McALLEN, RGV – There was a lively verbal exchange between the chairman of RGV Educational Broadcasting and a veteran TV broadcaster at a meeting where board members voted to proceed towards the sale of KMBH-TV.
The broadcaster, Ron Whitlock, tried to slow the sale of the Rio Grande Valley’s PBS station but his request that three motions dealing with the sale be tabled failed. In addition, the chairman of the board, finance broker Alvaro Gonzalez, refused Whitlock’s request that his comments be included in the minutes of the meeting.
The board meeting was held at 8 a.m. on Tuesday at Our Lady of Sorrows Church in McAllen. Only four people were in the audience, one member of the general public, two reporters, and the press officer for the Catholic Diocese of Brownsville.
The meeting lasted six minutes, 28 seconds. Half of that time was taken up by the back and forth between Whitlock and Gonzalez.
Soon after the meeting started, Whitlock interrupted proceedings to ask if he could have a copy of the agenda. “There is no agenda, Ron,” Gonzalez replied.
The board then proceeded to take up three motions. As they were doing so, Whitlock, sensing there would be no public comment permitted, attempted to prevent the motions from being voted on.
“Gentlemen, would you consider listening to a comment from a member of the general public?” Whitlock asked. “Sorry, No,” Gonzalez responded. Whitlock proceeded with comments, nonetheless.
“Bishop Fitzpatrick created this entity basically by virtue of the fact that I was licensee of a radio station right next to the diocese. That is why we are here today,” Whitlock said. “When Bishop Flores accepted my suggestion and request to work on behalf of him as the licensee, which would be through your entity because you are a reflection of the community, that is why you were put here…”
At this point, Gonzalez interrupted Whitlock. “We are just going to get through this meeting and certainly if you have some comments Brenda is here specifically to address any questions or concerns either from the media or anyone else,” Gonzalez said. The “Brenda” Gonzalez referred to was Brenda Nettles Riojas, who handles public relations for the Diocese of Brownsville. She was sitting in the audience. “We are going to get through this motion and move forward. We’ve gone through a lot of different exercises and probably as this gets into the media you will understand more and more,” Gonzalez added.
Whitlock then interrupted Gonzalez. “Mr. Chairman, I have continued to make calls to your office and you have refused to return those calls. I have no alternative than to come to the board and suggest that you reconsider at this point my suggestion to you as somebody who has volunteered through Fitzpatrick to Flores to today and the Catholic family that before you take this action and vote on this item today you reconsider the fact that Jim Mattison wants you to understand and Robert to understand that to help Robert and this entity get the High Def so that PBS will not be lost on DISH and other items, that is why you had to convert to High Def, right Robert?” Whitlock said.
The “Robert” Whitlock referred to was Robert Gutierrez, president of RGV Educational Broadcasting, Inc. He was present at the meeting. “Yes, sir,” Gutierrez replied. Mattison is a veteran chief engineer who used to work for KGBT-TV in Harlingen and has worked as a volunteer at KMHB-TV.
“So, Robert understands and this board needs to understand if it doesn’t; it needs to possibly consider re-evaluating what is going to happen to PBS if you take this action today because PBS is not going to want to continue,” Whitlock said before being interrupted again by Gonzalez. “We appreciate your comments, sir, but we are going to continue on with the meeting. So, we have got three motions,” Gonzalez said.
The board then proceeded to vote on the three motions. The vote in favor was unanimous. “We have conducted our business for the day,” Gonzalez said, before entertaining a motion to adjourn. The meeting was over when Whitlock said: “Jim Mattison wished to request that my comments on his behalf here today would be reflected in the minutes.” Gonzalez responded that he would prefer that Whitlock send a letter to the board. “We would be glad to accept your letter if you would send one, whatever comments you would like to make. There is no section for public comment,” Gonzalez said. “My comments were made before you voted,” Whitlock responded.
Gonzalez then said that David Garza, RGV Educational Broadcasting’s longtime attorney, would be asked for his advice on that matter. Garza, along with Bishop Daniel Flores, was listening on a conference call. “Robert has those comments so as soon as we have direction from our legal counsel we will make that decision. We will accommodate you,” Gonzalez said.
Interviewed after the meeting had ended, Whitlock said he remembers when Bishop Fitzpatrick started KMBH-TV, 28 years ago. He said he was running KBUV FM 100.3, which was located right next to the Diocese in Brownsville. That station later became K-TEX.
Whitlock also explained why he wanted the three motions dealing with the sale of KMBH-TV to be tabled.
Whitlock said: “My intent was for the board to table the motion and re-evaluate the situation. I wanted them to listen to my plans for retaining public broadcasting and PBS children’s education programing in the Valley. In my opinion, we are in grave danger of losing PBS. I am concerned about this as I am the fact that the Commission for Public Broadcasting is not providing its 2014 federal fund allocation to KMBH.”
Whitlock added: “By refusing to take my calls and refusing to engage in meaningful discussion, Chairman Gonzalez is, I fear, making a grave mistake. There is a real chance we could lose PBS in a market than can ill-afford to lose it. Our colonia children cannot afford to lose PBS’s educational programs. They must stay on over the air TV and DirecTV and DISH must continue to carry these programs for satellite home delivery.”