WNC Media Center: We’re not closing our doors

The Western North Carolina Media Center, which operates public access television station URTV, circulated the following press release at the April 19 meeting of the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners:

WNCCMC will not be closing its doors at this time as originally announced. The Board of WNCCMC is looking at legal and financial obligations and responsibilities of due process.

Due to monies owed WNCCMC and the fiscal responsibility (culpability) by contract with Buncombe County Board of Commissioners WNCCMC requests that bills and funds be paid.

Additionally, the vice president of the WNC Community Media Center’s board, Bob Horn, added the following statement in his comments to the commissioners:

This Commission is still in a position to release the PEG monies already owed to WNCCMC / URTV to avoid legal action presently planned on the part of all aggrieved parties by agreement before the close of this session and delivered by 10 a.m. Wednesday [ April 20].

On April 3, the Media Center announced it would shut down operations April 30 unless additional funding is immediately forthcoming.

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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.

24 thoughts on “WNC Media Center: We’re not closing our doors

  1. Now this IS rich. A failing public access television station is going to sue its taxpaying benefactors to stay afloat. Am I painting a picture here?
    …………………..

  2. jen

    I am so tired of hearing about this issue but it still interests me for some reason. I angry at them for their misuse of money and greed. (URTV and beyond). Oh..and in regards to the station on air, it is still god-awful.

  3. Am I supposed to be crying in my Cheerios over the sad and inevitable (and predicted) demise of URTV? Just askin’.
    ……………………………..

  4. Illuminatti_01

    I am sad that instead of being a means of showcasing the great diversity of cultures, opinions and lifestyle aspects of Buncombe, that URTV seems to be programming of the lowest common denominator (religious services not included in this criticism).

    The latest “for immediate release announcement” (yet another cry of wolf b.s. )..has made itself a laughing stock instead of a reflection of what Buncombe has to offer. All the while portraying itself as “cutting edge, best in the country,” ttotsly unaware of the mind numbing delusions.

    Fingernails on a blackboard is the most apt description that I’ve read lately.

  5. Margaret Williams

    FYI for all: If you’ve posted comments that aren’t appearing, if you’re an unmoderated commenter: The URTV issue has been an emotional and controversial one. Please respect those who comment, and know that we’re being cautious — we will not post potentially libelous accusations stated as fact. If you have proof of some aspect of the case we should be investigating (and likely already are), please contact Jake Frankel here at Xpress or send the tips to news@mountainx.com.

  6. sharpleycladd

    The Grove Arcade Public Market thing, with a city loan guarantee, is broke. Pack Square renovations are horrifically over budget and there are no restrooms; again, the city is guarantor on that fiasco. The Health Adventure is bankrupt, despite city/county funding. McCormick Field renovations came in over budget. And now URTV. It seems pretty clear that the bar is a tad low in the non-profit management community.

    I’d be surprised if a reputable attorney would take up this bloody shirt, and more surprised if the County didn’t countersue for mal- mis- and non-feasance.

    I’m very sorry Brother Christopher won’t have a soapbox anymore, but they do still make soapboxes.

  7. Bjorn

    It’s easy to accuse URTV of bad business practices while apparently, State Funds set aside for public access are being withheld.

  8. Bjorn

    Bill – if no one’s watching URTV how can so many people be opposed to it? URTV is not only what the foundation of America is about but, by the mere presence of URTV it ensures everyone’s rights to free speech are secured in an otherwise tightly controlled medium. The more important question is why are the funds for Public Access being withheld?

  9. Illuminatti_01

    Consequences of running an important public entity into the ground and betraying the public trust, is the officials do not renew the contract. Hopefully another group or non profit will step up and make an offer, and business plan to the City and County to run our public access.

    A knowledgable board of directors could /should have seen the handwriting on the wall months, even years ago and done their part to insure that this didn’t happen. Instead they joined in with the management and got rid of anyone who ask hard questions, about URTV doing their own “heavy lifting.” By their ineptitude, the BOD has contributed mightily to the demise of our public access tv station.

    Conscquences are a drag, aren’t they?

  10. I have not yet even found an answer as to whether or not the contract was renewed. It is set to expire on the 27th of this month.

    Can I bid on the contract? I’m totally willing to move back to Asheville, you know…

  11. MatCat,my understanding from Jan Davis (the present liaison) is they are are hoping someone will submit a proposal/business plan.

    Lots of people don’t understand that the present management /Board of Directors is not the same as our public access community asset. They are just the ones with contract for presently managing/mismanaging it.

    Davis’ statement here: http://www.mountainx.com/news/2011/hope_fading_for_wnc_media_center

    “Davis agrees, and at the April 12 Council work session, broached the need for an equipment audit if URTV goes under. Much of the equipment, he says, is state-of-the-art and could end up going to the city government channel or, “if there was a group of really strong folks that had a common goal and wanted to reorganize and continue operations and came up with a business plan, I think we’d probably be open to that, I’d hope we’d be open to that.””

    I’m crossing my fingers someone steps up to the plate.

  12. MAT you are asking a very important question. Is the management of our local public access station an entity that is required to be put out for bid????

    Margaret, Jake, or Jeff Fobes, can you get an official answer to this?

  13. But do they intend to do get someone to step up inside of a week and hand them the keys or will this be a six month thing?

    Plus, is there anyone brave/foolish enough to step into this thing after the last eight (ten?) years of back and forth?

  14. You’ve heard the saying “fish rot from the head down”? A less divisive leadership would serve to alleviate the “back and forth.” Since early ’07 the perplexing leadership style has been divide and conquer..and that leadership “style” has been very unfortunate for the community. Additionally, some of the “back and forth ” has been due to people not turning tail and running when they began asking hard questions and certain people didn’t want to answer.

    My guess is (and it’s just a guess) Channel 20 will go off air, and equipment accounted for and put into storage, till a new entity can work to build out a new facility. But that’s just a guess. Don’t know how many of these complete managerial breakdowns has occurred, & don’t know of any history to compare. Just know that the City liaison stated that he thought they (City Council) would be open to another entity presenting a business plan.

  15. Illuminatti_01

    Contrary to the above statement, I’ll wager a keg of beer that the facility will indeed close it’s doors. As a former producer who was there when the present manager came to town, the handwriting was on the wall from the beginning.

    I watched as the dismantling began, first all inter communication among the members was stopped. The forum offered in the fall of ’07 was heavily monitored and no dissenting views were allowed to be posted. The Yahoo group and the Charter forum pages were taken down. Then there began a concerted effort to alienate any one who dared to question or speak out against the ham-fisted manner in which the facility began being operated with. It was not long before many of the more creative people simply left. I’m sure many remember some of the original programming, like the “Trail Blazer” expert, the quirky “Tea Party,” the “Robert Eidus” show, “Ian’s Way,” and others were quickly run off. As were many Board Members. Jen Mass was literally hounded and browbeaten into quitting her job. And if she ever recovers from the shattered emotional state she left URTV in, she has grounds for a harassment lawsuit

    Now that some of the very questionable expenditures have been revealed, and the crazy on again, off again of the facility, it’s very clear why people who ask questions needed to be removed as members or Directors, in the most underhanded and humiliating way possible. All these points have been throughly covered by various media, including Mountain Express.

    Our elected officials knew from the beginning the poor management style and questionable business practices being executed. The simple fact is the people who could have, but never did do anything to stop the bleeding, simply didn’t want the community media center to survive.

  16. Management and BOD simply didn’t adhere to terms of the contract. They have themselves to blame.

  17. I’d say, Jerry, that it is because very few people even understand the legality of it all. I’m certainly out of the loop on it all.

    I’m amazed that the county let Charter skate on its PEG fees instead of merely requesting same from AT&T and/or the satellite providers (I’m unsure if the mentions of AT&T in some of this morass comes from U-verse or their deals with one of the satellite providers).

    Those fees represent no threat to the bottom line of the companies involved, since they were never (properly) set up as an actual tax on the communications industry for the cost of doing business in an area. They were merely passed straight through to the customer, which served the automatic purpose of causing customers to resent them as excess fees on an already questionable service.

  18. “During council’s work session just prior to their regular meeting, Councilman Cecil Bothwell brought up the topic of URTV’s request for funding. He said council’s Finance Committee was not interested in donating the $115,000 requested, and he had the impression county leadership felt likewise about their solicited contribution.

    Bothwell said if URTV was going to keep its word and shut down at the end of the month, he wanted a full audit. There are, he said, rumors that equipment has disappeared. Jan Davis, council’s liaison to the public access TV station’s board, echoed. He wanted the audit of assets, including what little money might remain, ASAP. URTV leadership, he said, had not cooperated with council’s requests. Meetings had not been properly noticed, minutes had not been recorded, and things in general were “pretty haphazard.”

    The URTV board has been plagued by accusations of childish behavior, including blatant disregard of responsibilities as a recipient of public funding, slipshod bookkeeping, dismissing board members who ask for financial statements, dishonesty in requests for financial assistance, and failure to proactively seek out nongovernmental sources of funding.
    Bellamy agreed. The city had been finding out about URTV decisions with the rest of the public, via press releases.

    As a major funder, the city deserved better.”

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