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Georgia State/Georgia Public Broadcasting Tweak WRAS Partnership

Album 88 88.5 WRAS Atlanta Georgia Public Broadcasting NPRUpdate 6/27: As the student body and alumni continue to protest Georgia State University and Georgia Public Broadcasting’s arrangement to transfer the daytime programming of WRAS, Georgia State has agreed to some concessions.

The student-run “Album 88” programming will regain eight hours a week as GPB will program the station only from 8am to 6pm on weekends as opposed to 5am to 7pm. Vice President of Student Affairs Douglas Covey told WRAS staffers that Georgia State is committed to “aggressively pursuing translator frequency for Album 88” so the programming can be heard on an analog signal in addition to WRAS-HD2 during daytime hours.

Georgia Public Broadcasting will begin to program WRAS during daytime hours on Sunday, June 29.

Update 5/30:Georgia State University and Georgia Public Broadcasting are delaying the launch of the GPB programming from Monday, June 2 to June 29 as they continue to resolve issues with the student run “Album 88” format that is getting relegated to nights and HD2.

The statement from the University:

This morning (May 30) Georgia State University Vice President for Student Affairs, Dr. Douglass Covey, met with the leadership of Georgia State University’s student-programmed radio station, WRAS, to inform them that the university and Georgia Public Broadcasting are postponing to June 29 the implementation of broadcasting by GPB on the university’s 88.5 frequency. The implementation was originally scheduled for June 2, and 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

Original Report 5/6: Georgia Public Broadcasting has partnered with Georgia State University to program 88.5 WRAS Atlanta daily from 5am to 7pm.

Update 8:00pm: Creative Loafing adds more details on the WRAS/GPB deal including the entire contract.

The lease of the daytime hours on WRAS is a two year deal which will bring $150,000 to Georgia State as well as giving students access to GPB’s television resources to program content on their .2 digital subchannel between 6pm and 6am. Unless terminated by either party the deal will automatically renew every two years through 2020 and then every eight years thereafter.

Original Report 1:30pm: Georgia Public Broadcasting will program News/Talk programming from NPR, PRI, and American Public Media on WRAS during those hours beginning on June 2, allowing the network of 17 stations across the state to cover the Atlanta market for the first time. GPB also intends to add a locally produced program to the station by the fall. The move will also bring public News/Talk programming to the market during the 9am-3pm hours when 90.1 WABE airs Classical Music.

Georgia State will continue to program the station with its student-run “Album 88” format at night and online during the hours GPB is airing.

The staff of WRAS released the following statement regarding today’s announcement:

Today, May 6, 2014, WRAS management and staff were informed that the university has struck a deal with Georgia Public Broadcasting. According to representatives from central GSU administration, this deal will begin a 2-year contract that will increase GSU’s presence on the GPB statewide network of affiliate stations. With this new deal, programming on WRAS 88.5 FM will consist of GPB programming from 5 AM to 7 PM. WRAS programming will fill the 7 PM to 5 AM time range on the analog station (88.5 FM), but will air around the clock on our HD FM stream along with our online stream. WRAS Atlanta Album 88 is a 100,000-watt student-run and managed radio station that has been operating from downtown Atlanta since 1971. Prior to the announcement, neither members of staff nor management were informed of – nor given the opportunity to discuss – the decision that was made public today.

Although WRAS’ first on-air broadcast took place on January 18, 1971, its roots reach back to the mid-1960s, when GSU was still known as Georgia State College. On November 12, 1969, Georgia State University – which had only recently attained its University status on September 10, 1969 – officially filed with the FCC as a radio broadcasting station on 88.5 FM. In February of 1970, the FCC granted a permit allowing for WRAS to begin its operations at 19,500 watts, for which two small studios were utilized within what was, at the time, GSU’s Student Center (and is currently its University Center).

In 1974, WRAS aired Atlanta’s first live “Quadrophonic,” broadcast together with WREK, employing a short-lived technology which provided listeners with two front and two rear channels of sound. WRAS quickly championed and upheld its reputation for being among the most influential and professionally run student stations in the nation. While most other college stations had poor training, sparse technical facilities and little knowledge of programming, Georgia State students produced a progressive sound so popular that it influenced format decisions down the dial at the commercial stations as well. WRAS has continued this trend into the new millennium, ensuring that quality programming coincides with discovering unheard music and maintaining professional relationships throughout the music industry and the Atlanta community as a whole.

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.

We as a staff are deeply saddened and want to apologize for these changes that, again, are completely out of our control. As mentioned before, the university will assess the contract again in two years and determine where to move forward from there. Since this move is driven so much by listenership, we cannot guarantee how the university will act in the future. This could mean that we either revert back to our original format, stay in the partnership with GPB, or perhaps even switch WRAS over to 24/7 GPB programming. Whatever the case is for the future, we appreciate the listenership and love we have been showered with over the years. If you want to voice any concerns, please contact that powers that be directly: Andrea Jones (Assoc. VP of PR & Marketing) can be reached at 404-413-1351, Mark Becker (President) 404-413-1300, or Dr. Douglass Covey (VP of Student Affairs) at 404-413-1500. Can also be reached via email: [email protected], [email protected], or [email protected]

Profile photo of Lance Venta
Lance Venta is the Owner and Publisher of RadioInsight.com and a consultant for RadioBB Networks specializing in integration of radio and the internet. Lance has two decades of experience tracking the audio industry and its use of digital platforms.

4 Comments

  1. Profile photo of joseph_gallant


    It’s not going to be long until Georgia Public Broadcasting takes over WRAS–88.5 and programs NPR news/information programming on it 24/7

  2. Profile photo of joseph_gallant


    This deal might now (May 30th) never happen.

    More likely, Georgia Public Broadcasting will end up (even if it’s a couple of years down the line) purchasing a commercial big-signal FM in Atlanta, which would become 24/7 NPR news and information.

  3. Profile photo of joseph_gallant


    If WRAS-88.5 gets a translator for an analog broadcast of the HD-2 signal, GPB will take over WRAS’s analog signal 24/7 and will begin running NPR news and information around the clock.

    One problem is that the translator probably wouldn’t be heard over-the-air outside of the I-285 belt.

    By contrast, WRAS probably has the largest (in terms of geography) signal area of any (entirely or mostly) student-run college FM station in the country (as opposed to a college-owned station that carries NPR programming).

    • Profile photo of Bongwater


      I’m with the Save WRAS crowd and here is why: WRAS provides something local, unique and special to the Atlanta area. NPR is pretty much ubiquitous, generic and not very entertaining (in my opinion.) WRAS gives students real hands on experience and actual talent development instead of being another board-op for another canned radio network.

      I also like WRAS’s music. Diane Rehm gives me violent attacks of yawning.

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