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College Radio Watch: WRAS Alumni Present Alternate Proposal as GPB Deal is Set to Begin this Sunday

As the impending programming changes at Georgia State University’s student-run radio station WRAS are set to take place this Sunday, supporters are continuing their efforts to convince administrators to halt the deal with Georgia Public Broadcasting (GPB). As we’ve been reporting, Georgia State penned a deal with GPB allowing the public radio group to use WRAS’ powerful FM signal in Atlanta during daytime hours. Student programmers will be relegated to WRAS’ online stream during the day and will be allowed to broadcast over FM at night. GPB plans to air mostly syndicated public radio content from NPR (some of which airs in Atlanta over competing public radio station WABE) over WRAS’ 100,000 watt FM signal.

A group of WRAS alumni, known as Album 88 Alumni (A88A), met with Georgia State University President Mark Becker last week, proposing a new deal that will allow students to continue broadcasting over WRAS FM. The alumni proposal offers a direct response to the publicly stated benefits of the GPB deal, namely student internships promised by GPB. The proposal states,

Album 88 Alumni (A88A) seeks to preserve student-controlled radio programming at Georgia State University’s WRAS-Atlanta 88.5 FM (Album 88) by serving as an advocate for the nation’s first 100,000-watt student-run college radio station, strengthening the bond between alumni and current students for their benefit and providing an association for former Album 88 staff everywhere. Our observation, which is congruent with observations by the community, the media, and the students, is that the inclusion of WRAS in the GPB agreement was the wrong strategy for achieving the university’s long term objectives; and that the Album 88 brand, four generations strong, is mission-critical to GSU, and should not be negotiated away. Also, for GPB to try to re-brand WRAS as an NPR station and wipe away the Album 88 brand will be disastrous for both GPB and GSU.

Our expectation is to work with GSU’s administration to chart a path by which WRAS is removed from the table in any remaining dealings with GPB, and the student-run station continues to broadcast its student-controlled programming around the clock. We endorse the WRAS student management’s Ten Year Plan and are committed to helping students develop and implement the plan.

GSU’s and A88A’s interests are aligned: We both want to enhance the educational experience GSU provides its students and to increase real world opportunities for GSU graduates. Where we differ is in the strategy of taking away student-controlled broadcast airtime for 14 hours each day.”

In its proposal, A88A outlines opportunities that it can offer to Georgia State. Specifically, the group plans to beef up student training programs through internships, mentorships, networking and coaching. A88A plans to offer more than 100 internships, more than 70 mentorship opportunities, and networking with more than 70 peers across a number of prominent media outlets. TV broadcasting internships would include “first-tier media companies such as Turner, Cox, WSB, and other strong local private-sector media outlets.”

Finally, A88A suggests that Georgia State could still offer GPB airtime over the radio, while still maintaining student programming over WRAS-FM. A few options include allowing GPB to broadcast using FM translators or HD. The proposal states, “We believe an FM translator represents the best technological and format-related option. With the FM translator, WRAS/Album 88 can remain a student-run radio outlet while GPB gets to broadcast its NPR-based talk format in the Atlanta market.” Those in favor of the new deal are asking supporters to contact officials at Georgia State and at Georgia Public Broadcasting.

According to the Atlanta Business Chronicle, Georgia State University announced today that, “it is investigating options to secure daytime broadcast time for WRAS-FM 88.5 after the Georgia State and Georgia Public Broadcasting partnership starts June 29. The university has hired engineers and other media consultants to pursue an alternate translator frequency for Album 88 and ‘will continue to pursue opportunities to restore Album 88 to its FM analog presence in Atlanta.'”

In other WRAS news, College Radio Day organized a nationwide action yesterday, in which more than 50 radio stations aired a 60-minute public affairs show, “We are WRAS” (listen to the mp3 here) about the storied history of WRAS. The special program includes interviews with WRAS staffers and alumni, lots of details about the station’s history, a clip of the station’s first broadcast, and stories about the station’s impact. It ends with the Replacements’ song “Left of the Dial,” rumored to have been inspired by WRAS.

Updates about the situation at WRAS can be found on the Save WRAS Facebook page, Save WRAS website, and on Twitter at SaveWRAS and #SaveWRAS. Additionally, a protest is scheduled for 2:30pm this Sunday at Hurt Park in Atlanta.

Radio Survivor will continue to monitor the situation at WRAS. We report on college radio news every Friday in our College Radio Watch column.


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