In a major move to compete with 90.1/WABE-FM, Georgia Public Broadcasting will be taking over WRAS-FM/88.5 FM signal from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily with public radio offerings.
The station has been in operation since 1971 and is known as Album 88. At 100,000 watts, it’s one of the strongest signals in the country for a college radio station.
The change happens June 2.
This will help out FM listeners who like to hear public radio talk and news programs from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. when WABE airs classical music. Talk fans have complained for years about WABE's dual role.
GPB, which has been angling for a radio signal in Atlanta for years, has not announced what programs it will air. I'm told by an insider that "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered" programs will heard on WRAS. Those are signature shows that receive high ratings for WABE. (I left a message with WABE Chief Operating Officer John Weatherford for his reaction and will update this if I get one.)
According to GPB in its press release, “public service announcements promoting the university will air during that time. From 7 p.m. to 5 a.m., the station will continue to be programmed by Georgia State students.”
Georgia State students will also have access to GPB studios to shoot TV programs.
Daytime radio broadcasting of Album 88 will be streamed live online from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m.
"This new partnership is a proverbial win-win and opens the door for future collaboration," said Dr. Mark P. Becker, Georgia State president, in the press release. "Our students will have new and exciting opportunities in the changing media landscape, and this partnership allows both GPB and Georgia State to better serve the metro Atlanta region as well as the state."
Ana Zimitravich, the outgoing WRAS general manager and senior at GSU, said she found out along with the rest of the student staff today. "It's a total, complete shock," she said. "I had no idea this change was coming."
She said with this new generation of students who grew up with Pandora and Spotify, getting them to listen to WRAS is a tougher challenge. But the station does have its fans.
“If we’re going to survive, “she said, “we’re going to have to think strategically about our marketing here on out. This deal in my mind goes against our mission statement, which is to break new music and play music that wouldn’t otherwise get played anywhere else.”
"We support artists we believe in," she said. "It's going to be harder to do that" with 98 hours a week of analog FM access gone. "This will have a huge effect on our relationship with promoters in the community and promoters at CMJ [the music magazine.] We used to be a major test market for CMJ artists. It's going to be harder for us to be a viable resource for artists and promoters."
Michael Savage, a WRAS alum and former GPT radio employee, said GPB executives have been trying to gain access to the Atlanta market for decades. GPB radio covered all of Georgia except Atlanta, by far the most populous city in the state. "From a public radio perspective," he wrote, "this poses a serious challenge to WABE. Although public radio stations are not supposed to be competitors in the same market, it does happen i.e. Boston (WBUR & WGBH0 and Salt Lake City (KUER & KCPW)."
Not surprisingly, many WRAS alums are none too pleased by this development.
Ed Hula, a WRAS alum, in PeachPundit, called this a royal "screw up" for GSU.
There are generations of people who benefited from exposure to the music of WRAS. I, and many other students, went to GSU specifically because of WRAS and the chance to work there. Not only that, but I challenge you to find more than three people who worked at WRAS and didn’t love every second of it. Will GPB deliver that same impact, and be that formative for so many people? Absolutely not. Especially because on an initial reading of the announcement, there seems to be at best, a minimal amount of new content that will be aired on 88.5.
Another alum, Dan Lynn, sent me this email in capital block letters:
WRAS IS GETTING TAKEN OVER BY GPB AND THE ALUMS ARE PISSED. THIS IS SO WRONG. SO MANY OF US HAVE CAREERS BECAUSE OF THIS STATION AND NOW GPB IS STEALING A 100,000 WATT STATION? THE STRONGEST STUDENT RUN STATION IN THE USA? WOW. THE NEWS HAS SPREAD FAST TO CALIFORNIA, WHERE ALUMS WORK FOR DISNEY.
RICHARD BELCHER AND CHUCK DOWDLE GOT THEIR STARTS THERE. WE NEED TO FIGHT BACK, RODNEY. WE NEED YOUR HELP,
About the Author