WRAS in the hands of GPB despite Georgia State concessions

Completing a deal announced nearly two months ago, powerhouse Georgia Public Broadcasting will take control Sunday of Georgia State University’s student-led radio station, 88.5/WRAS-FM.

Exactly what it will sound like is anyone’s guess.

University officials pledged Friday to push for more daytime airtime for students who want to play music despite the station’s revamped “news and information” format. They additionally won more music programming hours for students over the weekend, despite a lingering bitterness over the university’s decision to keep students in the dark during initial negotiations.

“On one hand, this is a small concession toward what we wanted, but it’s far from what we asked,” said Georgia State graduate student Josh Martin, who just completed a term as WRAS’ program director and still works at the station.

Still, the last-minute talks seemed to be an attempt to appease angry supporters of what had been one of the top college radio stations in the nation. It also appeared to stall an announcement of the new station’s over-the-air schedule, despite the pending changeover.

GPB officials declined last week to release programming notes for the new WRAS until this coming Monday, despite completing the deal May 6.

Friday's announcement also gave hope to those opposed to what's officially been deemed a "partnership" despite control of the station being given to GPB, the state's top public broadcaster. University alumni who prefer the station be student-led and musically driven proposed Wednesday to have separate FM frequencies for GPB and the university's student disc jockeys.

Now, the university has hired engineers and other media consultants to pursue what’s officially called an “alternate translator frequency” for a daytime, student-run version of Album 88 — the station’s nickname. GPB will still control the station’s powerful 100,000-watt signal.

Starting Sunday, it will broadcast over the station’s daily 88.5 FM airspace from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. Students will be given access to the remaining evening and overnight hours. The revised agreement also gives WRAS students eight additional hours of weekend broadcast time.

As in the original deal, students will be allowed to produce a weekly half-hour magazine radio program about music and culture. They will additionally gain new daily access to a GPB television broadcast studio facility between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m., and they have been promised an online streaming webcast.

As a result of the deal, GPB gains its first dedicated FM station in the high-profile metro Atlanta market — despite having operated a statewide public radio network since the mid-1980s. In return, university officials have said the additional broadcast opportunities could open the door for students to work with Georgia’s film and television industry.

“GPB is excited to launch in Atlanta,” GPB said in a statement Friday. “We look forward to bringing Atlanta listeners news and information programming that will provide new insights and help us initiate conversations with Atlanta and the rest of the state. We’re very pleased to partner with Georgia State and look forward to maximizing the opportunities for the university and students.”

The takeover and subsequent protests have made news across the country, with supporters late last week organizing a national hourlong simulcast in honor of WRAS that aired on more than 55 stations in 25 states.

“We proved that WRAS is beloved by not just people in Atlanta, but by the entire country,” said Robert Quicke, an associate communications professor at William Paterson University in New Jersey and founder of the College Radio Day movement. “With that kind of extraordinary support, why would Georgia State throw that away?”