande Valley has National Public Radio?
In 2014, I was contacted by Bishop Flores’s office at the Diocese of Brownsville to tell me they were selling their PBS station, KMBH–TV to a commercial broadcaster and asked if KEDT could extend our services to the Valley to fill the void. Unfortunately, after extensive legal and engineering research with the Federal Communications Commission, it was determined that there are no more broadcast TV channels available to provide an over- the- air PBS service in the Rio Grande Valley. All of the federally allocated channels were in use and none could be added without causing interference to existing stations in Texas or Mexico.
Since the loss of PBS in the Valley, I have received hundreds of calls from Valley viewers about the need for PBS programming for the 1.4 million valley residents. We learned that the Rio Grande Valley is the largest U.S population unserved by PBS programming. One could easily argue that it is also a region that could most benefit from PBS educational programming.
From 2014-2018 KEDT explored a number of possible broadcast options to serve the valley but none proved possible. Today we continue to hear from Valley residents about their need for a PBS service and each year as the Valley Winter Texans arrived, we get their calls about how to watch PBS. They expect to have it.
In May 2019, when the Diocese of Brownsville sold the Valley’s only NPR radio stations to Immaculate Heart Media for Catholic Radio programming, phone calls from Valley NPR listeners increased dramatically. They missed their NPR programs and they are not happy!
What are you offering the Valley now?
Good News: Over the last two years, new digital technology for streaming Radio and TV programming has seen fast consumer adoption worldwide using computers, cellphones, tablets and, “smart speakers” like the Amazon Alexa and Google- Mini. KEDT, PBS and, NPR, have all developed an extensive amount of programming for those popular digital devices.
As we continue searching for an opportunity to provide the Valley over-the-air NPR radio, KEDT has started a Valley NPR Streaming service. It is available now free on your cellphone, tablet and computer at www. KEDT.org and on your Alexa and Google smart speakers by asking it to “Play KEDT.”
In November, KEDT-TV is launching a whole new suite of digital video services for the Valley that includes streaming access to all of the great PBS Kids programs, an educational service called PBS Learning Media for PreK–12 schools. It has over 100,000 educational videos, teachers’ lesson plans, class projects, student worksheets and even sample tests, all of which are aligned to State and National Teaching Standards. PBS Learning Media is the most utilized educational media used in American Schools today. KEDT is also bringing a new TV Streaming service called KEDT Passport to the valley which provides access to over 1000 popular PBS shows and series to KEDT members.
Why are you offering these services?
KEDT was established in 1969 as a 501c3 non-profit organization with the mission of providing high quality educational programming to the communities of South Texas. The Rio Grande Valley has 1.4 million people who lost their NPR and PBS educational programming when the Diocese of Brownsville stopped providing the PBS and NPR educational programming to focus on other concerns. Hundreds of Valley residents have contacted KEDT for help so we are doing all we can to provide NPR and PBS programming to Valley communities.
Are you working on getting NPR into the Valley ‘over the air’?
We are currently in talks with a Valley radio station about the possibility of a sale or lease of a radio station to air KEDT’s NPR programming in the Valley. We should know in early 2020 if this option works out.
And anything else you would like to tell NPR fans in the Rio Grande Valley?
Access to free Public Radio and Television is a right that every American should expect. KEDT is trying to extend the excellent programs that we have provided in Corpus Christi for 47 year to the Rio Grande Valley. We will need the continued help and support of the Valley community to sustain that PBS and NPR programming. People can support our efforts by becoming a member of KEDT at www.kedt.org or by calling 361-855-2213.
Editor’s Note: For more information about KEDT-TV/FM, contact Don Dunlap at [email protected] or at 361-855-2213.