Buncombe Commissioners preview: Changing the channel?

At its April 5 meeting, the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners is set to consider the finances of the WNC Media Center, which recently announced that it will cease operations April 30 unless it receives more funding.

The local private 501 (c)(3) Arts Service Organization 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.

The WNC Media Center requested the funding report last month after raising concerns that they were not receiving adequate money from the county. The center began operations over four years ago, funded largely by money that comes from a fee paid by cable subscribers specifically to fund government, education and public access channels as part of franchise agreements with Asheville and Buncombe County.

But last year, a change in state law permitted phone companies to offer cable programming, and Charter Communications was allowed to terminate the franchise agreements after it began facing competition from BellSouth. That has limited the money available to go to the center, according to Communications Consultant John Howell, who is scheduled to deliver the report.

Media center supporters, however, would like to see additional funds come from the county’s franchise fees. Amounting to about $1.4 million annually, the funds come from area cable companies in exchange for the use of public-ways and as payment for the oversight of the local franchise.  In the past, those fees have always gone to the county’s general fund.

Without tapping into that pot of money, Howell says the center can expect to receive about $34,000 through a state supplemental fund. The center’s total proposed budget for 2012 is $297,450, according to Howell.

Last June, the media center announced it would close in September unless additional funds were found, although it was able to stay open.

The meeting’s agenda also includes a report on the county’s health ratings. According to the County Health Rankings project, Buncombe is the 17th healthiest county in the state.

The board will meet at 4:30 p.m., Tuesday, April 5, in the commissioner’s chambers, located at 30 Valley St. A short pre-meeting review of the agenda will begin at 4:15 p.m.

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

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5 thoughts on “Buncombe Commissioners preview: Changing the channel?

  1. artart

    NOTE TO COMMISSIONERS: This is not the time to increase ANY spending that is not essential to protecting life and health. And for those of US without Cable, it is a total affront to us funding something with county money that we cannot even see, even if it were worth seeing. Let the media center either get funding from subscribers or from donations or let it cease operations!

  2. CityRez

    Um technical note..the money they want is tax money on all video services from every provider. There are no franchise fees to support the channel and they want our taxes now.

  3. Well, then, I suppose letting them get out of the PEG agreement and franchise fees was a bad idea now wasn’t it?

    At any rate, the math in this article and the math in the twitter feed of the meeting don’t make a bit of sense.

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