Two months after several volunteers with Asheville’s low-power community-radio station quit over a dispute about the station’s management, some WPVM volunteers remain dissatisfied.
Barry Summers and David Lynch, hosts of the program Making Progress, said last week that they have decided to leave the station after the board that oversees it refused to move ahead with a restructuring they say was promised in September. The station also remains without a full-time station manager.
In a Sept. 8 statement, the board of the Mountain Area Information Network apologized to volunteer Gillian Coats. The nonprofit Internet service provider holds the broadcast license for WPVM, which is licensed to broadcast at 1 watt at 103.5 FM.
MAIN’s executive director, Wally Bowen, had dismissed Coats and cancelled her radio show in August, saying that the volunteer had continually questioned MAIN’s right to manage the radio station. That move upset a number of volunteers, some of whom temporarily refused to speak on the air during their programs or stopped volunteering altogether.
The MAIN board also apologized to Bowen, noting that it had failed to resolve a long-standing dispute.
The board went on to announce a new governance structure that removed Bowen from station oversight, and it refused to accept the resignation of the station’s one paid employee, Jason Holland, at the September meeting.
But at a recent meeting, the board announced that Bowen was back in control of the station. And Holland has not returned to the station.
“The board rejected our request to go forward with restructuring,” Summers says. “They’ve simply decided that the resolution is no longer valid, that it was temporary. To add insult to injury, he says, the board’s decision came just days after WPVM’s on-air fundraiser, in which he and fellow volunteers helped raise $14,000 for the radio station.
Summers argues that Bowen’s management of the station should be addressed. “He expects people to respond to orders, and that’s an unworkable model that completely failed back in September,” Summers says.
Bowen, a nonvoting member of the MAIN board, says he always assumed the September measure was temporary. The board never took a vote on the issue, and bylaws stating that he’s responsible for WPVM’s operations were never rewritten, Bowen says. The board is working on building trust among members, he says, adding that he’s frustrated by the continuing turmoil.
There has been a communication problem between the board and volunteers, Bowen says, and he suggests the ongoing infighting will provide a chance for “a larger conversation about MAIN” and its mission. The radio station shares MAIN’s mission, according to Bowen, which includes supporting participatory democracy, citizen access to media, independent journalism, social and economic justice, locally owned businesses, local cultural and artistic expression and environmental stewardship.
Both Summers and Lynch say they hope the station survives.
“There are still a lot of dedicated volunteers willing to keep it going,” Lynch says, “and I hope it does stay alive, because it’s an invaluable resource to the community.”