Posted on December 27, 2005

Spanish Radio Station Could Be Silenced Over Segment

Hernán Rozemberg, San Antonio Express-News, December 26, 2005

San Antonio’s leading Spanish-language radio station could be forced off the air or face fines over a quirky controversy juxtaposing immigrants and green limes.

A recurring segment started five years ago by KROM-Radio “Estéreo Latino” involves people calling in to report sightings of immigration agents in the city. The station’s disc jockeys then alert listeners, particularly undocumented immigrants, to steer clear of the named locations.

No actual mention of federal agents is made — DJs speak of limones verdes, or “green limes,” a euphemistic reference to Border Patrol agents, who traditionally don olive-green uniforms and drive green-lined SUVs.

Curiously enough, the Border Patrol — which maintains an eight-agent office in San Antonio — never complained. There was no public outcry to end the tongue-in-cheek segment. In fact, the reports quickly gained popularity and were even copied by at least one other station.

But since Aug. 1, KROM (92.9 FM) has been operating with an expired license from the Federal Communications Commission. Its license renewal application has been held up, because of the years-long effort of a retired Houston lawyer who, upon learning about the limones verdes report, launched a campaign to get the station off the air.

Stopping in San Antonio in 2000, Joe Ray Blalack read an article in the San Antonio Express-News about KROM’s agent-spotting segment. Fuming over what he interpreted as the station’s obstruction of the work of federal agents, Blalack wrote the FCC, demanding it deny the license renewal.

Since then, the FCC has received 38 additional citizen complaints against the station, all from outside Texas.

The FCC, which regulates the broadcast industry, declined to comment on the case. The station’s renewal application is under review, and there is no timetable for a decision, spokeswoman Rebecca Fisher said.

Blalack also wrote to U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-San Antonio, who in turn asked federal agencies to investigate. The San Antonio office of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement determined that the station did not engage in criminal wrongdoing, agency spokeswoman Nina Pruneda said.