Hope fading for WNC Media Center

A week after appeals to the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners for more funding went unmatched, the WNC Media Center continues to drift towards closing its doors April 30.

The local nonprofit manages URTV, the public-access channel for Buncombe County and the city of Asheville. URTV can be viewed on Charter Communications’ Channel 20 in Buncombe County, and it’s streamed over the Internet from the URTV website.

Bob Horn, vice president of the WNC Community Media Center’s board, confirms that the station will likely fold. Asked about paths forward, he was short on specifics, saying that he hopes to “maintain a conduit for citizens to have access among themselves to speak to issues and interests in their community [and] to create a community dialogue free from the undo influence of institutional and commercial interest who can control and dominate a citizens intent to convey a point of view among his fellow citizens.”

“I really don’t know what’s going to happen,” Council member Jan Davis, the city’s liaison to URTV, tells Xpress.

When Davis first became liaison last year, he says, “I tried to get to know it pretty well. I visited the station a good deal and got a pretty good relationship with [Executive Director Pat] Garlinghouse and [Operations Manager Jonathon] Czarny, and [I] attended three or four board meetings.”

But, as things went on, “I stopped getting notices about board meetings coming up, and it was haphazard when they were having them, I just didn’t have a lot of regular contact with them and didn’t feel like it was as stable as it needed to be.”

Davis adds that “when it comes to their financial situation, I saw no effort from them to generate more funds, and it was very clearly communicated to them that the funding source [from state PEG funds] was diminishing. There wasn’t any effort, I could see, to make up that gap. I think they were relying pretty much on larger contributions from the local government. With the economic conditions as they are, that doesn’t seem too likely to me.”

Davis adds that he hasn’t heard from anyone at the media center since they sent out a press release declaring their upcoming closure. “I don’t expect them to come and tell me everything, but I think as liaison, if I were in the situation they were in, and it looks pretty dire, they should be making some efforts to talk to us about it.”

If the station closes, Buncombe County Manager Wanda Greene says that the Center’s equipment and other assets would go to the city of Asheville.

“That is the way the documents [were] written when we put this all together,” she explains. “The money we gave [URTV] was really for the facility, and the equipment costs were born by the city. And if anything happens, then the equipment does return to the city. There’s not a dispute of any sort about that. … We would not really get anything.”

Davis agrees, and at the April 12 Council work session, broached the need for an equipment audit if URTV goes under. Much of the equipment, he says, is state-of-the-art and could end up going to the city government channel or, “if there was a group of really strong folks that had a common goal and wanted to reorganize and continue operations and came up with a business plan, I think we’d probably be open to that, I’d hope we’d be open to that.”


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11 thoughts on “Hope fading for WNC Media Center

  1. I think I asked this in another thread but I’ll ask again:

    I read somewhere that their contract with the county was up at the end of the month anyway – so was it renewed?

    Or is the county just waiting to start fresh with another group? Will there be an open call for contracts?

  2. “Haphazard” No there’s a euphemism! The public trust requires a thorough accounting of the equipment.
    Thank you for seeing the light Mr. Davis.

  3. “Haphazard” No there’s a euphemism! The public trust requires a thorough accounting of the equipment.
    Thank you for seeing the light Mr. Davis.

  4. Illuminatti_01

    “A lack of transparency was also noted in the operations of URTV. Bellamy has been finding out about the organization’s decisions with the rest of the public, and did not think the city was being treated with the respect due a partner. Council liaison Jan Davis said the URTV board had not complied with any of council’s requests for things like taking minutes of meetings and giving proper notice for meetings. Councilman Cecil Bothwell said he wanted an audit of the organization’s capital assets, as rumor had it that things had been disappearing. Davis said he wanted the finances audited, too, and ASAP. URTV has threatened it will close its doors at the end of the month, but it has been known to publish misleading information in the past.”~~Leslee Kulba

  5. The contract with the City is up at the end of the month, also. And as of this date it has not been renewed.

    URTV has requested $115,000 apiece from the City and the County. Neither government has been willing to provide those funds.

  6. R,Bernier

    Thanks URTV & Board of Directors,
    You failed, you lost public access for our community.

    Please done let the door hit you on the way out.


  7. jen

    URTV should have kept their spending in check and had less lunches out at fancy restaurants, maybe then we would still have it. Sounds like a lot of greed and mismanagement went on there.

  8. leapoldfiresauce

    The issue here is that the subscriber fees that are supposed to be used for PEG channels are being withheld by Buncombe County. This has not happened anywhere else in the state, only here. The Buncombe County Commission has reduced it’s support by 90%. Why is Buncombe County the only county in the state having this problem? URTV has tripled the amount of money earned independently than that of the Charlotte public access channel. With Asheville having a population of roughly 83,000 and Charlotte’s at over 750,000, that is a pretty remarkable feat.
    There has been no proven mismanagement, no refusal to be audited, no proven wasteful spending, no proven corruption. The only corruption I see is that of the Buncombe County Commission withholding the money with no real explanation as to why they are not being funded as agreed and as the entire rest of the state has been able to do for their public access channels.
    The driving force behind the attack on URTV is not mentioned by the people trying to shut it down because it would be illegal. THE PROGRAMMING is what they don’t like. They don’t like what they see on the channel. But refusing to distribute the funds because they don’t like the shows is not legal.
    URTV is easy to attack when people see crazies and sinners when they turn on the channel. But anybody who has an issue with the programming is more than welcome to sign up, and put out their own show to counter whatever they don’t like about the channel.
    This is about local government shutting down a vehicle for free speech. It seems that nobody is on the side of the station. But from what I have seen, this is another case of David vs Goliath.

    -Non Member of URTV

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