In an open letter released Wednesday, WABE Chairman Louis Sullivan criticized the recent deal that allowed Georgia Public Broadcasting to take control of Georgia State University’s student-led radio station, 88.5/WRAS-FM.
Sullivan called the deal “bad public policy — fiscally, substantively and procedurally.”
“At its essence, this agreement involves GPB spending Georgia tax dollars to duplicate a public broadcasting service” already being provided by Public Broadcasting Atlanta, which operates WABE, Sullivan said. He suggested the agreement be reviewed and significantly modified or rescinded.
The switch in format for 88.5 FM, which began Sunday, allows GPB to broadcast on the station from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. Students will be given access to the remaining evening and overnight hours.
The agreement is the culmination of two years of discussions between Georgia State administrators and GPB. The deal allows GPB, Georgia’s premier public broadcaster, to expand into the metro Atlanta area by broadcasting on WRAS’ powerful 100,000-watt signal. At the same time, Georgia State is the beneficiary of expanded radio and television programming and more professional opportunities for its students.
The agreement, announced in May by Georgia State President Mark Becker, has led to numerous protests by students who work at WRAS, supporters and alumni.
“As fellow public broadcasters, GPB and PBA should be colleagues instead of competitors,” Sullivan said in his open letter. “The WRAS agreement is antithetical to the spirit of collaboration and to the stewardship of the limited resources entrusted to us …”
In a previous interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, WABE President and CEO Milton Clipper said his station was more disappointed than surprised by the WRAS deal.
“It does create duplication,” Clipper said. “In this case, it seems as if the transaction comes really at the expense of the students.”