WESLACO, RGV – The Rio Grande Valley’s image with the rest of the nation will improve if the region has an NPR station and PBS.

This is the view of a nonprofit group set up to bring National Public Radio back to the Valley – Grassroots Public Radio RGV.

“The image of the Rio Grande Valley would change if we had NPR and PBS. The rest of the nation would see a very different view to the stereotypical one they currently see through the media, said Chantal “Shawn” Seale, secretary of Grassroots Public Radio RGV.

The reason the Valley’s image would change is because NPR and PBS have top quality reporters that cover the news in a balanced way, Seale argues.

“At the moment, all the rest of the nation sees is kids in cages, people dying in the river, the people that are stuck in one place and cannot get out, and the corruption. There is a lot more to the Valley than that. We have beautiful weather, we have beautiful people on both sides of the river. We have hard working people. We need to share this,” Seale said.

Gerard Mittelstaedt, another member of Grassroots Public Radio RGV, agreed.

“People in other parts of the country do not realize how fast-growing our region is. We notice when we go on vacation, we are gone for a couple of weeks or a month. When you come back there are whole new buildings you have not seen before. This place is booming and you would see that with NPR and PBS.”

Seale and Mittelstaedt were speaking at the conclusion of Grassroots Public Radio RGV’s January 2020 board meeting. At the meeting, board members announced that a fundraising effort was underway and that monies raised would be used to highlight the need to bring NPR back to the Valley.

The Valley lost NPR last May when the Diocese of Brownsville sold 88.1 F.M. and 88.9 F.M. The new owners, Immaculate Heart Radio, chose not to continue to run NPR programming.

(Editor’s Note: Click here to make a donation to Grassroots Public Radio RGV)

Interviewed after the board meeting, Seale said she is disappointed the Valley has gone seven months without an NPR station, after hearing last year that there were behind-the-scenes efforts to reestablish such a station.

“I am very disappointed because this would be the perfect time to start. A New Year and a new NPR. Maybe a new PBS as well and have the Valley come up to the standards of the rest of the United States. It just means we have to work that much harder,” Seale said.

Seale said one of the advantages the Valley has is its international border. She said it is pity NPR will not allow its programming to be aired via a station in Reynosa or Matamoros, just across the border from the Valley. She said the costs of running a station on the Mexican side of the border may be less expensive.

“There are a lot of AM radio stations, some FM. They should allow us to be based there, if it is cheaper to operate. The programs are going to be heard over there. We cannot just act as though there is a wall, not when you are talking about airwaves.”

Seale pointed out that Grassroots Public Radio RGV does not endorse any one particular effort to bring NPR back. “Those entities that are working on things behind the scenes, we would like to know if there is anything they need to help move things along. We are ready to help. We can go and talk to city and county commissioners. We know them. We can talk to the school districts, UTRGV, STC, have them involved.”

Seale added: “We are one of the biggest markets in the United States without NPR. Yet, we are as good if not better than those places that have NPR. We want to prove what we have. We are so newsworthy. We want people to hear about the good news that is happening along the border.”

Congressman Gonzalez’s efforts

Recently, Rio Grande Guardian reporter Blanca Gomez got a brief interview with Congressman Vicente Gonzalez about his effort to bring NPR back to the Valley. Asked how things are going, he said:

“We are working on it. We are probably 90 percent there. There are a lot of details but I can’t tell you just right now.”

After watching the video interview, Grassroots Public Radio RGV’s Seale said: “That is encouraging. Thank you, Congressman Gonzalez.”

KEDT’s efforts

KEDT News, the NPR station for the Coastal Bend region, is working towards acquiring a radio station in the Valley so that it can provide NPR programming over the air to supporters across the region. In preparation for this, KEDT is currently providing its programming via a streaming service.

“The Valley audience for our radio streaming has been growing. We now have about 2,000 weekly Valley listeners,” said Don Dunlap, station manager at KEDT. “I hope we can secure a Valley radio signal this year.”

Here is a video from KEDT about its streaming service for the Valley:

Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above news story shows Grassroots Public Radio RGV members Edgar Lopez, Shawn Seale, and Gerard Mittelstaedt.