MCALLEN, RGV – At least two of the three congressmen who represent the Rio Grande Valley in Washington, D.C., are working to keep National Public Radio on the air in the Valley. 

U.S. Reps. Vicente Gonzalez and Henry Cuellar were asked if they support NPR programming in the Valley during a conference call with reporters last week.

U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez

“We have had meetings with UT-Rio Grande Valley and some of the other stations to try to fill that void and ensure that NPR is guaranteed for listeners in the Rio Grande Valley,” Congressman Gonzalez said.

“I enjoy NPR on an almost daily basis and I want to be able to continue to enjoy it when I am home in South Texas. We have some interest from the university and I am hoping that we will find NPR a home very soon and I think the university would be a good place.”

Gonzalez represents the central part of the Valley. Congressman Cuellar represents the western part of the Valley. Congressman Cuellar said: “I want to work with my colleague, Vicente Gonzalez. NPR certainly does a great service and I certainly want to help them in that aspect.”

U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar

The Rio Grande Guardian has yet to contact Congressman Filemon Vela of Brownsville. However, Vela, who represents the eastern part of the Valley, is known to be a supporter of NPR.

The Valley looks set to lose NPR over the air in late April. That is when the sale of KHID 88.1 and KJJF 88.9 FM is set to be sold by the Diocese of Brownsville to Relevant Radio. The Diocese, through its offshoot, RGV Educational Broadcasting has carried NPR programming on the two stations for decades. 

Relevant Radio, part of Immaculate Heart Media, is expected to run Catholic religious programming on the two stations, not NPR, once it has acquired the stations. The sale is now being vetted by the Federal Communications Commission but public radio experts like Ken Mills of Spark News do not see the sale being halted.

Non-Profit launched

NPR enthusiasts Shawn Seale and Edgar Lopez review the papers submitted by attorney Kenna Giffin to set up a non-profit to Save NPR in the RGV.

In response to the likely loss of NPR in the Valley, former members of the RGV Educational Broadcasting’s Upper Valley Community Advisory Board have formed a non-profit to save NPR in the Valley. The non-profit is called RGV Grassroots Public Radio. The group also has a Facebook page, Save NPR in the Rio Grande Valley.

The board of directors of the non-profit include businessman Edgar Lopez of Mission, (chairman), accountant Fred Garza of San Benito (treasurer), and philanthropist Shawn Seale of McAllen (secretary). The non-profit plans to launch a crowdfunding operation to raise money to save NPR in the Valley.

“We are delighted to have set up our non-profit. It is important to have total transparency as we raise funds to save NPR in the Rio Grande Valley,” Lopez said.

“The money will go towards exploring ways to ensure NPR is available in the Valley. The funds will also be used to facilitate partnerships with institutions that want to bring a new public radio station to the Valley.”

Lopez said he has an email address where supporters of NPR in the Valley can write. It is [email protected].

Gerard Mittelstaedt

Like Lopez, Gerard Mittelstaedt is also a former member of the KMBH Upper Valley Community Advisory Board. He plans to join the new Save NPR in the RGV non-profit.

“As the go dark day approaches, I’m nervous. Nervous about NPR not being here for us in the Valley. We are going to lose out on a lot of information,” Mittelstaedt said.

Author and broadcaster W.F. Strong, who teaches communications at UT-Rio Grande Valley, is also working to save NPR in the Valley. Strong is developing a white paper on the subject to give to UTRGV President Guy Bailey. The plan is to start a public radio station on campus.