Thursday, November 08, 2007


Catholic bishop reduces PBS station's board from 7 to 4 without explanation

Bruce Lee Smith (Valley Morning Star)
November 7, 2007 - 8:49PM

HARLINGEN — Three members of the KMBH-TV board of directors were dismissed in August without explanation, according to information that recently became public.

Their dismissal reduced the board from its original seven members to four, one less than required by the station’s original articles of incorporation.

KMBH is owned and operated by RGV Educational Broadcasting Inc. The sole member of that corporation is the bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brownsville, according to the articles of incorporation.

Bishop Raymundo Peña referred all questions — including inquiries about the directors’ dismissals and when new directors will be named — to the station’s lawyer, according to Brenda Nettles Riojas, diocesan relations director. The original articles of incorporation state the KMBH board must have at least five members, one of whom is elected its chairman.

The Valley Morning Star submitted 14 questions to Peña on Tuesday, seeking information about the finances and operations of KMBH. The station is the Public Broadcasting Service affiliate for the Rio Grande Valley.

The three dismissed board members are Bill Elliott, Chelse Benham and Betsy Price. All three have extensive experience in broadcasting.

Elliott has been a fixture on the Valley PBS and National Public Radio affiliates almost since the day the stations went on the air.

For many years, Elliott hosted Health and You, a KMBH-TV program that was sponsored by his former employer, Valley Baptist Medical Center. He also participated in the pledge drives for both KMBH-TV and KMBH/KHID-FM.

For seven years Elliott served on the board of directors of RGV Educational Broadcasting, rising to chairman of the board.

All of that ended in August when he received a letter from Peña, thanking him for his years of service but stating that his services were no longer needed.

No explanation was given, he said.

Peña also sent similar letters to Price and Benham, removing them from the board of directors, they said.

As the head of the Catholic Diocese of Brownsville, Peña controls RGV Educational Broadcasting and its entities KMBH-TV and KMBH/KHID-FM.

According to the articles of incorporation filed with the state of Texas in 1983, the bishop or administrator of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brownsville is the only member of RGV Educational Broadcasting. Directors of the corporation “serve at his pleasure.”

Elliott said he doesn’t know why he fell out of favor with Peña.

“Anything I could say would be pure speculation because I have no idea,” the former board member said Monday.

The only change he was trying to make over the past year was to “increase the role of the board as a policy-making body and guiding body to the staff,” he said.

Price responded to inquiries about her departure from the KMBH board with a written statement:

“The letter I received thanking me for my participation and taking me off the board has me a bit confused.

“Monsignor Briseño has not returned my calls to clarify this. The letter I received thanked me for my term being up, however I have only served a couple months,” she wrote, referring to KMBH president, general manager and chief executive officer Monsignor Pedro Briseño.

Price said such mistakes may occur but they can be fixed quickly.

“I can’t imagine (why) shortly after I learned that they cycled two people off the board that have a rich experience in radio and television that they would cycle off the only other board member that has extensive experience,” she wrote.

For eight years Price volunteered at KRCL Community Radio in Salt Lake City as a board member and as a producer and programmer of three radio programs.

She was also part of the fundraising team that raised $1.5 million for a new studio and worked on every fund drive.

While on the board of the Utah Museums Association, Price helped raise $2 million for the association.

She also serves as a consultant to nonprofit organizations on budget and management issues.

“KMBH has the same potential that KRCL has to become a leader in the community serving the people of the Valley by providing local programming. What other alternative is there for a local voice?” Price said in her written statement. “I am sure this is all a mistake and I hope to be able to serve.”

Benham, radio/TV production supervisor at the University of Texas-Pan American, has many years of experience in broadcasting. She is also the Rio Grande Valley/South Texas regional representative for the Texas Motion Picture Alliance.

Benham said she hasn’t asked any questions of the station management or the diocese since receiving her letter.

Instead, her focus has been on winning a Lone Star Emmy last month for Dead Letter, a film she directed and edited that will soon serve as an educational tool on problems faced by teens.

“We serve because we care,” was all Benham would say about her experiences with KMBH.

Like Price and Benham, Elliott said he would not hesitate to rejoin the board if asked.
“I think public broadcasting is a very important part of the community,” he said. “Whenever I can be of service to the station, I’m more than happy to do so.”

Here is the link to vote, read and make comments on this story at the Valley Morning Star:


Anonymous said...

Don't just sit there you all; go to:

vote and comment.

Anonymous said...

We must come to the bishop's aid! Let's take up a collection at the next CTA meeting for KMBH!

Anonymous said...

Keep in mind that KRCL was supported mostly by the University of Utah community. Why can't UTPA or UTB step up!