KMBH is a television station in Harlingen, Texas, broadcasting in the Rio Grande Valley on digital channel 38. Initially licensed sometime before 1979 and signing on on October 8, 1985, the station is owned by RGV Educational Broadcasting, Inc., under the aegis of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brownsville. Through a local marketing agreement, KMBH is operated by MB Revolution LLC, which is in the process of purchasing the station.
The station initially signed on in May 1982 as KZLN channel 60, with the intent to provide PBS programming to the Rio Grande Valley. Prior to KZLN's arrival, PBS programming was provided to the valley's commercial stations, on a per-program basis, or via cable from KLRN in San Antonio. The station was operated by the Texas Consumer Education and Communications Development Committee, with the license held by the Diocese. KZLN suffered a lengthy delay from its original proposed sign-on of December 1979, due to lack of funds. The station's intent was to implement a bilingual schedule, which included Spanish-language programming aimed at residents of the colonias along the border. However, it soon left the air due to lack of support, with only 400 members at its peak. Three years later, the Diocese would try again, this time launching the more-successful KMBH on October 8, 1985, under the same license originally issued for KZLN.
Conversion to commercial operation
On January 14, 2014, the Diocese announced its intention to file with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to convert KMBH's license to a commercial license, with the intention to sign a local marketing agreement with, and sell the station to, MBTV Texas Valley LLC; the Diocese cited the expenses of running the station. Though both KZLN and KMBH have always operated as noncommercial, public television stations, its channel allocation is not reserved for such operation—a rarity for a PBS station. The move may result in KMBH leaving PBS, though efforts will be made to keep PBS programming available in the Rio Grande Valley; KEDT, the PBS station in Corpus Christi (which itself served as the Rio Grande Valley's default PBS station before KMBH's launch), also sought a potential purchase of the station. The proceeds from the sale will be reused to repay nearly $800,000 in grants to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Sister station KMBH-FM, since re-called KJJF, will not be affected by the proposed sale of KMBH television. As of February 21, 2014, the facility status went from non-commercial educational to commercial.
In March 2014, the $8.5 million sale to MB Revolution LLC (which MBTV Texas Valley is a subsidiary of) was officially announced and filed with the FCC. The new owners then took control of KMBH through a local marketing agreement; though MB intends to program the station commercially, it remained a PBS station as of March 28, 2014. Programming from the Diocese will continue to be produced from the KMBH studios and aired on a digital subchannel for eight hours each month. MB's owner, Roberto Gonzalez, already owns six radio stations in the Rio Grande Valley.
By the start of 2016, PBS programming would move to the .2 position of its broadcast signal, with .1 replaced with Cozi TV, the classic television network owned by NBCUniversal, and .3 replaced with "RTV-Musica", a locally-programmed Spanish-language music channel.
In November 2007, the management of KMBH demanded that Bruce Lee Smith, a reporter for Harlingen's Valley Morning Star and a former volunteer for KMBH in the 1990s, reveal his confidential sources, in exchange for the station's financial records that he requested. The station would later file a police report, citing that Smith was abusive to its secretary when he requested the records, a charge that Smith denied. KMBH would soon run hourly announcements on its radio and TV stations, questioning Smith's ethics.
In August 2008, Reymundo Peña, the Bishop of Brownsville, removed three of the seven KMBH board members, without comment; in the licensee's incorporation papers, it listed Peña as the sole member of RGV Educational Broadcasting, allowing him sole discretion to appoint or dismiss board members.
KMBH carries general PBS fare, as well as some programming pertaining to the Catholic faith, including Sunday Mass, a Spanish-language Bible study program, and a Catholic family issues program. KMBH is one of at least two PBS members run by a religious organization (KBYU-TV in Provo, Utah is the other), and was formerly one of at least three PBS members owned at least in part by a Catholic-related organization (along with WXEL-TV in West Palm Beach, Florida, which was sold to a community group in 2012, and WLAE-TV in New Orleans, which left PBS in 2013). Because of the Catholic-based ownership, KMBH occasionally refuses to show programming that is contrary to the Catholic faith—one example is a 2007 Frontline documentary, "Hand of God", which dealt with sex abuse by clergymen, which the station would run at 1AM instead of its usual prime-time slot, drawing complaints from viewers in support of the program.
Unlike other stations, KMBH never used virtual PSIP channels to display their digital channel as 60.1 to reflect their analog channel number, instead displaying their digital channel as 38.1. While the FCC mandates stations to use their analog number for PSIP identification, it allows stations to identify themselves by its digital channel instead.
Prior to 2016, PBS was seen in the .1 position, with V-me (a Spanish-language public television network) seen on .2, and the Valley Catholic Network, the diocese's Catholic channel affiliated with EWTN, seen at .3.
- KJJF (formerly known as KMBH-FM)