GPB to take over WRAS daytime programming, student DJs blast unexpected move

‘I am disgusted with their strategy,’ says outgoing WRAS music director


  • Georgia Public Broadcasting

For the first time in its 54-year history, Georgia Public Broadcasting will enter Atlanta’s radio market on a daily basis. The state media outlet will do so by taking over a 14-hour daytime slot from WRAS 88.5 FM - a move that has alarmed longtime DJs of Georgia State University’s radio station.

The new two-year partnership, which will kick off on June 2, effectively splits the 100,000-watt station’s programing into two blocks. The statewide public radio station will take 88.5 FM’s reins from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. each day. Some local daytime news programming is expected to be broadcast during the 14-hour window, plus an assortment of national content from National Public Radio, Public Radio International, and American Public Media. At 7 p.m., the university’s student DJs will hold down a 10-hour time slot until 5 a.m. The rest of the student’s regular programming will be streamed online 24 hours per day.

“The programming partnership between GPB and Georgia State will give us the opportunity to provide the highly desired all-news and information public radio schedule not previously available to Atlantans during the most important radio hours” Teya Ryan, GPB CEO and president, said in a statement

GSU will receive $150,000 as part of the two-year deal. Students will be given “unprecedented access” to GPB TV station resources including the chance to work with professional journalists. Football games will continue to be broadcast on air.

“This new partnership is a proverbial win-win and opens the door for future collaboration,” GSU President Mark Becker said in a statement. “Our students will have new and exciting opportunities in the changing media landscape, and this partnership allows both GPB and Georgia State to better serve the metro Atlanta region as well as the state.”

But the move isn’t sitting well with WRAS’ student management and staff. Fray DeVore, WRAS’ music director for the 2013-14 school year, says the administration kept students in the dark about the move until this morning. At the meeting, the station’s management were told about the two-year contract by Douglass Covey, senior vice president for student affairs; Boyd Beckwith, director of the Student*University Center; Bryce McNeil, student media advisor; and Jeff Walker, a former DJ and current WRAS operations manager.

DeVore says the faculty members told WRAS student management that the station’s ratings “aren’t good with the right age demographic,” but claims they were never told about those expectations. Students could lose the air time, leaving them with only streaming Internet radio, if ratings did not improve over the next two years.

“I am disgusted with their strategy,” says DeVore, whose term as music director ends this month. “They waited until the last day of classes, right when our new management started, and a lot of long-time DJs are graduating.”

GSU spokeswoman Andrea Jones tells CL that a final contract between GSU and GPB wasn’t signed until yesterday. But the deal appears to have been in the works for some time. At least as long as it takes to design logos and print t-shirts:

First look at our new 88.5 t shirt! #gpbatlanta
- Bill Nigut (@billnigut) May 6, 2014

“While students are entrusted to run the station, WRAS is ultimately a university asset,” Jones says. “This opens the door for longterm opportunities between GPB and Georgia State. Terms of the contract evolved over time, and we shared the decision as soon as it was signed.”

She also denies that student’s evening broadcast ratings will determine whether students stay on the air beyond the next two years. “That is absolutely false,” Jones says about DeVore’s claims. “There’s no mention of that in the contract.”

We’ve included a copy of the GPB-GSU contract after the jump:

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