No more NPR? Diocese sells public radio stations

The days of National Public Radio being aired in Cameron and Hidalgo counties may be coming to an end.

RGV Educational Broadcasting, Inc., which is owned and operated by the Diocese of Brownsville, agreed on Feb. 12 to sell 88.9 FM in Harlingen and 88.1 FM in McAllen to Immaculate Heart Media, which operates Relevant Radio and airs Catholic programming.

The stations are the only source of public radio broadcasting in the Rio Grande Valley.

FCC filings show Immaculate Heart Media has agreed to pay $1,251,000 for the stations.

Relevant Radio Chief Marketing Officer Nancy Jensen said since 88.9 and 88.1 are non-commercial, Immaculate Heart Media will be prohibited from offering paid advertising, though it will be able to accept sponsorships from local organizations.

“It is our hope to serve the predominantly Spanish speaking population in this market with Relevant Radio En Espanol, a format which is currently under development,” Jensen said via email. “All owned and operated Relevant Radio stations will offer local content as a service to our local communities, which is important.”

Jensen said Relevant Radio would provide more information on its programming plans after its licenses are granted.

“Relevant Radio has a number of local programs on its owned and operated stations, each unique to its own market,” Jensen said. “We are not able to offer you any specific examples of how this might work in Brownsville as our license application is still under review.”

Immaculate Heart Radio currently operates one Relevant Radio station in Texas, 970 AM KIXL in Austin, and has three affiliates, including 89.5 FM KLUX in Corpus Christi, 88.5 FM KEDL in College Station and 98.3 FM in Lorena, which is near Waco.

The Relevant Radio network includes 127 stations reaching 39 states.

Rio Grande Valley Public Radio Station Manager Chris Maley did not respond to an email asking about the sale, which will have to be approved by the FCC. No one answered two phone calls to the station Monday afternoon.

The Diocese of Brownsville did not respond to requests for comment as of press time Monday.

The station currently airs NPR’s Morning and Weekend Editions, Fresh Air and All Things Considered, as well as a smattering of classical, jazz, blues and world music shows, in addition to Latino USA, Women in Music, New Texas Conjunto Show and Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me.

RGV Educational Broadcasting’s 2017 tax return show it received $5,207 in membership dues, $25,862 in underwriting revenue and $105,451 in total revenue.

In 2015, RGV Educational Broadcasting sold KMBH television, which broadcasts PBS, to R Communications, for $8.5 million.

KMBH still broadcasts PBS.