MCALLEN, Texas – The Corporation for Public Broadcasting is receiving more funding under the omnibus appropriations bill and a chunk of it needs to be invested in the Rio Grande Valley. 

This is the view of Grassroots Public Radio-RGV, the 501c3 nonprofit set up to bring National Public Broadcasting back to the Valley.

“We are pleased Congress is providing additional funds to CPB. Now, we have to make sure we get our fair share,” said Steve Taylor, a member of the nonprofit and editor of the Rio Grande Guardian. 

“We are the largest media market in the United States withoutNPRand it is time the federal government rectified that. We intend to apply for funding.”

The Valley lost its NPR station two years ago when the Diocese of Brownsville sold KMBH 88.1 and 88.9 FM. Currently, Valley residents can get NPR over the Internet but not over-the-air. GPR-RGV is seeking funds to combine the national NPR feed with local news and current affairs programming.

GPR-RGV has the support of U.S. Reps. Vicente Gonzalez and Henry Cuellar as it works to bring NPR back. Both members of Congress spoke about the additional funds going to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting during recent webinars they held to discuss the $1.4 trillion omnibus appropriations bill.

“There is some extra funding. I do not have the exact amount, but I will be happy to give a breakdown of every dollar and how it is going to be spent,” said Gonzalez, D-McAllen, when asked if any of the new monies allocated to CPB can be directed to the Valley.

“Also, importantly, 501c’s will be able to apply for some of these funds. So, any nonprofit 501c will be able to apply for hundreds of millions of dollars of funding that is available. So, hopefully we will have some funding for public broadcasting and that type of situation.”

Cuellar said he added language into the appropriations bill to help bring back NPR to the Valley.

“I know that I have added some language to add monies for areas like the Valley. I will have to find out where we are at with that. I will get back to you on that,” Cuellar told the Rio Grande Guardian.

Asked if he is working to bring back NPR to the Valley, Cuellar said:

“That is correct. I have been working on the appropriations committee to help the Valley withpublic broadcasting. I know funding is there for public broadcasting overall. As to whether we can get that money… as you know we are not allowed to do earmarks otherwise I would put in earmarks specifically for the broadcasters in the Valley. But I put language there to help funding for areas that do not have broadcasting, like the Valley. The Valley needs this assistance.”

Cuellar said San Antonio has a strong NPR station – KSTX 89.1 FM – that is working to assist Laredo. He said he would like to see a similarly strong station established in the Valley.

“Absolutely, I am a supporter. In appropriations, generally, I have always been a strong supporter of public broadcasting funding. Always,” Cuellar said.

To emphasize his point, Cuellar provided the Rio Grande Guardian with bullet points on how public radio was assisted under the new appropriations bill. Here are those bullet points:

116th Congress Funding for Public Broadcasting in Fiscal Year 2021 Appropriations: 

• $475 million for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), in 2023 advance funding, an increase of $10 million above the 2020 enacted level.  

• In addition, the bill includes $20 million for the interconnection system and system wide infrastructure, the same as the 2020 enacted level.  

• As a member of the Committee on Appropriations, Congressman Cuellar secured the funding for the interconnection system as well as language that supports continued investment in the National Multicultural Alliance to help accomplish the goal of providing programming that reflects the histories and perspectives of diverse racial and ethnic communities.  

• Congressman Cuellar also secured language that directs federally funded public radio stations to engage in public-private partnerships with state and local entities, including nonprofits to help ensure continued access to public broadcasting in local communities.  

• Congressman Cuellar also secured the following language regarding Broadcaster Relocation: Broadcaster Relocation. 

The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018 (P.L. 115–141) provided an additional $1,000,000,000 over two years to the TV Broadcaster Relocation Fund to reimburse channel relocation service and equipment costs incurred by the broadcast industry, as well as providing financial assistance to FM stations, TV translators, and low-power stations. The Committee is aware of concerns about the length of time and funds available to broadcasters to repack stations and is monitoring this issue closely. Both broadcasters and entities who purchased spectrum rights participated in good faith to make the incentive auction successful. The Committee supported FCC’s administration of the incentive auction and expects the FCC to take into careful consideration any participating entity’s concerns.  

Meanwhile, GPR-RGV has unveiled a new website and Facebook page to heighten awareness of its cause. Supporters can donate to the cause via the website and the Facebook page. 

“We are working on a three-year operating budget to present to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. We are also looking for funding for infrastructure, so that we have a tower to beam our broadcast across the Valley,” said GPR-RGV board member Ron Rogers.

“We appreciate the support of our members of Congress, Reps. Vela, Gonzalez and Cuellar. We are listening to their advice and looking to develop public-private partnerships to make our project a reality. The Valley deserves nothing less.”  

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