Getting to the MAIN point

Back in October of last year, I wrote a commentary to Mountain X that was intended to help smooth over the controversy that had erupted at WPVM and put us back on track to a reinvigorated community radio station [“Media as if People Mattered,” Oct. 1]. I did this under direct encouragement by MAIN’s board members, who assured us—both here in these pages and privately—that the future course of WPVM would be guided more by the volunteers and the community, and less by the executive director of MAIN. We worked hard to manage the station during the turmoil of the loss of our station manager and the uncertainty of what was to happen next. We conducted, largely without help from MAIN staff or the executive director, one of the most successful fund drives ever. More people contributed than ever before, even in a bad economy, and we were greatly encouraged. Thank you, Asheville.

Then, when we went to turn over that money to MAIN, the promises that were made to us were withdrawn by MAIN’s board—reportedly under pressure from Wally Bowen, the executive director. We were told that he would be reasserting direct control over the station, and those promises of a cooperative approach to the future were no longer operative. When we objected and asked how the volunteers were expected to react to this disappointing turn, one Board member said, and I quote: “There’s the door.”

That door has now been thrown open wide, and a large number of longtime, volunteer leaders, including myself, have been asked not to darken WPVM’s doorstep for at least six weeks, with absolutely no guarantee of reinstatement. The growing list of programs that will no longer be heard on the Progressive Voice of the Mountains can be seen on our new Web site: www.wpvm.blogspot.com.

All of this, so that one man—MAIN’s executive director—can control this community resource in a top-down, corporate model, instead of the grassroots model that empowers many people. Wally and I were friends some years ago, and I was one of his biggest supporters. When he needed friends he could trust to produce his radio program, Not the Corporate News, I was proud that he picked me to help. If there’s any of that trust left, I hope he will listen to me now: Stop and take a breath, and look at the damage you are doing to the progressive community of Asheville.

— Barry Summers
Asheville

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