Grassroots group gauging support for new Valley NPR station

Gauging community support for a public radio station covering the Rio Grande Valley is the purpose of a public meeting scheduled for June 6 at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley campus in Brownsville.

Hosted by Diana Dominguez and W.F. Strong of the grassroots group Save NPR in the RGV, the meeting will take place from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. in Sabal Hall 2.204. NPR stands for “National Public Radio,” a national syndicator of news and cultural programming to more than 1,000 public radio stations around the country, founded in 1970.

The Valley’s two NPR stations, KJJF 88.9 and KHID 88.1 went off the air May 30, after the Catholic Diocese of Brownsville won FCC approval earlier this year to sell the stations to Immaculate Heart Media Inc., a broadcaster of Catholic talk radio.

Dominguez is a UTRGV professor of literature and Strong a UTRGV communications professor known for his “Stories of Texas” broadcast statewide (but not in the Valley as of May 30) by the Texas Standard radio program. They started Save NPR in the RGV as well as a GoFundMe campaign to raise money to restart public radio in the Valley.

“The meeting is basically community outreach meeting to speak about next steps that the community can do in order to show that there’s real interest, so that as the university considers the possibility of getting involved in this, for them to see that there is actually community support for it,” Dominguez said.

In April, U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez sent a letter to UTRGV President Guy Bailey suggesting that the university may be “an ideal home” for a new public radio station as well as a new Public Broadcasting System television station to reach more than 1.5 million listeners and viewers in the Valley. No agreements have been reached.

“The more community support that we can show, the better it looks for the possibility of real movement, whether it’s the university or something else,” Dominguez said. “This way we get the word out through the community.”

The GoFundMe campaign was three days old as of Tuesday and had already raised $1,500, she said. The purpose of the campaign is to show that enough members of the community are willing to support public radio financially, without which it would be difficult if not impossible to attract the necessary level of commercial or nonprofit sponsorship, Dominguez said.

“Normally with any public station you’ve got contributions from listeners, but many of them also have corporate support and support from other entities, but they’re hesitant if there’s not really (community) output,” she said. “We’re trying to find out if there’s that critical support.”

Visit Save NPR in the RGV’s Facebook page for more information.