Sunday, June 12, 2011

After years of wrangling URTV opens in July of 2006...then three months later the Board inexplicably forces the resignation of Kurt Mann

URTV Board & Kurt Mann Controversy: Rapid River Says "Rehire Kurt Mann"
“The URTV Board is dismantling the very thing that had been set in motion – a diverse public having a voice on local television.”
-Byron Belzak

As published with permission in the October 2006 issue of Rapid River Magazine:

Mountains of Art
URTV Needs to Rehire Kurt Mann
By Byron Belzak

The three greatest general complaints one hears about politics today – and about dysfunctional non-profit organizations, many of which are so political that they might as well be political parties – is lack of leadership, lack of transparency, and lack of vision.

The Board of Directors of URTV – channel 20 on Charter cable television, the first public access television station to serve the Asheville area – accomplished all three things in one fell swoop when it let Kurt Mann go as its executive director.

URTV Board of Directors headed by president Mark Wilson recently told its first executive director, Kurt Mann, that it was not going to renew his one-year contract. Mann immediately resigned, and URTV is now looking for a new executive director.

Two phrases immediately come to mind: “Shooting itself in the foot” and “It’s a pissing contest.” Nobody who really knows why Kurt Mann was not extended a new contract is talking candidly. I have my suspicions of what really happened.

I also suspect that many (if not most) of URTV’s 325 members – particularly those who plan (or had planned) to produce original, locally produced programs – are shocked and dismayed about the Board’s decision. I know I am. Anyone who has seen Kurt Mann in action knows he was the absolutely perfect person for the job.

Everything was going so well. There was no warning of this happening. Crash. Boom. The URTV Board is dismantling the very thing that had been set in motion – a diverse public having a voice on local television.

The URTV Board has squandered its initial brilliant decision and goodwill of hiring local film production entrepreneur Kurt Mann in the first place. What a shame for the public; what a windfall for those who support the old guard and status quo. Kurt Mann put zing into UR and MY public access. Now it’s gone. Even if the URTV Board was not required to ask anyone’s opinions about such matters, they should have.

Kurt Mann inspired many of us to become members and producers in the first place. And that’s the whole point of URTV: to have diverse, quality, local programming that will inspire audiences to watch something other than shows produced by the Big Six media conglomerates.

Kurt Mann was getting the job done. He oversaw the physical and technical birth of the station. No small feat by a long shot. I know what it takes; I once owned, operated and managed a small video production company in Atlanta. One of my associates went on to become a top director for Disney and another is now executive director of one of the nation’s most watched public access television stations. I can spot talent. And Kurt Mann and his two hard-working staff members, Jen Mass and Paul Snow, are talent. They accomplished so much in so little time over the past year. They should all be getting raises, not the boot.

So what can those who want Kurt Mann reinstalled do? Email or phone the three local politicians who attended URTV’s July 31, 2006, successful grand opening and launch: Asheville Mayor Terry Bellamy, Asheville City Council member Robin Cape, and Buncombe County Commissioner David Gannt. Email current URTV Board president Mark Wilson, former URTV Board president and current member Maryanna Bailey, as well as other members of the Board. Email the URTV staff. Voice your opinion at public meetings of the URTV Board, which are held the fourth Thursday of every month beginning at 5pm at URTV headquarters and studios in downtown Asheville. Go to for directions.

And don’t forget to email me UR thoughts at I’ll publish the ready-for-primetime ones on my website: Tell me if I’m all wet on this one. I won’t mind admitting if I’m wrong. I just wonder if the URTV Board is big enough to admit if it’s been wrong.

We all make mistakes.

Copyright 2006 Mediabear

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