In a July 20 letter to URTV Director Pat Garlinghouse and Board Chair Jerry Young, Asheville City Council's Boards and Commissions Committee spelled out a 14-point breakdown of the problems dogging the public-access TV station.
The letter cited concerns ranging from transparency issues and "internal turmoil" to the involvement of individuals with criminal backgrounds and arbitrary banning procedures for some producers.
Urging station management to find solutions to the problems by the end of September, the letter, sent by committee members Jan Davis, Robin Cape and Carl Mumpower, came on the heels of a July 14 appearance by URTV producers and board members before City Council.
The letter also notes that although Council has no direct oversight of URTV, it does approve funding for the station's operations, which could be jeopardized if no improvements are made:
"We do have stewardship accountabilities involving funding and an on-going management agreement that we must uphold in good fashion," the letter states. "To this point we have not had a sense that the level of partnership between URTV leadership and the City has been adequate to our shared accountabilities and interests in insuring the long-term viability of public access TV."
Both City Council and the Buncombe County commissioners authorize funding derived from a special charge on Charter cable-TV billls to pay for URTV operations. The four-year agreement is up for renewal this November, Davis told Xpress.
"We are less interested in a 'formal response to charges' than an internal effort within URTV to right its own ship and press on to good places," the letter continues.
The committee also concedes in the letter that it may not know the whole story concerning the controversies: "We recognize that our information and perspective will not necessarily be completely accurate and valid. We offer these concerns with that consideration, but a shared a belief that what we know, your leadership should too."
Noting that this is the first time City Council will revisit the URTV contract since it was approved four years ago, Davis said the organization's current turmoil is bad timing.
"It's just ironic that this happens right now," he told Xpress, adding that it took a lot of effort to establish the station four years ago. "We fought pretty hard to have this thing happen initially."