Public radio vies for airtime on WREK-FM

Keeping station as learning lab important to faculty, alumni

Georgia Public Broadcasting has made an offer to Georgia Tech’s student-run WREK-FM (91.1) to lease airtime during the ratings-important morning and evening drive-time slots.

Although there is a long-standing public radio station in Atlanta, WABE-FM’s 90.1, it broadcasts few NPR programs and instead concentrates on classical music. It is owned by Public Broadcasting Atlanta.

Last week, the Georgia Tech Radio Communications Board, which oversees the student-run station, met with GPB officials. Individuals who attended the meeting and WREK insiders say GPB offered a nebulous proposal of a partnership without making a formal presentation.

“[GPB] wants a station in Atlanta, there’s no question about it,” says Glenn Sirkis, a WREK-FM alum. “They were there to find a signal. They think 91.1 is available.”

The two public radio companies have had a bit of a rivalry over the years. “GPB and [WABE] have never played nice,” Sirkis says. “GPB doesn’t have a signal in Atlanta and they want one.”

The GPB proposal comes on the heels of an idea floated by the athletic department to broadcast Georgia Tech games on commercial radio in order to generate income. Concerned alumni say WREK should keep its traditional role as a learning lab for college students instead of evolving into a moneymaking enterprise for the university.

Georgia Tech President Wayne Clough invited GPB to meet with the communications board. At the Feb. 7 meeting, Sirkis says GPB repeatedly said it wanted to get a signal into Atlanta and kept asking, “What does WREK want?” They offered to give students internships in exchange for airtime; critics say that could reduce student involvement from getting experience actually running a station to performing errands for GPB personnel.

GPB didn’t return CL’s calls.

Georgia Tech’s James Fetig, an associate vice president, told concerned alums in an e-mail that the school will hold a town hall meeting near the end of the semester to discuss the future of WREK-FM. He wrote, “I want to assure you that we are guided by what is best for the students of Georgia Tech.”

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