Volunteers at Asheville’s low-power community radio station on Tuesday presented a plan for a new management structure to the board that oversees the station.
The proposed structure for WPVM, which broadcasts at 103.5 FM from offices in the Vanderbilt Apartments building in downtown Asheville, aims to solve ongoing operational issues and keep the station going after months of turmoil, the volunteers said. The plan was presented to the board of MAIN, an Asheville nonprofit Internet service provider that holds the WPVM broadcast license.
“What we’re trying to do is address structural and operational issues as we see them,” volunteer Edwin Shealy told the MAIN board as he outlined the volunteers’ proposal. “It’s freedom for volunteers, within guidelines.”
The plan would create: a sub-committee of MAIN’s board to oversee the radio station’s policies and budget; a community advisory board that would provide feedback and promote the station in the community; an engineering group that would keep up with equipment needs and other technical issues; and five committees that would oversee operations, outreach, finance, programming and volunteers.
Shealy said volunteers drew up the plan by looking at what worked at other community radio stations and by interviewing WPVM volunteers with experience working at other stations. The goal is to address some chronic issues that “are long past due to be addressed,” Shealy said, and to make sure the station remains in compliance with Federal Communications Commission rules.
The MAIN board listened quietly, thanked the volunteers for the presentation, then voted to go into closed session. Outside the meeting room, the volunteers said they want to see the board take action.
“What we really hope is that this isn’t rejected out of hand,” said Mark Ritzenthaler, a station volunteer for two years and the host of the Saturday night show “Absolute Slackin’.”
“We’re trying to make it easier for the MAIN board to do its job,” Ritzenthaler added. “For a nonprofit, the human capital is sometimes greater its financial capital. The organization can gain strength from the talent and the time of all these unpaid people.”
The controversy started last fall when MAIN’s executive director, Wally Bowen, dismissed volunteer Gillian Coats, saying that she had continually questioned MAIN’s right to manage the radio station. That upset a number of WPVM volunteers, some of whom protested during their on-air shows or simply stopped volunteering. The stations’ one paid employee — the station manager — left the job about the same time.
A committee of volunteers has operated the station since, but volunteers on Tuesday said that model isn’t sustainable.
MAIN’s board apologized to both Coats and Bowen, and announced a new governance structure for the station and removed Bowen from that duty. But in December, the board announced that Bowen was back in control of the station. Bowen says that until MAIN’s by-laws are rewritten, he’s in charge.
— Jason Sandford, multimedia editor