Board issues apology to WPVM volunteer, MAIN director; assumes direct oversight of station

The board of the Mountain Area Information Network issued a public apology to a WPVM radio-station volunteer and to MAIN’s executive director on Tuesday and announced a new governance structure for the station.

Following the Aug. 22 broadcast of the WPVM show “7 Layer Dip,” hosted by long-time station volunteer Gillian Coats and a fellow volunteer, MAIN Executive Director Wally Bowen cancelled the show and dismissed Coats as a volunteer. That spurred other volunteers to protest by not speaking on the air during their own programs and triggered a meeting last week between a group of volunteers and a group of MAIN board members. The station’s one paid employee, Jason Holland, also tendered his resignation following the show’s cancellation.

MAIN holds the broadcast license for WPVM, a community station run almost entirely by volunteers. MAIN is a nonprofit Internet-service provider based in Asheville. MAIN’s board members met Monday night to discuss the recent controversy.

In a statement Tuesday, MAIN’s board first thanked Coats.

“The Board of the Mountain Area Information Network (MAIN) wishes to thank Gillian Coats, volunteer at WPVM, for her remarkable contributions to the growth and success of the radio station, and the Board regrets the circumstances surrounding Ms. Coats’ departure from the station. We will miss her leadership.”

The statement goes on to apologize to both Coats and Bowen, saying that board members held themselves responsible for the situation, “since we failed to take action to resolve a longstanding disagreement over station policy between Ms. Coats, MAIN, and our Executive Director, Wally Bowen. Given our lack of prompt action, Mr. Bowen had no choice but to take steps to bring the matter to a close. The Board apologizes to both Wally and Gillian for not having brought about a more graceful resolution.”

In its statement, the board also says that it plans to adopt a new governance structure that requires WPVM to report directly to a subcommittee of the board. MAIN board members also rejected Holland’s resignation, meaning that he may continue to work as the station’s operations manager. Finally, the board says it “encourages the Executive Director to strengthen his oversight of the wireless, ISP, media reform, advocacy, and fund raising dimensions of MAIN.”

At last week’s meeting between volunteers and MAIN board members, some volunteers complained about the lack of structures in place governing volunteers and their committees, according to notes from the meeting obtained by Mountain Xpress. Volunteers also complained that Bowen’s leadership was too heavy-handed, and some called for checks on his control of WPVM or his outright removal, according to the notes. Bowen has defended himself, saying his actions have been aimed at moving the WPVM back to its stated mission as a community radio station.

— Jason Sandford, multimedia editor


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22 thoughts on “Board issues apology to WPVM volunteer, MAIN director; assumes direct oversight of station

  1. Chip Kaufmann

    Three questions…

    1)What specifically was the “longstanding disagreement over station policy” that got Gillian Coats removed not only from her program but from the station as well?

    2)If manager Jason Holland resigned in support of Coats’ dismissal, why would the board reject his resignation and expect him to come back?

    3)How do you apologize to someone for their dismissal as well as to the person who fired them?

    Inquiring minds want to know.

  2. Jimbo

    It’s just another obligatory butt smooch to Wally from his board members who feel lost without him, or any warm body to actually run things so thay don’t have to. He’ll obviously need to screw up much more and more often to finally get canned and bring some better leadership and credibility to MAIN.

  3. zen

    Having Jason back is great (i’m assuming he’ll be coming back since his facebook message was “We’ll be at the Beieier Garden celebrating the new WPVM at 8:00 pm tonight”

    I’m so glad i can start listening again!

  4. Sundance

    Come on Folks please read between the lines. Nothing has changed as it is just more smoke and mirrors on Wally’s part from his hand selected board.

    Wally, the puppeteer, told the board what to say and do. If there was truly an independent desire on the boards part to rectify the situation Ms. Coats would have been reinstated, Wally would have been punished for his mismanagement, the station manager would be put in control of the station and report directly to the sub committee for oversight and governance.

    Instead the board apologizes to Wally to bolster his Napoleonic ego and gives him direct oversight of the station. Please give us a break Wally, we are not that dumb!

    I will not be listening or giving ONE SINGLE PENNY of money to these folks until Mister Bowen is put in check and brought under control by the board.

  5. I really think the board missed the point on this one and we are just going to see more of the same old autocratic song. Gillian Coats needs to be reinstated as she did nothing wrong. Control of the station should be given to the station manager with oversight and governance coming from an elected commitee, rather then an appointed one and the director of MAIN, if it is to truly flurish as a community radio station with the publics interest at heart.

  6. Rob Close

    yeah, i’m confused. they rejected Holland’s resignation but didn’t give Coats her show back? and meanwhile, Wally’s butt gets kissed more? Did he REALLY have “no choice but to take steps to bring the matter to a close.”

    I mean, I can imagine OTHER steps being taken, can’t they? And do they think this will make people want to keep volunteering?

    (not that any of this matters – they broadcast at what, 3 watts? I get reception in like 10% of asheville, which makes it useless for driving around, which is the only time i listen to the radio. What a waste. They should broadcast with more juice and tell the FCC to go ^*@! themselves. Or give up in protest of unfair treatment. But 3 watts is a total joke of a radio station)

  7. Sundance

    “They should broadcast with more juice and tell the FCC to go ^*@! themselves. Or give up in protest of unfair treatment. But 3 watts is a total joke of a radio station)”

    They are licensed for 100 watts but due to the location and height of their tower they are restricted at what they can broadcast under FCC guidelines. Wally has continually whined about this but when it boils right down to it they are not willing to take the appropriate steps necessary to increase there power as in a new tower location which would more then likely be very expensive due to engineering studies to satisfy the FCC requirements and the cost related to building a new tower not to mention the cost to buy or lease land to put the tower on.

  8. MusicLover45

    Gillian Coats should be reinstated and her show brought back. The only thing she did wrong was to stand up to Wally and fight for the radio station. The Board did not reinstate her because they had to give Wally something, since they took the station out of his control. Remember, this is Wally’s hand picked Board. We should still protest this ruling until Gillian is back with her show.

  9. MusicLover45

    Actually the headline of the story reads….”MAIN director; assumes direct oversight of station”…which to me would mean that Wally has direct control over the station.

  10. MusicLover45

    TalkAsheville, please re-read the story. Wally lost his “toy” (WPVM) and now maybe it can be a real community radio station. That is great news, especially if Jason is staying. We just need Gillian and her show to return.

  11. AshevilleObserver

    Mr. Bowen seems to focus on “community radio” and “community television,” but with everyone able to podcast and post videos on the Internet, are these outlets still needed? What kind of listenership/viewership do these outlets have? How does WPVM as “community radio” differ in concept from WCQS? (I assume anyone can ask for and receive his/her own radio show on WPVM but not on WCQS. Other distinctions?)
    Mr.Bowen wasn’t interested a few years back in advocating opening up local competition among cable providers, to bring the high cost of local cable down, only in getting a “community television” channel from the monopoly provider.

  12. Well MusicLover,
    I stand corrected by lets be real the board is hand picked by Wally so it will still be Wally at the helm…he will simply have some committee to hide behind which will do what he says, that’s all…no changes on the horizon.

  13. Barry Summers

    Hey gang – give us a chance to work this out. From someone on the inside, I think the Board did the right thing, and we are working to make sure we are independent and volunteer-driven from now on. As for Gillian, I don’t know if she would come back if invited, but that would be for a future WPVM programming committee that doesn’t exist yet. We are reinventing ourselves. I’m excited, personally. Give us time.

  14. sham69

    I’d like to start a new thread here.
    I pose the questions:
    How many of you listen to the station. Sign on if you are a listener.

    What do you like about the station?
    Live DJs?
    News Shows?
    Is it the music?
    Is the music too different?
    Are the blocks of programming cohesive?
    What do they need to change?
    What makes you support them?
    What would make you give again or more?
    please feel free to to share any of your thoughts.
    The station needs your input at this time of change. They are going to put new structures in place. It could become anything in the future.
    What I’d like to see is more community involvement and experienced leadership.
    Not anyone can get a show there btw. Submissions need to be in line with the mission statement as it is. I wonder if that is going to change now.
    Please don’t be cynical about Wally Bowen or the board. Give the board time to work through this with the volunteers.
    It was my understanding that WNCW was a great station before I moved here. But then they got so focused on their new sound and target audience that the diversity of voices and global sounds went down the tubes. I understand that their fund drives have been way off expectations for 4 years now and they are making changes to rectify that.
    While WPVM will never have that kind of reach or government funding, they reach a good portion of Asheville (if you have an antenna :-))! I can hear it almost everywhere in town cept near the station. WPVM needs to hear from radio listeners interested in it’s future sustainability. As long as it is independent of filtered sounds, it suits my and Asheville’s diverse tastes just fine.
    Sign on, tell them what they’re doing right and what they’re not.

  15. Becky

    Can someone please explain what it was Coats did, that caused Wally to “have no choice?” This article sounds weird, does not ring genuine. More information is needed. What were his reasons? No one has said.

  16. sham69

    Becky- having listened to the show and read about their history as adversaries. It sounds like he didn’t like the smary tone of their voices. The truth is that the way the 2 hosts do radio is meant to be as two hard up gals that can’t get a date. It’s all very entertaining, but not to someone who doesn’t really enjoy outspoken local voices and participatory democracy.

    Zen- Thanks!

  17. ohforshame

    I listened to the show online that got Gillian “fired” and she did nothing wrong, I agree she should be asked to come back and given a real apology. Most importantly, no clear answers are in these articles about what exactly happened, what exactly she was fired for. This lack of transparency is not representative of a community organization – people on the outside of the situation deserve to know why a show was suddenly canned too. I have been listening to WPVM since the beginning and am a MAIN subscriber, but these latest issues aren’t my idea of community radio and have caused me to question my future support of the station.

  18. Barry Summers

    I agree that Gillian did nothing wrong. I was a guest on that particular show, and listened to the whole thing when it aired. You get more obscenity in 10 minutes of morning AM radio.

    We are literally this minute remaking the station. MAIN’s Board did the right thing in transferring control to the volunteers. Things don’t change overnight; we are setting up new structures and new policies, etc. We hope the station will be more like what we all envision a community station to be.

    I’d like to see Gillian and Melanie back on the air. We don’t know if they’ll come back.

  19. MusicLover45

    Ohforshame, here is my opinion, based on experience. Gillian and her show were cancelled because she stood up to Wally, and had for a number of years, questioning him about the way he ran and used the radio station to support MAIN. He “fired” her and cancelled her show because he thought he could with no ramifications and the Board would “support” (not challenge) his decision. Thanks to the volunteers and others, the Board, for the first time in my knowledge, stood up against Wally’s control of the station, even though they upheld Gillian’s dismissal (Gave Wally a bone after taking station control from him).

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