HARLINGEN, RGV – KMBH-TV President Robert Gutierrez has provided an explanation on why the station has gone dark.

“In regards to being off the air, KMBH experienced a problem last night with a module that controls our cooling system. We did not have a replacement and we are having the component shipped in to arrive Wednesday morning. We are expecting to be on the air by late Wednesday morning,” Gutierrez told the Guardian on Tuesday.

Here is the Guardian’s original story:

HARLINGEN, March 18 – KMBH-TV, the Rio Grande Valley’s PBS station, is currently off the air.

Programs ceased to run late last night. The screen went black and then, in white text, this message appeared: “Sorry for the interruption of service. There is no need to call us. We are aware that this TV Station is temporarily unavailable and we will have this channel back as quickly’ as possible.”

Viewers who wish to know what happened and when the station will reappear can call the station’s main number: 956-421-4111. The toll free number is 800-433-2522.

The Diocese of Brownsville owns KMBH-TV and issues news releases for the station. It did not put out a news release in advance to say the station would go dark. KMBH-TV’s website is still promoting upcoming PBS programs and so is its sister radio station, KMBH 88 FM.

The Diocese, through its subsidiary, RGV Educational Broadcasting, Inc., is trying to sell KMBH-TV.

Back in January, KMBH-TV President Robert Gutierrez did warn Hidalgo County Commissioners that the station may go dark for a week or so.

Robert Gutierrez
Robert Gutierrez

In a Jan. 15 letter to Marta Salazar in Hidalgo County’s purchasing department, Gutierrez wrote:

“When and should the sale become final, KMBH will transition from a non-commercial to a commercial station. During this transition there is a possibility that KMBH may go off the air for approximately seven to 14 days. In addition, KMBH will begin to transmit Valley-wide as a Spanish language network on each of its channels. We believe this timeframe will occur in either March or April of 2014.”

The Diocese has said very little about the sale of KMBH-TV since RGV Educational Broadcasting, Inc., held a board meeting at Our Lady of Sorrows Church in McAllen on January 14. At the meeting, the board of directors had an agenda with three motions to consider. They approved all three unanimously without discussion and the meeting was concluded within seven minutes.

The motions approved were:

1) That Lawrence Miller and his law firm in Washington, D.C., are authorized to file the necessary applications and paperwork with the Federal Communications Commission to convert the RGV Educational Broadcasting license from non-commercial to commercial.

2) That David Garza, attorney for RGV Educational Broadcasting is authorized to send a letter to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, in response to its letter of October 11, 2013, in which the letter confirms that RGV Educational Broadcasting acknowledges its debt of $789,776 to CPB as set out on page two of that letter and that said funds will be paid to CPB upon the ultimate sale of the RGV license and receipts of sales proceeds and paid within ten days thereafter.

3) And that the Chairman of the Board is authorized to execute the local programming and marketing agreement, better known as LMA, between RGV Educational Broadcasting, Inc., and MBTV Texas Valley LLC upon finalization of the terms and conditions of said agreement by the attorneys.

Since that meeting, the Federal Communications Commission has approved flipping the KMBH-TV license from commercial to non-commercial. Also, R Communications, which is affiliated to MBTV Texas Valley LLC, has produced a power point presentation suggesting KMBH-TV run programming from MundoFOX.

The “local programming and marketing agreement” has been signed and is available for viewing on the FCC website. Click here to view the local programming and marketing agreement.

The agreement allows MBTV to run KMBH-TV while the two parties negotiate a sale.

Although MBTV is now running KMBH-TV, RGV Educational Broadcasting is responsible for compliance with FCC rules and regulations. This means RGV Educational Broadcasting must continue to maintain station logs and public inspection files. It must also respond to telephone inquiries related to station operations. The licensee is also responsible for every second of the station’s programming.

The agreement states that MBTV must broadcast the PBS feed on KMBH-TV’s primary channel without commercials. It also allows MBTV a 45-day window to exit the agreement. It also states that no party shall, without the prior written consent of the other, issue any press release.

While RGV Educational Broadcasting and MBTV can negotiate and even eventually agree a purchase agreement, the license cannot simply change hands. For this, RGV Educational Broadcasting will have to get approval from the FCC. Section 310(d) of the Communications Act states:

“No construction permit or station license, or any rights thereunder, shall be transferred, assigned, or disposed of in any manner, voluntarily or involuntarily, directly or indirectly, or by transfer of control of any corporation holding such permit or license, to any person except upon application to the Commission and upon finding by the Commission that the public interest, convenience, and necessity will be served thereby.”

Valley residents concerned about the loss of PBS will have an opportunity to comment or file petitions to the FCC to deny an application to transfer the license from RGV Educational Broadcasting to MBTV. The FCC would address these comments in its decision-making process. The sale cannot close and the license cannot change hands until FCC approval is received. The license for KMBH-TV is up for renewal on August 1.