***UPDATE: Matt Mittan of WWNC 570 AM tells Xpress that he will host two guests on his radio show today (Wednesday) to discuss the WPVM controversy. Longtime station volunteer Cecil Bothwell is scheduled to appear at 4:05 p.m., and MAIN executive director Wally Bowen is slated for 4:35 p.m.***
The removal of an on-air personality at Asheville’s WPVM, a low-power FM station, and the subsequent resignation of the station’s manager has roiled some station volunteers and has the executive director of WPVM’s parent organization defending his move.
In the wake of the cancellation of the “7 Layer Dip” show co-hosted by Gillian Coats and a fellow station volunteer, another on-air personality has announced that he’s put his show on hiatus, and several other show hosts have protested by not speaking during their shows.
Meanwhile, the station operations manager, Jason Holland, has tendered his resignation. Holland, the station’s only paid employee, didn’t respond to requests for an interview Tuesday.
Wally Bowen, executive director of the Mountain Area Information Network, which holds the WPVM broadcast license, told Xpress Tuesday that he cancelled Coats’ show because of “a pattern of behavior that’s just antithetical to our organization’s mission and our right to carry out that mission.” Bowen said the program — a humor show that featured a selection of off-beat, older music — included some “questionable” content, but that that wasn’t the reason for his move.
“The volunteer in question, Gillian Coats, has a long and established record of questioning MAIN’s right to manage and control WPVM,” Bowen says.
MAIN describes itself as a nonprofit Internet-service provider and community network dedicated to increasing citizen access to the media and the public sphere. Bowen says WPVM shares MAIN’s mission, which includes supporting “participatory democracy, citizen access to media, independent journalism, social and economic justice, locally-owned businesses, local cultural and artistic expression and environmental stewardship,” according to a statement on the station’s Web site.
Coats, a well-known local business person, operated the Reader’s Corner book store on Montford Avenue for years before putting it up for sale earlier this year. She works on podcast production through New Mediacast Productions in Asheville and helped get WPVM started when it was born five years ago. She’s currently the interim director of the Media Arts Project, a nonprofit aimed at cultivating arts and technology in Western North Carolina. Coats declined to comment when contacted by Xpress.
Bowen says his removal of Coats and her show is subject to the review of MAIN’s governing board. Members of the board plan to meet with a group of station volunteers Wednesday night to discuss the issue.
WPVM broadcasts at 103.5 on the FM dial and is based in small offices next to the Vanderbilt Apartments on Haywood Street in downtown Asheville. It calls itself “The Progressive Voice of the Mountains” and features a variety of programming.
Francois Manavit, in a recent posting on the station’s Web site, announced that he was suspending his radio show in support of Coats.
“In solidarity with Gillian Coat, Simone, their show ‘7 layer dip’ [having been] abruptly cancelled, add the resignation of Jason, our manager at the station, the Paris of the South radio hour is taking a leave of absence and will not be on the air next week until changes and new policies in the structure happen,” Manavit wrote.
“At this moment the station cannot guarantee and support ‘freedom of speech’ and the community spirit that I cherished since I moved to Asheville 15 years ago.”
Bowen says he hopes WPVM can move past the current dust-up. “I think it’s part of a life-cycle of a community radio station that’s run by volunteers,” he says. “They start to acquire a sense of ownership. It can be tough to put structures in place.”
“So this is part of a learning process — growing pains. I want to see the station get back to its mission.”
— Jason Sandford, multimedia editor