WNC Community Media Center: Without more funding we will close our doors

The WNC Community Media Center will shut down operations April 30 unless additional funding is immediately forthcoming, according to a press release from the local private 501 (c)(3) Arts Service Organization, which manages URTV, the public access cable channel for Buncombe County and the City of Asheville.

URTV is cablecast on Charter Communications Channel 20 in Buncombe County and streamed on the web.

In 2010, the Media Center began streaming urRadio, a web radio channel. A yearly producer fee entitles users to submit programs to both URTV and urRadio.

The Media Center will hold a producer’s meeting this Monday, April 4, at 6:30 p.m. to discuss the Buncombe County Board of Commissioner’s meeting the next day. The commissioner meeting’s agenda includes a funding report on the Media Center.

Full press release below:

WNC COMMUNITY MEDIA CENTER CLOSES ITS DOORS

It is with deep sorrow we announce that unless funding is immediately forthcoming WNC Community Media Center will close its doors on April 30, 2011. Nowhere else in the country has a community of citizens learned better, or faster, how to use the media for its benefit. Our community has shown the capacity to use media technology to improve lives. Your regional media center success has been compared nationally to operations in Grand Rapids Michigan and Amherst Massachusetts.

Public access has moved beyond TV. Regional Media Centers are the future for public access technology – incorporating not only TV but Radio, Internet, YouTube, and Facebook being only a few of the various means to distribute your message. The important issue of becoming media literate is the ability to critically analyze your product.

Being Media Literate means being able to think critically about news, entertainment and advertising, asking questions as ‘who is this targeting?’ and ‘what interests does it represent?’ Media Literacy Education teaches people to differentiate between news and propaganda, and to recognize the techniques of manipulation inherent in public relations and advertising. It teaches people to look for what is not in the news and to ask why certain messages, viewpoints and perspectives are not included. Media Literacy means understanding that all media is constructed, that it is the product of people and organizations representing interests, biases and viewpoints. No one system deconstructs the biases about media better than public access!

The WNC Community Media Center has accomplished all this and more in 4 1⁄2 years.

SHARE
About Jake Frankel
Jake Frankel is an award-winning writer and reporter who enjoys covering a wide range of topics, from politics and government to business, education and entertainment.

17 thoughts on “WNC Community Media Center: Without more funding we will close our doors

  1. Illuminatti_01

    This is sad news, and it would have been so nice if the above statement regarding the power of public had been taken to even a smidgen of it’s potential here in Buncombe. Instead it’s just propaganda.

    http://tinyurl.com/3be2bpx

  2. Interesting. This news article is based in propaganda. The WNC Media Center was set up by the powers that be to fail, yet another not-so-subtle transfer of public funds to private interests. I wonder who will come along and snap up that property and equipment at pennies on the dollar.

    There have been several people sounding the alarm, predicting a scenario similar to this, for years. These warnings go back to Sept. 2006, mere weeks after URTV went online. No one on the board at the time had any broadcast experience, nor do I believe any had previously served on a nonprofit board.

    The six-year budget, crafted in 2005, showed bankruptcy by 2011. Several people, myself included, urged the board to immediately hire a full-time development person, yet the board refused, saying that such a position would be too expensive.

    Anyone who’s ever worked in the nonprofit world knows that an organization cannot afford not to have such a person on staff. A nominally successful development director will at least raise enough money to cover their salary; the intent is to raise far more than that.

    The constant melodrama that has played out all these years has been aggravating to anyone who cares about independent broadcasting in this region, but we often fought amongst ourselves, because no one could agree whether the problems were a result of planned failure or ineptitude.

    I hope the rumors of the Media Center’s death have been greatly exaggerated. The people who have utilized these valuable resources deserve better than an ignominious end like this.

  3. Good point Mr. Cellorello…if someone can divert attention with melodrama, then they are free to do whatever they wish behind the smokescreen of the fray they create.

    The community needs to see a THOROUGH accounting of expenditures for equipment, vs. an accounting of the present inventory. Any descrepancies need to be looked at very closely. No less is a slap in the face to the community that paid for the equipment and is a gross violation of the public trust.

  4. Have there not been requests for that accounting in the past? It seems like any group receiving public funding would be subject to that sort of oversight. Doesn’t the county have an auditor?

  5. Mat Cat, good question. As a sitting Board Member in April, 2009, I requested that an thorough audit be done, in a meeting with David Gantt. At that time he told me that the County couldn’t afford to do one. He neglected to tell me that Tim Flora was on their staff, and the community is paying him to do just this very thing. http://buncombecounty.org/governing/depts/Administration/Finance/internalAuditing.aspx

    Fast forward to last summer when the first red flag regarding closing was raised. Then the community was told by the County Manager (Wanda Greene) that Mr. Flora was sent over to URTV to do an audit. He came back with this statement
    “An internal audit by Buncombe County on the state of public access channel URTV has found “no indication funds have been spent inappropriately [but] URTV has failed to adequately understand and comply with open meeting laws” and faces a “financial crisis.””

    http://www.mountainx.com/news/2010/buncombe_audit_urtv_didnt_misuse_funds_but_failed_to_follow_open_meetings_l

    But, in a forensic investigation interview by Foster Shriner, it was revealed that Mr. Flora did NOT do a thorough investigation. “When asked by Mr. Shriner if he had in fact audited the expenditures, he indicated that he did not, but rather relied upon the independently prepared auditor’s report. ……. Furthermore audit reports generally do not comment on the efficacy of management or their operating activities “

    So the community was told one thing by the County, but the county did not really do their duty to the community. ( A duty Mr Flora is being paid to do.) How much oversight is going on in any entity in this community that the County or City oversees? What is Mr. Flora being paid to do, if not audit a troubled entity????

  6. So, what are they spending the money on?

    They get a chunk of money from everyone’s cable bill that passes through the county to them. They get the air time free, right?

    They charge “producer’s fees”, which sounds to me quasi-legal since the public access laws as I understand them would not allow that. I haven’t read through them recently, but I would think that charging producers to air something amounts to turning the station into some sort of for-profit venture which is outside the bounds of how the agreement with Charter is set up.

    Plus, it sets up an access boundary which is antithetic to the notion of “public access media” – the only boundaries to what is aired should pretty much be quality and subject matter (and those are clearly not concerns).

    Are they using the PEG fees to fund the radio experiment? Because that’s probably outside of the realm of what they should be doing, too.

    I mean, I’ve read the back-and-forth on this for years and never really understood why no one could just answer some of these questions.

  7. They did purchase an ASCAP or something similar for the music to be played on the internet radio…But the issue of the radio station (pros and cons) was never debated in a Board meeting, as one would expect, nor were other important expenditures passed before the BOD for consideration. From Jan. 07, no open discussion of expenditures , direction of the entity, how to insure long term viability, how to engage more of the community in the entity, any other item one would consider pertinent to the long term viability was not EVER discussed…or ALLOWED to be discussed.

    The back and forth is meant to confuse the issues, and has been expertly carried out. Smokescreen so people are fed up and throw up their hands in disgust, and hope it all just goes away.

    Bottom line, the terms in the management agreement that was designed to grow a healthy organization for the use in the community, were not adhered to. When I went to both City and County managers and the elected officia and informed them explicitly of what was not being done, the non-compliance was ignored by them. Both City and County have in the agreement that they can enforce the management terms, but they did not. It appears to me, that the powers that be want to see that this important community resource would fail miserably due to no oversight. What other conclusion can one come to given their gross negligence.

    You question regarding the legality of certain acitvitie is a big one, and what many of us watching were asking also…locally we never got answers. We cannot even get an answer from Bob Oast if this contract to run a public access station is required to be put out for public bid. This brings me back full circle to the confusion and smoke screening being done. Why the necessity to do so?

  8. jlzollars

    As someone from the city where Public Television started and as a founding member of Pacifica Radio-KPFT, I am familiar with your turmoil. It seems all non-profits continually struggle with finances and mismanagement.

    The difference is, we are still on the air because people recognize the value of these venues.

    I am moving to your fare city in July and I truly hope you all have the courage and commonsense to get you s**t together.

  9. So, if that group closes up would the county open up to another group managing the public access channel or would it just dry up and blow away?

    At that point, is there anyone thinking of going full viewer supported (ala Pacifica, mentioned above) and just leasing a small transmitter and/or a channel on Charter outside of the public access sphere?

    For that matter, why not just skip all that and go online only?

  10. Wow! I just saw this thread.

    Hey Mat: I could easily answer all of your questions in a better forum than this. I invite you (and anyone reading this ) to attend an orientation. They are free and open to the public every Wednesday at 6pm at the media center.

    …and for the record, the WNCCMC has been audited 5 times by legitimate independent auditors (Corliss and Solomon)in Asheville. BTW- our annual reports are public record and can be found on our website:

    http://wnccmc.org/about/public-records/

    Doesn’t get much more transparent.

    …any other questions Mat? Perhaps you are looking for answers in the wrong places.

Leave a Reply