WRAS student staff formally responds to GPB takeover, online petition to block GSU partnership circulates

GSU needs to put their greed aside and fufill their obligation to preserve the integrity of this landmark station.

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  • Georgia Public Broadcasting

The announcement yesterday regarding Georgia Public Broadcasting’s pending takeover of WRAS 88.5 FM caught many Georgia State University students and alumni by surprise. And it’s beginning to spark opposition among loyal Atlanta listeners.

GSU’s 100,000-watt college radio station, which has been largely run by students for the past 43 years, will split into two distinct programming blocks next month. As part of the two-year, $150,000 agreement, GPB will broadcast local and national news for 14 daytime hours from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. Students will program the remaining 10 hours in the evening and early morning, plus the station’s 24-hour online streaming radio.

WRAS staffers lambasted the new partnership for its lack of student representation and said the move stands to slash airtime for college DJs. In a Facebook post last night, they elaborated on how the decision could hurt the station in the future:

While we regret the decision greatly, know that neither WRAS staff nor management had any part of this change. Acting unilaterally as the FCC licensee, Georgia State University administration has chosen this route with stated goals of increasing listenership and generating a positive partnership between the institution and GPB. The staff of WRAS was met with surprise by this announcement for two reasons. First, up until the announcement was made this morning, WRAS staff was never of the understanding that our ratings mattered. As a college radio station, the mission of our station has never been to make the rich richer or to give airtime to mainstream music. This being true, we have never been concerned about ratings nor were we aware that the administration was until this morning. Our interests, instead, were delivering quality and diverse music to our listeners and supplying an alternative to mainstream radio.

Secondly, the support we have received throughout the decades from the GSU and Atlanta communities has been overwhelming. It is because of this consistent support that we have never even questioned our ratings or stature among listeners. We as a staff and family are devastated by this decision that we had no say or part in. While we understand our programming will persist mostly via online streaming and HD FM, this completely disrupts our mission: to provide top-grade programming that allows our listeners to connect via discovering new music. We feel that with these changes, we will face a diminished listenership and overall decline in quality of our station.

As of 9 a.m. this morning, more than 500 people have signed an online petition asking GSU officials to reconsider the deal. In particular, the petition outlines the “complete lack of respect” shown to past and present students involved with the radio station. Here’s an excerpt:

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It’s no secret that Atlanta’s radio market has degenerated into a homogenized glop over the past 10 years thanks to companies like Clearchannel desperately targeting only the lowest common denominator of listeners as commercial radio becomes less and less profitable in the modern world. However, in a radio market as notoriously awful as ours, having a truly unique voice on the airwaves such as WRAS, a station that remains untainted by corporate interests and steadfast in its mission to be a source of musical exploration for Atlanta, is honestly a godsend.

We ask that Georgia State University reconsider its deal with Georgia Public Broadcasting that would, in June 2014, eliminate all original student-made daytime content on celebrated Atlanta college radio station WRAS in exchange for a GPB simulcast of nationally syndicated NPR programming. Album 88 is a historic part of Atlanta culture, and as such, GSU needs to put their greed aside and fufill sic their obligation to preserve the integrity of this landmark station.

Students are also encouraging longtime WRAS supporters to call GPB and GSU leaders to express their thoughts.

UPDATE, 11:00 a.m. A group of recent GSU graduates who in recent years have held leadership positions in the school’s media organizations have denounced the new partnership. They’re calling upon GPB and GSU to “scrap this dishonestly created arrangement and renegotiate in good faith” with students.

We’ve included the full response from 10 former WRAS managers and The Signal editors below: