Latino Public Radio has launched an effort to prevent the sale of the station where it current airs, WRNI-AM 1290.
The organization has been broadcasting music, news and information to the state’s fast-growing Spanish-speaking population for the past six years, but Rhode Island Public Radio (RIPR) – which owns AM 1290 – announced last week that it will stop broadcasting Latino Public Radio at midnight on April 1.
Latino Public Radio currently rents the 1290 radio signal from RIPR and was planning to buy it. The FCC approved a proposal for Latino Public Radio to buy the station in December, but RIPR said the agreement was terminated after it became clear Latino Public Radio couldn’t secure financing.
“We regret that the budget realities at Latino Public Radio meant we couldn’t complete the station sale as both parties had hoped,” RIPR CEO Torey Malatia said in a statement. “We’re grateful, though, that they intend to continue reaching their audience online.”
But Latino Public Radio CEO Reynaldo Almonte said Wednesday he’s not giving up. “Latino Public Radio is the only source for news for this community,” he said.
Earlier this week Almonte met with Attorney General Peter Kilmartin’s staff in hopes that a 2005 law, the Public Radio Conversions Act, could block RIPR from selling the 1290 frequency. He also plans to seek a $400,000 loan from RIPR to complete the deal.
“A lot of listeners are angry about what’s going on,” Almonte said. “And they’re saying, ‘Why? Why they no help the Latino community?’”
But Amy Kempe, a spokeswoman for the attorney general, said his office has determined it “does not have the statutory authority to intervene.”
“The attorney general believes that public radio stations in Rhode Island contribute to the cultural, educational and journalistic quality of life in Rhode Island,” she said. “However, the Act does not offer any protections until such time as steps have been taken to convert a public radio station.”
Eyewitness News reached out to Malatia to see if he would be interested in renegotiating before Saturday, but he has not yet replied.