Georgia State University’s student newspaper, The Signal, has been doing some sleuthing into the backstory behind the impending Georgia Public Broadcasting (GPB) takeover of the daytime schedule for Georgia State’s student radio station WRAS-FM. It was very interesting to see that a 2008 offer from GPB got turned down by Georgia State. In an April 9, 2008 memo, Senior Vice President for External Affairs Tom Lewis writes, “Although the offer of cash and other incentives are impressive, the agreement, in our opinion, would restrict Georgia State University’s use of WRAS to such an extent that we would lose more than we would gain.”
It’s fascinating to read that university officials didn’t see the benefits of giving up student daytime programming on WRAS in 2008, but had a radically different opinion six years later. The 2008 memo goes on to argue that the WRAS audience is significantly smaller at night, meaning that student programmers would lose listeners. The memo also suggests that GPB listeners are quite different from WRAS listeners. Lewis writes, “It is unlikely that the GPB audience would understand or accept programming from college students which followed network programming.”
Further, Lewis postulates that, “Such a significant audience shift would require a fundamental shift in our student media philosophy. Our students would no longer be programming to their peers, requiring staff control of programming to ensure that non-GPB programming matched the sensibilities and expectations of an NPR audience.”
In defending the value of WRAS as a student radio station, Lewis concludes the 2008 letter, saying,
“…the GPB proposal limits our ability to fully promote Georgia State University. While GPB is offering compensation, the value to the University of our 100,000 watt FM signal and our ability to maintain an independent program format is much greater. In our efforts to engage students in student life at Georgia State, we believe that WRAS is one of our greatest assets, and one which should not be compromised.”
Although Georgia State expressed strong support for WRAS in 2008 and rejected GPB’s proposal in part because it diminished the school’s ability to “fully promote” Georgia State; this year’s accepted proposal had similar terms and was lauded as providing opportunities to help promote the university to a wider audience.
Radio Survivor will continue to monitor the situation at WRAS. We report on college radio news every Friday in our College Radio Watch column.