WRAS alumni offer alternative proposal to current GPB/GSU deal

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GPB, in talks with GSU since 2012, announced the partnership last month in a move that shocked WRAS students who were not given any notice about the move. After vehement protests from station fans and alumni, GSU and GPB delayed the launch a month, from June 1 to June 29.

In exchange for giving up the FM airwaves 98 hours a week, GSU students were promised unspecified internships, a 30-minute weekly music show on the GPB"s statewide radio network and access to GPB's TV studios. Many students found the tradeoff inadequate.

As of Thursday morning, GPB has yet to release a final schedule though management has said it will include many programs already heard on 90.1/WABE-FM. WABE is operated  by Public Broadcasting Atlanta, which has no affiliation with GPB, WABE airs classical music from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily, a time period when WRAS-FM will air news/talk programming, some of which is not heard locally.

WRAS alumni, in an effort to stave off what seemed like a done deal, have created a non-profit and met with Georgia State President Mark Becker. This week, it  released to the public an alternative proposal to keep the FM dials 24/7 with the students, offering a more robust set of internships, a mentorship and networking program, expanded use of GSU's existing TV studios and an alternative low-power FM translator signal for GPB.

Would such a translator work? Is that even a realistic option? (Streetz 94.5 and True Oldies 98.9 are on translators.)

“The FM dial in Atlanta is pretty full,” Jester said. “Unless they have an agreement with someone who already owns a translator — which may be the case — (the proposal) may not be possible.”

Another issue would be the strength of a translator station. WRAS currently operates a coveted 100,000-watt signal, the maximum allowed by law and what makes the deal so valuable to GPB.  Translator stations are limited to 250 watts, Jester said.

“It limits the coverage area and would never be what the 100,000-watt station is,” he said. “Inside the Perimeter it could be a decent signal. If you live in Lawrenceville, you’re not likely to hear it.”

GSU declined to comment on the proposal.

While GSU has rebuffed similar GPB entreaties in the past, Becker said the ability to help out GSU's TV broadcasting and film students made GPB's offer more appealing this time.

Lancaster thinks the WRAS alumni could provide deeper and greater opportunities for GSU's TV and film students than GPB, negating the need for GSU to relinquish WRAS 98 hours a week for $150,000 over two years.

"GSU never went to the alumni association," Lancaster said. "They never looked outside the GPB option."

The WRAS station will technically still be heard as a streaming option. But Lancaster said only 216 people can stream it at any one time. Also, the HD channel option, he hears, is not ready yet.

He is "cautiously optimistic" that GSU will again delay the implementation of this deal as alternatives are sorted out.

At 2:19 p.m., WRAS played the Replacements song "Left of the Dial," which may have been inspired by WRAS but probably not. Still, it does reference Georgia.

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About the Author

Rodney Ho
Rodney Ho
Rodney Ho covers radio and television for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
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