Removal of radio-show host causes flap ***UPDATED at 3:30 p.m.***

Removal of radio-show host causes flap  ***UPDATED at 3:30 p.m.***-attachment0

***UPDATE: Matt Mittan of WWNC 570 AM tells Xpress that he will host two guests on his radio show today (Wednesday) to discuss the WPVM controversy. Longtime station volunteer Cecil Bothwell is scheduled to appear at 4:05 p.m., and MAIN executive director Wally Bowen is slated for 4:35 p.m.***

The removal of an on-air personality at Asheville’s WPVM, a low-power FM station, and the subsequent resignation of the station’s manager has roiled some station volunteers and has the executive director of WPVM’s parent organization defending his move.

In the wake of the cancellation of the “7 Layer Dip” show co-hosted by Gillian Coats and a fellow station volunteer, another on-air personality has announced that he’s put his show on hiatus, and several other show hosts have protested by not speaking during their shows.

Meanwhile, the station operations manager, Jason Holland, has tendered his resignation. Holland, the station’s only paid employee, didn’t respond to requests for an interview Tuesday.

Wally Bowen, executive director of the Mountain Area Information Network, which holds the WPVM broadcast license, told Xpress Tuesday that he cancelled Coats’ show because of “a pattern of behavior that’s just antithetical to our organization’s mission and our right to carry out that mission.” Bowen said the program — a humor show that featured a selection of off-beat, older music — included some “questionable” content, but that that wasn’t the reason for his move.

“The volunteer in question, Gillian Coats, has a long and established record of questioning MAIN’s right to manage and control WPVM,” Bowen says.

MAIN describes itself as a nonprofit Internet-service provider and community network dedicated to increasing citizen access to the media and the public sphere. Bowen says WPVM shares MAIN’s mission, 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,” according to a statement on the station’s Web site.

Coats, a well-known local business person, operated the Reader’s Corner book store on Montford Avenue for years before putting it up for sale earlier this year. She works on podcast production through New Mediacast Productions in Asheville and helped get WPVM started when it was born five years ago. She’s currently the interim director of the Media Arts Project, a nonprofit aimed at cultivating arts and technology in Western North Carolina. Coats declined to comment when contacted by Xpress.

Bowen says his removal of Coats and her show is subject to the review of MAIN’s governing board. Members of the board plan to meet with a group of station volunteers Wednesday night to discuss the issue.

WPVM broadcasts at 103.5 on the FM dial and is based in small offices next to the Vanderbilt Apartments on Haywood Street in downtown Asheville. It calls itself “The Progressive Voice of the Mountains” and features a variety of programming.

Francois Manavit, in a recent posting on the station’s Web site, announced that he was suspending his radio show in support of Coats.

“In solidarity with Gillian Coat, Simone, their show ‘7 layer dip’ [having been] abruptly cancelled, add the resignation of Jason, our manager at the station, the Paris of the South radio hour is taking a leave of absence and will not be on the air next week until changes and new policies in the structure happen,” Manavit wrote.

“At this moment the station cannot guarantee and support ‘freedom of speech’ and the community spirit that I cherished since I moved to Asheville 15 years ago.”

Bowen says he hopes WPVM can move past the current dust-up. “I think it’s part of a life-cycle of a community radio station that’s run by volunteers,” he says. “They start to acquire a sense of ownership. It can be tough to put structures in place.”

“So this is part of a learning process — growing pains. I want to see the station get back to its mission.”

— Jason Sandford, multimedia editor

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34 thoughts on “Removal of radio-show host causes flap ***UPDATED at 3:30 p.m.***

  1. Donald De Bona

    I’ve got a novel idea… now that Gillian Coat has been “removed” (read, silenced) let’s see Wally Bowen move on. Or, be removed by MAIN’s governing board of directors. Wally, as everyone in Asheville knows full well, has the very same aggravated “sense of ownership” that he now claims some of WPVM’s less than compliant volunteers have. His “leadership” is, unfortunately, no longer helpful, nor true to the spirit and mission of MAIN. Or put another way… Wally’s perennial self-aggrandizing and in perpetuity tenure, along with his replete sense of not only himself, but of how “his” station should sound, is an embarrassment to all. Now, if only his hand-picked board would see this and act in the best interest of all, we could get back to that silly but serious business of freedom of speech here in our little petrie dish of a town called Asheville.

  2. Jimbo

    Typical of Wally Bowen to promote his usual propaganda of “citizen access to media and independent journalism” while insuring his ability to decide unilaterally what he wants to be on the air. Sounds like there wasn’t enough content about him and his inflated ego. Perhaps he should spend less time trying to control the media and more time doing his self professed job of making it accessible, lest he get fired from this job too.

  3. Becky

    What happened here? Article does not explain. “Antithetical” to what? Somebody please illuminate. What was the fight here, and what bug got up Wally’s shorts?

  4. Reality Check

    What did she say to get herself in trouble? It would be nice if the article actually gave us a hint.

  5. Simone

    Here’s a link to the show in question. 7 Layer Dip was a humorous show (at least we attempted humor)and we tried to keep the pitching funny but on target. The show has no actual FCC violations and is a honest attempt to raise money for MAIN and WPVM. Give it a listen and draw your own conclusions. http://archive.wpvm.org/seven-08222008.mp3
    I will be posting a statement here shortly

  6. Bryan Freeeborn

    Hard to see what the problem Wally has after actually listening to the show in question. I thought it was cute. Almost made me want to give money.

  7. September Girl

    I didn’t hear anything offensive. Has anyone seen local access cable after 11pm – now THAT is some raunchy stuff.

  8. Ex-Pat

    Yeah, really hard to have a substantive conversation about this without having all the facts. I listened to the show and didn’t find anything offensive. I quite enjoyed it actually.
    Having had numerous intimately frustrating encounters with Wally, I’m tempted to shoot some guesses, but that wouldn’t be fair. Clearly he is unnerved that Gillian had criticisms of MAIN’s parenting role. But she is not the first. I personally know others who were deeply involved in WPVM’s creation who also took issue with that, throwing up their arms in frustration and abandoning the project (after a lot of hard work) because of Wally’s intractability on the matter. They believed they’d been working to create a fundamentally independent low power FM station, WPVM, not for MAIN or the WB network (pun intended).

  9. Simone aka Gillian

    I regret that Wally Bowen has decided to publicly attack my reputation as a volunteer at WPVM. I had hoped that the actual issues that have spawned the recent spate of volunteer and staff dissatisfaction would be addressed and handled quietly by the MAIN Board. I do have a long and established record of volunteering for WPVM, raising money, training volunteers, building the CD racks, producing and hosting shows, etc etc AND questioning the way that WPVM and MAIN are structured. The MAIN and WPVM mission gives the appearance that WPVM is a community station that fosters and employs “participatory democracy”; I can only hope that MAIN and WPVM will live up to their stated ideals.

  10. david mcconville

    I couldn’t agree more with the mission of MAIN. I applaud their many years of efforts in our community, and it was for this reason that I worked for 4 years as a volunteer consultant to help make WPVM a reality.

    However, I walked away months after the station’s launch (along with other highly qualified volunteers) when I realized that Wally had no intention of it being run as a community radio station. As the license holder, it is within MAIN’s right to control the station as it sees fit. But Wally continues to misrepresent it as a “community radio station” – as he did once again in this article. WPVM is a fully owned subsidiary of a non-profit over which he asserts remarkably unilateral control.

    Even given this fact, I have continued to donate to the station in hopes that this situation would improve. I’m saddened to learn of these developments.

    Wally’s pattern of distrust of WPVM’s most dedicated and seasoned volunteers is seriously threatening the viability of WPVM, which could also tarnish the reputation and mission of MAIN at a very crucial time of media consolidation. Hopefully, this incident (and the community’s response) will instigate more than a few moments of self reflection for the MAIN Board of Directors and Wally. Otherwise, the integrity of the mission of encouraging “participatory democracy, citizen access to media” will increasingly resonate as a hollow promise.

  11. Guessing

    I’m guessing it had nothing to do with the bawdy factor. Could it have been the third person vs the first person?

  12. zen

    Thank you Gillian and David for giving balance to the story! I had and still have strong hopes for MAIN and WPVM but as demonstrations of a higher purpose than the way it has been run. I will miss ‘PVM now that i’m not much inclined to listen without the fun and humor of Gillian and Francois.

  13. Jimbo

    Wally has a tediously long history of imposing his often ill informed and self promoting position on every issue even remotely related to media or communications in this region. He has repeatedly taken it upon himself to speak for agencies and initiatives he has absolutely no involvement with or understanding of. He continually misrepresents himself to the media, the state, and local governments as spokesperson or resident expert on initiatives he has no authorization to represent. He has brought little more than paranoia confusion and misinformation to most issues he speaks to. The community would be far better off without his undermining personal agendas. He needs to be called out as the extraneous, meddling, self promoting, instigator he is and put back on the unemployment lines.

  14. Big Red

    Why doesn’t Wally clone himself so he can have an army of submissive and docile volunteers and dj’s? That way the new regime can create humorless programming for those humorless residents and MAIN subscribers that always seem to complain when their sensibilities are offended.

  15. Ex-Pat

    Y’know, it’s really strange…I could write a long attempted assassination of Wally’s character based on a litany of personal experiences with him over the years which so frustrated me like no other. But I’m not, partly because I prefer the relative safety of my anonymity in these forums, but also because I know he is reading this conversation and it must be painful. And believe me, I have a laundry list of resentments I could air as someone who has tried and worked just as hard as he to promote independent media in Asheville. I’ve also tried numerous times to work with him as an ally only to be stymied time and again by what I can only deduce is some pathologically competitive streak.

    So as compromised as this forum is, as well as my admittedly cowardly choice of anonymity, I will address you as directly as I can, Wally:

    Stop it.

    You are a very smart, talented and resourceful man. The WNC region has been very fortunate to have you going to bat on matters specifically dealing with state/national government policy as they relate to the public airwaves. Really, you may have arguably done more than anyone else to raise awareness about these important issues as well as provide so many with affordable online access that otherwise may not have been available.
    The profound ramifications of that noble public service cannot be over-valued or overstated. In that regard, you have my extreme admiration, respect and gratitude like few others. Somewhere, sometime I hope that you receive the honors, awards and recognition you rightfully deserve for all the good you have done in this way. I really, really mean that.

    But you must change.

    Your expertise and dedication to promoting independent media is a golden asset to our community. This cause would suffer a genuine loss here if you were to disappear. I’m actually shocking myself as I write this because as I mentioned before I have more than enough reason to not care about you. But that’s too easy and I’d be a fool not to recognize your importance and worth. I also share your passion and commitment to the same cause so I want you to succeed –even though you have (perhaps unwittingly) tried to undermine others’ efforts to do the same.

    Your way or working with others has been a tragic flaw. I’m genuinely sorry to be saying this, but as David mentioned, we all stand to lose unless we can collectively move forward together.

    These are increasingly desperate times for nonprofits –particularly independent media. But the answer is not to internalize the scarcity, batten the hatches and adopt the every non-profit for themselves attitude. I understand, yes, we do operate within a free market economy. But don’t make the mistake of adopting that market’s ruthless attributes. You will self-destruct. I guarantee it.

    What is the solution? Well, there is no magic wand that is going to change our economy’s state of affairs anytime soon. And no single DJ –or several– will be that wand either. That’s very unrealistic.

    And no damage control and public relations will fix this latest mistake you made, I’m sorry to say. I know that’s a terrifying thought.

    Just be humble. Admit your mistake and let’s move on. We’ve got too much work to do.

  16. Sideliner

    If this was a conservative led organization the Asheville press would have eaten it alive by now and turned it inside out years ago. The board of directors doesn’t take its responsibility seriously and any attempt to do so by board members has been thwarted over and over since Mains inception. Board members who speak up and try to make a difference are treated like staff and volunteers who do which is to say they are disposed of neatly and tidily or just move on quietly. Some board members have tried to fix things but finally figure out they are outnumbered. I still will donate to Mains because I believe in it but I have no ilusions about the ethics that it is run by because I know many of the casalties myself and the stories first hand which I know to be true.

  17. Celtcrow

    I think we all know how much Mr. Bowen has done to further the progressivness of Asheville. He has been part of the revolution. I salute him. That being said I believe that he has lost sight of the goals of Free Speech radio in his zeal to organize and run it. History teaches that leaders often destroy a worthy movement when they begin to identify themselves personally with it. Like Stalin and Mao did with Communism. There comes a time when you must let the beast lead itself.

  18. byrdwood

    Nonprofits need scrutiny by the donors, volunteers, and the media to ensure that our community’s money and efforts are not wasted.

    A resourceful journalist, for example, might see a story in this. They would interview a bunch of people. They might look up MAIN’s 990 forms (see Guidestar.com) to see if they notice any patterns. For example, signs of financial trouble coinciding with large annual raises for the executive director would be interesting.

    Concerned donors and volunteers might read an article about troubles at MAIN.

    Donors wouldn’t want to donate again until they were sure the problems were fixed.

    The volunteer board might feel pressure to drastically restructure the organization. They might act on that pressure so that MAIN could continue to do important work in our community.

    It seems this organization has been mismanaged in every way. Board, staff, and volunteer turnover are a sign of this. The board has not done their job to direct the organization and the executive director. They have not followed their own bylaws. I hope they will seek out some professional wisdom to figure out where to go next.

    If not, progressives will just have to continue to be embarrassed to have such an inept organization claim to be their voice.

  19. sounds like instead of being the “Progressive Voice Of The Mountains” it’s actually become the “Repressive Voice Of The Mountains” which is a shame and is not reflective of what congress intended the LPFM legislation to accomplish. I have learned from previous incidents and actions that one should be very careful in regards to Wally and company.

  20. AshevilleObserver

    As some others have said, without knowing what the comments were that caused Mr. Bowen to remove the radio host, I can’t make much sense of this story. Listening to all two hours of the show is not an option. The comments suggest a major personality conflict is the basis of this but Mr. Sanford hasn’t been able – yet – to get candid comments from any one other than Mr. Bowen. Perhaps he will pursue this so “innocent bystanders” like this reader can be informed. Not an important issue that impacts many here in Asheville but an interesting one and within Mountain Express’s usual range of subjects.

  21. MusicLover45

    The Board of Directors for MAIN are hand picked by Wally. They have never held him accountable for his mismanagement of MAIN and the way he handles his staff and volunteers. Don’t expect the Board to do anything different this time. The way to make an impact is to stop donating to WPVM and to support the volunteers’ efforts for change. That will get the Boards attention more than anything anyone says. Congrats to Jason on his move.

  22. "amber waves"

    First off, I think Francois has a great name – sadly, Wally does not.
    As a frequent visitor and friend of Asheville, I’m saddened to read about these recent events with WVPM. The MAIN issue here is basic freedom of speech. We’d never be so coy at NPR. Jason, Godspeed.

  23. sham69

    I would encourage all readers and supporters of WPVM and it’s decidedly different and progressive spin on programming to come out in droves and support these volunteers who have delivered Asheville an independent sound. These folks have put a lot of sweat into these 1st 5 years on the air and it has gotten better, signal included.
    What is needed is more support for free speech and local voices. Shut off your Ipods, tune in and come out in support for a structure to help these volunteers keep this station viable. If Mr. Bowen gets removed by the board and the station gets some framework set in place, Asheville could have one heck of a community station. How progressive can this town be w/out a station for local views on culture and politics? I encourage all readers to keep this story on the front burner. You don’t miss your water till it’s gone. As of 1:36 am the link to the show in question is still available.
    http://archive.wpvm.org/seven-08222008.mp3
    Write to the board, get active and show your support, by all means have faith that the right thing will be done.
    It has been heartening to see all your voices. Wally has shown his true self. Let the board decide what is best. They have at least 40 volunteers, perhaps double, that is a hell of an untapped resource. It has been their efforts stymied by him that led this to happen Imagine what they can do w/out a dictator at the helm. Even when it’s automated it’s better than the other options, everything else is so sterile.
    Wally has done some great things it’s true, but he needed to let them go. They have so much more passion, it is obvious to hear. Please support them all and ask those who have left to come back. Keep writing, don’t let this jewel fade into the ether.

  24. MusicLover45

    I totally agree with sending messages to the Board of Directors of MAIN. Please go to http://www.main.nc.us and click on “about MAIN” on the left side. When that page opens, click on “history and governace” at the top of the page. You will find the Board members and when you click on their names, you can email them. Please show your support for the volunteers and tell them why you will stop donating to MAIN and WPVM if this situation is not rectified. Money speaks to the Board strongly and may make them take action. How does everyone feel about a show of support for the volunteers outside WPVM? Maybe we could get coverage from WLOS and keep pressure on Wally and the Board so that this thing does not just fade away.

  25. Sensitivity Trained

    So, someone had a diverse opinion? But, aren’t progressives supposed to exalt diversity? Isn’t diversity a good thing? Arene’t we supposed to include and accept and appreciate all alternative and diverse viewpoints? Or, is diversity acceptable only when it is the acceptable diversity? There is another name for choosing only acceptable diversity – discrimination.

  26. Laura Hope-Gill

    Why is everyone so happy to defend a radio program that mocks feminists Simone de Beauvoir and Bella Abzug (Coats connotes this phenomenal woman Assbug!). Certainly Gillian, a very intelligent woman, can think this through a little bit more and do much, much better work. Women mocking amazing women isn’t really moving anything forward but rather celebrating the post-feminist malaise so many women have fallen into, to many a man’s applause. Making light of “self-destructive behaviors” such as cutting? This is not the kind of diversity I care to stand behind. It’s “Bamboozled” for women, the female equivalent of blackface.

    The show in question did run sexual content (anonymous sex in bathrooms for money. . .)before the designated hour for such content (after 10pm). If we want to have a progressive radio station we still have to kowtow to the FCC and not endanger the license. That’s not Wally. That’s reality. I co-host Wordplay occasionally and know better than to read certain poems I adore. I know the realities of the world we live in and know there are people who would like to hurt PVM and MAIN. Why hand them the gun?

    Wally’s within his rights to see that programming and staffing enact both the mission of MAIN and the laws of FCC. He’s the director. It’s kind of his job. MAIN provides 60% of the funding that runs that station. The man has a say–about content as well as quality, doesn’t he? Certainly, the volunteers have a say, as well, but how many presented their cases in a productive manner and how many jumped on the passive-aggressive, fight-the-power bandwagon, somehow equating Wally with “the power?”

    All the buzz words are buzzing: censorship, diversity, progressive. But the whole story clearly isn’t being told. It’s easy to get hyped into this but everyone seems to want MAIN and PVM to continue, so how terrible a job can Wally be doing? He created the damn thing. He’s not the enemy of free speech these statement paint him to be and we know it. Something else is going on.

    On the quiet, the people involved in this situation know the truth of what’s gone on here.

    And most of them are probably wishing it had not spun so far out of control because they know Wally’s not so bad as all that. Come on, Asheville, ask more questions before you start lighting the fire.

  27. mentalnotes

    Dear Laura Hope-Gill-
    As a 5 year volunteer of main & wpvm, I have been involved on every committee regarding programming. I have worked with Mr. Bowen directly on these committees.
    I have never witnessed you present during these times or any decision making processes.
    I say to you here that you know not what has happened, in the past 5 years.
    Why don’t you enlighten us all as to what is really going on? You state: “most of them are probably wishing it had not spun so far out of control because they know Wally’s not so bad as all that.” Who are these most you speak of? I’m fairly confident that you are not in the know.
    I have not seen you at staff meetings, or helping during the fund drives. I have seen you promoting your poetry on the air and getting your stuff out there in the ether. What gives you the right to tell all about what is entertainment and what is not? I really enjoyed that show and miss knowing it is on the air. I am sure your self censorship whilst reading poetry has done Asheville and the globe a great service by not offending anyone and keeping the messages nice, clean and mild. Damn it Laura, the NPR affiliates wouldn’t even play a recording of Howl at any time since the new Puritan values swept up across the nation. Radio hosts have a right to practice free speech as long as they can back it up in court. I am not a feminist by any stretch. But I do know what is offensive content.
    Let me say that when you can turn on the tele on any Sunday afternoon and watch 2&1;/2 men with all it’s graphic “innuendo” towards getting laid and what not, your comments would be better utilized towards the networks, not at 7 Layer Dip. If you were a regular listener of Dip, or if Wally was, you’d understand and so would he, if only he could get over that Ms. Coates is a far more effective leader than he is when it comes to actually working with people in an organization that touts Participatory Democracy & Local Voices.
    Most of the volunteers I know are looking forward to new challenges and are excited about change.
    Wally has had it in for Ms. Coates from where I stand. He may not be ‘so bad as all that’, but he has been pretty heavy handed in this action and many many others.
    Wally WAS within his rights to do what he did. That has changed now due to the Boards’ decision. The next time an issue like this comes up, perhaps there will be a process to rectify the situation and any ‘offender’ will come before the board if necessary.
    Wally did create it, but it wasn’t his. Yet that’s how he acted most of the time.

  28. I totally would have shagged Simone, but I don’t really know that other chick — so I probably would have just enjoyed some heavy petting and some and a cup of tea. But they were pretty funny for feminist mockers, which means I could definitely see a threesome going down.

  29. hillhippie

    Okay, so I just heard Wally on Francois’ show say that WPVM isn’t really community radio. It is ‘something different’ that is a part of Wally Bowen’s MAIN vision. Doesn’t that really mean that all the times that Wally misrepresented to volunteers and donors that WVPM was a community radio station, he was committing fraud? Just asking.

  30. hillhippie

    Laura Hope-Gill writes “Why is everyone so happy to defend a radio program that mocks feminists Simone de Beauvoir and Bella Abzug (Coats connotes this phenomenal woman Assbug!).”

    Hmm, to support freedom of speech, maybe?

    By the way, making fun of feminists or self-destructive behaviour (which is certainly not particular to women) in no way equates to the female version of blackface. A male cross-dresser would come closer to that. I happen to support his right to self-expression too.

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