The board of the Mountain Area Information Network issued a public apology to a WPVM radio-station volunteer and to MAIN’s executive director on Tuesday and announced a new governance structure for the station.
Following the Aug. 22 broadcast of the WPVM show “7 Layer Dip,” hosted by long-time station volunteer Gillian Coats and a fellow volunteer, MAIN Executive Director Wally Bowen cancelled the show and dismissed Coats as a volunteer. That spurred other volunteers to protest by not speaking on the air during their own programs and triggered a meeting last week between a group of volunteers and a group of MAIN board members. The station’s one paid employee, Jason Holland, also tendered his resignation following the show’s cancellation.
MAIN holds the broadcast license for WPVM, a community station run almost entirely by volunteers. MAIN is a nonprofit Internet-service provider based in Asheville. MAIN’s board members met Monday night to discuss the recent controversy.
In a statement Tuesday, MAIN’s board first thanked Coats.
“The Board of the Mountain Area Information Network (MAIN) wishes to thank Gillian Coats, volunteer at WPVM, for her remarkable contributions to the growth and success of the radio station, and the Board regrets the circumstances surrounding Ms. Coats’ departure from the station. We will miss her leadership.”
The statement goes on to apologize to both Coats and Bowen, saying that board members held themselves responsible for the situation, “since we failed to take action to resolve a longstanding disagreement over station policy between Ms. Coats, MAIN, and our Executive Director, Wally Bowen. Given our lack of prompt action, Mr. Bowen had no choice but to take steps to bring the matter to a close. The Board apologizes to both Wally and Gillian for not having brought about a more graceful resolution.”
In its statement, the board also says that it plans to adopt a new governance structure that requires WPVM to report directly to a subcommittee of the board. MAIN board members also rejected Holland’s resignation, meaning that he may continue to work as the station’s operations manager. Finally, the board says it “encourages the Executive Director to strengthen his oversight of the wireless, ISP, media reform, advocacy, and fund raising dimensions of MAIN.”
At last week’s meeting between volunteers and MAIN board members, some volunteers complained about the lack of structures in place governing volunteers and their committees, according to notes from the meeting obtained by Mountain Xpress. Volunteers also complained that Bowen’s leadership was too heavy-handed, and some called for checks on his control of WPVM or his outright removal, according to the notes. Bowen has defended himself, saying his actions have been aimed at moving the WPVM back to its stated mission as a community radio station.
— Jason Sandford, multimedia editor