Readers write: Prejudiced report cites views of people ‘irrelevant’ to KMBH

To the editors:

Thank you for the extensive coverage you designated to our radio and television stations [“Where church rules pubcasting, pledge drive comes up empty,” Current, April 21, 2008].

It is unfortunate, however, that you decided to purchase the services of Diana Claitor for such coverage. As a freelance writer and researcher Diana demonstrates in the article about us poor investigative skills and a style based on prejudice and improvisation.

Although Diana showed up at our studio building without previous notice (she never requested an appointment, she got a wrong e-mail address to contact me) I was glad to give her an interview just by knowing she used Current as a business card.

Our conversation ran smoothly but it is only partially reflected in the Current article. The interview was focused on the challenges we are facing to raise local funds to support our public radio station, which by the way operates on two frequencies: KMBH-FM and KHID-FM. Diana was not even able to spell our double call sign correctly.

Diana never touched the issue of the Frontline documentary “Hand of God” through our interview. However, as I see Current, I realize she had a lot to say about this documentary which goes back to January of 2007. She manages to showcase the issue as if it were “breaking news” and a real controversy for our television station. But [this] seems to be just an excuse to focus her article on the opinionated suggestions of some individuals who have been irrelevant to public broadcasting and community service in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas.

At this point it is clear that Diana lost the direction of her article which was supposed to be on the financial troubles of our public radio station (this was her request to me when she showed up for an unscheduled appointment). Not in person but in the article, she decided to go on and on spelling out her prejudice about a Catholic diocese providing public broadcasting service to a large community of 1 million people in the south-most part of Texas.

For 25 years now the Catholic Diocese of Brownsville has been serving the people of the Rio Grande Valley with educational radio and television very much within the rules of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, struggling with very limited support from the public and facing great opposition from the newspapers of the Libertarian ideology.

At least Diana Claitor got it right when she says that no other institution, nobody else, but the Catholic diocese has been consistent enough with its mission of service to invest on public TV and public radio and to give up its broadcasting facilities and licenses in order to broadcast PBS and NPR for the benefit of the public in the Rio Grande Valley.

I think that if somebody else in our area, any other institution or corporation, would like to take the responsibility of providing public radio and public TV service in the RGV of Texas the Catholic Diocese would be very glad to consider this option, which could release its radio and TV facilities for a full religious broadcasting. But other than big mouths ready to criticize our service there seems to be too little commitment out here in the Valley.

Our model has been very well known by CPB, PBS and NPR throughout these 25 years, and even Current has published some positive articles on KMBH.

I don’t know if Current’s editorial line has changed and is taking now a different direction or if this piece written by Diana Claitor is only an excuse by Current to regain public attention even if it is at the expense of losing quality of information.

Our plans for multicasting are not secret and represent a design to serve our local community in a better way, with a variety of streams, on radio and television, keeping PBS and NPR programming as an integral part of our service while opening extra sources of support and financial endurance.

The issue of our Board of Directors, which seems to be so intriguing for Diana Claitor, is not as glamorous. There has been no intrigue at all. Nobody was “deposed” or “removed.”

Every year, as can be demonstrated by the minutes of the Board, there is a process of appointments where some directors are re-appointed and some are not. In my 13 years at KMBH, this is the first time such a process has produced some kind of scandal and national interest. It could be because our small stations are gaining strategic importance and value?

I just wish Current will be more selective when it comes to freelancing purchases, because it seems that some freelancers just do not care for a decent reputation.

Msgr. Pedro Briseño
President and General Manager, RGV Educational Broadcasting Inc.,
Harlingen, Texas

Editor Steve Behrens responds

Except for the error in the radio call letters, we stand by Diana Claitor’s article, which discusses several incidents over recent months and doesn’t present any of them as “breaking news.”

 Msgr. Briseño was kind enough to talk with Ms. Claitor when she came to town, and it turned out to be a more successful way to get responses from KMBH than phoning or writing. Before traveling to Harlingen, she was unable to reach the manager by phone or e-mail (she says he later explained that he doesn’t check the e-mail account listed on the station website).  When the reporter asked further questions of the diocese’s spokeswoman, she said she would find out the answers and call back, but she didn’t. The station’s lawyer also said he would need to do research to answer Claitor's questions and could not respond for weeks.

KMBH hurts its rep in bitter controversies

To the editors:

I met with Ms. Claitor while she was down here researching the story about the local public broadcasting station run by the Catholic Church.  I found it factually in keeping with what I know and what I have heard about the management of the station.

The controversies arising from the “Hand of God” programming and the discharge of the board members have been bitter at times and have not placed the church’s management in a very positive light.  Frankly, the religious programming on the weekends offends me. It makes any claim from the station manager that he is acting evenhandedly seem absurd.

I would be delighted if the management dedicated even part of that time to interfaith programming, roundtable discussions, or some other open programming pertinent to issues of faith or interaction among communities of diverse beliefs.

At present I neither listen to nor watch the local public broadcasting media. I quit donating a few years ago. I miss NPR and PBS, but not so much that I will support KMBH.

Abner Burnett
Attorney/Director, South Texas Civil Rights Project, San Juan, Texas

Web page posted May 27, 2008
Copyright 2008 by Current LLC


Msgr. Briseño responds to this article.


Current's editor replies to Msgr. Briseño.

Abner Burnett of the South Texas Civil Rights Project responds to the article.



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