The city of Asheville begins an inventory today of equipment at the public access channel URTV, currently in the midst of a dispute with Buncombe County over funds, and Lauren Bradley, the city’s administrative services director, tells Xpress that the channel will go dark in one to two weeks as equipment is removed. She adds that staff are not recommending a renewal of the center’s contract with the city.
“We have received a detailed inventory of the equipment they have,” Bradley says. “Since they have vacated the space, we’re working with the landlord, will do a walk-through, and compare the physical assets with the inventory they have provided.”
The walk-through happens today, May 23, and Bradley adds that “once we have a handle on what’s there, what’s ours and what’s not, we’ll be moving that equipment in the next week to two-week time period. Once we go through the equipment and dismantle it, the channel will go dark.”
The WNC Community Media Center, the nonprofit that runs URTV, shut down studio operations on May 14. While its battle with Buncombe County, whom it claims is withholding funds the channel is legally owed, continues, the channel is broadcasting pre-recorded material on Charter Channel 20. Currently, the center has no paid staff.
Staff and some Council members will discuss the matter further at the meeting of Council’s Finance Committee at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 24, in Room 623 of City Hall.
Bradley adds that the center’s agreement with the city has expired and adds that at the same meeting, staff will recommend that “we formally notify the [center’s] board of the city’s intent not to renew or extend the existing agreement.”
The city is staying out of the legal issues between Buncombe County and the center.
“Our decision [not to extend the agreement] is based on the fact that the space is vacated, they’re not maintaining staffing anymore, the service is essentially not available,” Bradley tells Xpress. “In recent months, URTV made a funding request for $115,000 and Council communicated back, saying they wanted to see an alternative proposal that’s a little more creative, less cost-intensive and we’re open to new models and other ideas, so send us your ideas that work within the revenue you know you’re going to get. They said they were unable to do that because of fixed expenses and limited ability to collect other revenues.
“Because of their response and the fact the service is just no longer there, the city is contemplating the decision to not extend the agreement and pursue other types of services,” she adds.
— David Forbes, senior news reporter