Several members of the WNC Community Media Center Board of Directors have resigned, raising more questions about its solvency.
The board has been in the midst of a dispute with Buncombe County over funds to operate public access channel URTV. Meanwhile, the city of Asheville is in the process of seizing its video equipment and its staff isn’t recommending a renewal of the center’s contract.
Bob Horn, formerly the board’s vice president and spokesperson, announced his resignation in a May 24 e-mail statement.
“I resigned in protest. … I believe Asheville and Buncombe County citizens will never see their public access cable channel rise again for obvious political reason,” he asserts. “Especially, when you consider the way the demise of PATV was premeditated behind the scenes by disingenuous maneuvers of Buncombe County as stated at http://www.educateyou.comurtv.”
His announcement follows resignations by board members Joe Scotto, treasurer, and Dale Joyner. Matt Howard, who was appointed to the board by the city, has also reportedly resigned, although at this writing, Howard had not confirmed it.
Joyner describes the last meeting of the board, held May 12, as “a clown show,” asserting that it was “a big joke” and that she wasn’t in favor of taking legal action against Buncombe County.
Meanwhile, board member David Connor Jones reports that the Media Center’s attempts to find a lawyer to work on its behalf pro-bono were unsuccessful.
“It’s a sad state of affairs. It’s not been very organized getting a legal team,” he reveals. “I think there’s things that could’ve been done earlier on, but no one really thought they [Buncombe County] would stonewalls us, but they did. Politically they could; it’s pretty easy just to say, ‘this is our opinion on the matter, we’re standing by it.’ Which basically says, ‘unless you take us to a court that’s going to rule otherwise, we’re not going to budge.’”
Jones says the board has also had a hard time finding production alternatives after it closed its studio operations on May 14.
“The plan was to try to keep the channel solvent until we could try to figure out a new place that would be cheaper, that we could run the channel out of, but that would’ve required renegotiating all kinds of things with the city and it looked like a long shot,” he explains. “It was going to take a lot of legwork to make it happen, and it wasn’t there, the board’s energy wasn’t there.”
However, Jones says that he’s not quite ready to officially throw in the towel, noting that he believes former Media Center Operations Jonathan Czarny is continuing to look at the feasibility of the station transforming itself into an internet-based portal for locally produced shows. “I’m waiting to see it shakes out,” says Jones, noting that he and six other board members have not yet resigned.
“With everybody getting on high speed [internet], with flash video becoming as crystalline as it’s becoming, I think people are going to be going there to watch a show without commercials and be able to pick exactly what they want to watch,” he explains. “And I think there is a future in that, and I really don’t see why public access couldn’t do that. I would stay on the board, if that’s what it was going to come to.”
However, Jones admits that at this time, the board has no plans to further discuss those options and that it would be hard to overcome organizational, financial and contractual challenges.
“It looks pretty much as though it’s dissolved but I don’t feel comfortable saying that with any definitive authority,” he reports.