Some WPVM volunteers remain dissatisfied with station

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.

Tune in to controversy: Several volunteers at Asheville’s low-power community radio station, WPVM, say they’ve left the station after structural changes promised in September failed to materialize. Photo by Jason Sandford.

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 “They’ve simply decided that the resolution is no longer valid, that it was temporary.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.”

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6 thoughts on “Some WPVM volunteers remain dissatisfied with station

  1. Wally Bowen

    Just for the record, I suspended the volunteer and the show. After reviewing the evidence, the board upheld my decisions. There was due process.

    Wally Bowen

  2. francois Manavit

    The need to rebuilt confidence and trust in the mission and the vision of Main and its executive director will be the challenges of 2009 as of today , WPVM lost all LOCAL journalistic/ news programming.

    In this sad story , there is a paralelle to be made with the gentrification of Asheville where all the purists and artists are retreating in the suburb of our collective conscience.
    That is the power of an exclusive mental vision of our society . Like a disease , it stop connecting the heart with the brain.

    A community is connected by the heart pulse or it should be call an enterprise !

  3. Barry Summers

    Missing from this story is anyone from MAIN’s Board to explain their changed story. The only reason I and other volunteers agreed to manage the station and conduct a fund drive is because Board members told us repeatedly, verbally and in writing, that this new arrangement was permanent. We went out in the community, including here in MountainX, to say that the previous controversy was over, we the volunteers are in charge now, please give us money. Mere days after the end of the most successful fund drive we’ve ever had, we went to them to ask that they follow through with the promised restructuring process. They said, “thanks for the money, but Wally’s back in charge now.” When I asked what they expected the volunteers to do with this information, one Board member said, “There’s the door.”

  4. cwaster

    Sounds like more egoistic control-centered BS to me. Bowen should be removed in my opinion so the public will have confidence in this station again. Interesting they waited until after the fundraiser to do a “same-old-stuff” move again.

  5. dave

    How many times will this “same old stuff” work for WPVM. Asheville gives a lot of love and support to WPVM, and I know of very few who have any tollerence for Mr. Bowen’s shenanigans.

    Either Wally’s or WPVM’s days are numbered. On of them will have to go.

  6. I’m curious why the MAIN Board would aplogize to Gillian Coats if they upheld Wally’s decision?

    Something is clearly not right or consistent.

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