HARLINGEN, RGV – The Rio Grande Valley will lose National Public Radio over the air later this afternoon, RGV Public Radio 88 FM presenters have announced.

At just after 2 p.m., the Harlingen-based station will start to run Catholic talk radio programming from Relevant Radio. Immaculate Heart Media/Relevant Radio purchased the non-commercial KHID 88.1 FM and KJJF 88.9 FM earlier this year from the Diocese of Brownsville for a reported $1 million.

On its website, Relevant Radio says it “assists the Church in the New Evangelization by providing relevant programming through media platforms to help people bridge the gap between faith and everyday life.” Its guiding principles are: Faithful to the Magisterium and Catechism of the Catholic Church; United to the Bishops; and Under the protective intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Mario Muñoz, the morning presenter on RGV Public Radio 88 FM, announced that the NPR station would cease to exist on his Closer to Home show just after 6 a.m. today.

“Change is in the air. As you know, RGV Educational Broadcasting sold this radio station to Relevant Media. Well, this afternoon, after lunch, you are going to hear a change in the programming. It is called Relevant Media and that is what you are going to be hearing,” Muñoz said.

“I want to refer you to Chris Maley’s Facebook page. He wants to thank all of the folks who have helped keep public radio on the air.”

Chris Maley

Chris Maley is station manager of the public radio station. He has produced blues and jazz music shows for the station for many years. Like Muñoz he has been with the station for 24 years. Indeed, the two started working their on the very same day. On his Facebook page, Maley wrote:

“On a personal note… Thursday afternoon you may hear a change in the weather of Public Radio 88FM as informed in the newspapers months ago 88FM has been sold to a Catholic radio group out of Wisconsin. I just want to say in a nutshell being program manager for 88FM for the last 24 years I have met the most eclectic music listeners, musicians, music lovers, artists, educators, children, supporters of the arts that you can ever imagine in the RGV and beyond! Support is crucial for your local arts and music organizations big or small, remember that! I want to thank my family, also the Catholic Diocese of Brownsville for their trust and employment these 20-plus years, our fellow business underwriters and corporate supporters over the years, fellow employees, current contractors, volunteers, my right hand man Mario J. Munoz and, of course you, the listener that tuned in to a very unique one of a kind station. I will venture on, take a break and then create uniqueness once again. God bless!”

Just after 9 a.m., Muñoz read aloud a statement from the Diocese of Brownsville on 88 FM. Here is the statement:

“This is Rio Grande Valley Public Radio 88FM. Today as we say goodbye we want to thank you, our listeners, for your support. We are grateful that we could provide educational programming to the Rio Grande Valley community for more than 35 years. This gift to the people of the Valley began when Bishop John J. Fitzpatrick helped RGV Educational Broadcasting, Incorporated, purchase the station back in the early 80s. We’ve gone through several transitions over the years and today signals another.

“In the words of Bishop Daniel E. Flores, ‘while we wish we could continue, we recognize as a growing Diocese we must be prudent with our resources and make sure they are in line with the mission of the church.’ As of May 29th the station has been sold to Immaculate Heart Media, Incorporated, and later this afternoon public radio broadcasting will go off the air. The new owner will switch to their own programming shortly afterwards. We take this time, as well, to extend our gratitude to Mario Muñoz and Chris Maley who have seen the station through this transition. We thank you for all the years you have given to promoting public radio and the variety of programs.”

Supporters of 88 FM were quick to thank Maley and Muñoz for their service over the years.

“Loved 88FM thru all the years. Wishing the very best in the future for you Chris and Mario. Thanks for all you both have given to us, the listeners. God Bless you both,” wrote Ros Salmeron.

“Best of luck to you and Mario…y’all work so hard in the pursuit of music excellence,” wrote Michael L. Jones.

In addition to locally produced music programs, RGV Public Radio 88 FM ran local news courtesy of the Rio Grande Guardian. The last news item submitted to the station by the Rio Grande Guardian was an interview with David Gutierrez, education relations supervisor for Workforce Solutions in McAllen. Gutierrez spoke about the importance of local businesses giving students work experience through internships and apprenticeships. 

An effort to reintroduce NPR into the Valley is underway and picking up steam. Congressman Vicente Gonzalez is to host a roundtable discussion on the subject in August, bringing to the Valley top executives from NPR, PBS, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Veteran public radio broadcaster Ken Mills has offered to help save NPR in the Valley. 

A grassroots group started by former members of KMBH’s Upper Valley Community Advisory Committee has formed a non-profit to raise money to keep NPR going. Its Facebook page is Save NPR in the Rio Grande Valley. Shawn Seale, a founder of the nonprofit Grassroots Public Radio RGV, said: “I feel so sad to be losing NPR. It’s like a good friend just died.”

And, UT-Rio Grande Valley is being urged to step in and help. One of its professors, W.F. Strong is preparing an operating budget for a public radio station that will be presented by UTRGV President Guy Bailey.

Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above news story shows Mario Muñoz editing a news item at the RGV Public Radio 88 FM station studios in Harlingen.