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.”