by Griffin Davis, Communications Intern
This week marked a frustrating setback for lovers of college radio, as a deal went into effect that splits the broadcast schedule of Georgia State University’s radio station, WRAS, handing over control to Georgia Public Broadcasting. Under the terms of the deal, GPB will control the 100,000 watt broadcast from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mondays through Friday and from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on the weekends, leaving GSU students with the remaining hours each day and 24 hour control of the station’s webcast. Additionally, GPB will be proving an undisclosed number of internships to GSU students, but this was little consolation for the loss of the precious terrestrial airtime.
This deal follows a sad trend in college radio: as many schools face skyrocketing costs tighter budgets, college radio is often sacrificed for short-sighted financial gains. Many college stations, including Vanderbilt’s WRVU, Rice University’s KTRU and the University of San Francisco’s KUSF have seen their FM stations sold off, or taken over by public radio stations and have been left with only their webcasting services and in some cases, an HD radio sub channel.
WRAS, which broadcasts on 88.5 FM, dates back to 1971, and, up until now, was entirely student run. It quickly became known for both its high audio quality—it was often used by retailers to demonstrate stereo equipment—and for its diverse and influential programming. WRAS played a major role in launching the careers of many local musical acts, including R.E.M. and Outkast, by being one of the first radio stations to air their music.
In an era of incredible homogenization in radio, college radio is diverse array of musical genres, with selection often left entirely to the DJs. This is especially important for small, independent musicians as college radio presents one of the only opportunities for them to get their music on radio, which remains the number one source for musical discovery. The benefits of college radio extend to the local music community as a whole by raising awareness of local bands, scenes and live events that other stations wouldn’t touch.
Making this sudden change without consulting students was seen by many as disrespectful, and adding insult to injury, the Atlanta Constitution-Journal reports that about 65% of the programming that GPB intends to replace student programming with is syndicated material that Atlanta listeners can already hear on WABE-FM.
WRAS is not giving up the time without a fight, however. Fans of the station took to the streets of Atlanta to protest the deal and over 12,000 people have signed a change.org petition opposing the deal. On June 26, dozens of college stations across the nation joined the protest by simulcasting one hour of WRAS’s broadcast. A group of WRAS alumni have taken it a step farther by submitting an alternate proposal that would create internship opportunities for GSU students and allow both WRAS and GPB using the WRAS license through the use of FM translators–that proposal has gained the support of Atlanta’s chapter of the Recording Academy among others.
If you’re a musician, indepedent label, or just a music fan, you can tell administrators why student-run radio is important to you. Contact information is available here.