HARLINGEN, RGV – Harlingen-based contributing correspondent Susanna Groves has done a lot of digging to find the link that allows South Texas residents to comment on the Diocese of Brownsville’s pending selling of 88 FM, the Valley’s NPR station.

Groves said the digging around, on the Federal Communications Commission’s website, took a few days. 

“The FCC website is a bit of a bear to navigate, even if you’ve been there before,” Groves said.

Click here to view the link Groves found. The page allows comments to be made on the pending sale of KJJF 88.9 FM and KHID 88.1 FM.

‘Complaining about the Diocese is a waste of time’

Ken Mills, a veteran radio broadcaster and keen supporter of National Public Radio, advises Rio Grande Valley residents not to dwell too long on what the Diocese is up to.

Ken Mills

“On February 12, 2019, Immaculate Heart Media, an organization that syndicates Catholic oriented radio programming, purchased the two FM stations that comprise RGV Public Radio 88 FM,” Mills told the Rio Grande Guardian.

“Pending FCC approval of the sale – which is expected – the new owners will take over in May or June. 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 is based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and blogs about public radio via his blogspot, Spark News. His ties to the Valley are through his family.

“My uncle, Dr. Marvin Tavarez, who passed away recently, and his family have always be close and I have visited several times,” Mills said.

“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.”

According to Mills, the Valley has never had public radio on a par with KSTX in San Antonio or KUT in Austin. “I’d sleep better at night knowing that McAllen-Browsville-Harlingen had strong NPR station,” he said.

Mills said that he is “surprised and saddened” by what appears to be a “lack of concern” in the Valley about the imminent loss of NPR News on local radio. 

Mills said his company is prepared to provide pro bono advice to any person or organization that seriously seeks to build a new NPR station. 

If you have any questions of comments you can email Mills at [email protected]

“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.”

Mills said leadership will be needed to save NPR in the Valley.

“So far, there appears to be little serious interest in Saving NPR in the Valley. Does this lack of enthusiasm reflect the true spirit of the residents of the Rio Grande Valley? We hope not,”Mills said.

Rogers’ viewpoint

One community leader who does not want to see the Valley lose its NPR station is Ron Rogers, former president of the START Center in San Benito.

“National Public Radio is supposed to be managed by an independent, non-profit media organization, separately licensed and operated as public radio stations across the United States. Unfortunately KMBH radio, (now KJJF), has never quite met that standard,” Rogers told the Rio Grande Guardian.

Ron Rogers

Rogers argues that “outside forces” have “always managed to censor and manipulate content” the station’s programming to their liking.

“Over the history of the station, local media has exposed several instances of censorship by the KMBH station(s), (the sister TV station was sold to a for profit Mexican media group within the last few years),” Rogers said. 

“Now, KJJF is being sold to a national Catholic media organization. Any bets on the type of programming this new group might have in mind?”

Rogers said several citizen and advocacy groups have, over the years, attempted to hold the local NPR/PBS stations to account. However, he said they have had limited success.  

“Unfortunately, our local ‘public media’ has never quite lived up to the standards of NPR and PBS primarily due to influence of religion,” Rogers said. “As we have ‘freedom of religion’ written into our U.S. Constitution, in this case the citizens need to create a new media outlet that is truly independent and free from the constraints of one particular religious doctrine.”

Former members of KMBH’s community advisory committee, led by Edgar Lopez,  Gerard Mittelstaedt, and Shawn Seale, plan to meet in McAllen on Monday to strategize ways to save NPR in the Valley.

Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above news story shows Mario Muñoz, presenter of RGV Public Radio 88 FM’s Closer to Home show. (Photo: Ron Whitlock/Ron Whitlock Reports). 

Editor’s Note: Full Disclosure: The Rio Grande Guardian has provided news stories for RGV Public Radio 88 FM’s Closer to Home show for the past six years.