GSU, GPB push back WRAS format switch date to June 29

Move allows university to ‘continue to work on resolving issues’


  • Joeff Davis/CL File
  • RIGHT ON THE MUSIC: WRAS student DJs helped grow the station into one of Atlanta’s most beloved independent radio stations.

WRAS 88.5 FM, the 100,000-watt student voice of Georgia State University, will remain student operated for just a bit longer. GSU officials and Georgia Public Broadcasting execs have postponed plans to flip the station’s daytime format following a barrage of student and alumni opposition. The format change would have effectively ended 43 years of student management of the school’s independent radio station.

Earlier this morning, GSU Vice President of Student Affairs Douglass Covey and Jeff Walker, a former DJ and current WRAS operations manager, informed Album 88’s student management that the university and state media network will delay the station’s format flip from June 2 until June 29.

“The date is being moved back to allow the university to continue to work on resolving issues raised by the WRAS leadership in a May 16 meeting with President Mark P. Becker and university leaders, and for GPB to finalize production plans for new local programming,” GSU spokeswoman Andrea Jones tells CL in an email.

On May 6, Becker and GPB CEO Teya Ryan announced a two-year, $150,000 partnership that would have given the state media network control of a 14-hour programming block of local and national news shows from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. each day. Students DJs would have retained control of the remaining 10 hours of evening and early morning, plus 24-hour access to streaming Internet radio.

The partnership, which has been secretly discussed since 2012, would have allow the state media network to enter Atlanta’s radio market for the first time in its 54-year-history. In exchange, GPB had planned to give GSU students “unprecedented access” to its television studio and expanded internship opportunities.

GPB Communications Manager Mandy Wilson issued a similar statement confirming the format switch’s postponement. She says the delay will allow GPB to continue developing local programming and finalize a schedule that “best serves the city.”

“Both Georgia State University and GPB remain fully committed to this radio partnership, and are excited to come together in an effort to provide students with a beneficial learning opportunity and increased public radio in Atlanta,” Wilson says.

Since the announcement, WRAS student DJs, alumni, and supporters have strongly voiced opposition to the deal. That pushback has included fundraisers, petitions, and silent protests. Alumni and supporters have also threatened to withhold donations and boycott GPB programming and pledge drives.

At the request of WRAS staff through GSU’s student government, Becker met with WRAS’ student management on May 16 to discuss the station’s future. Until today’s announcement, GSU and GPB have kept relatively quiet about what would happen next.

At today’s meeting, Covey told outgoing General Manager Ana Zimitravich, outgoing Program Director Josh Martin, current General Manager Alayna Fabricius, and current Urban Music Director Jenny Nesvetailova that the university would review its options to appease all parties involved and promised another meeting sometime in the next few weeks.

Zimitravich tells CL that WRAS student leadership was informed last night about the meeting and had prepared to negotiate new contract terms. When Covey told her “GPB was willing without any kind of apprehension” to push back the current deal, they ended up not discussing future plans. Moving forward, she says the station’s leaders are still hoping to restore a full 24 hours of student-run programming and get the current contract terminated.

“We hope people will continue to be concerned about the status of the station,” she says. “It’s great they’re willing to meet with us. Our trust has been broken. We’re still skeptical and cautious.”

NOTE: The original post has been updated to include additional information as the story has developed.