Georgia State delays switch in WRAS format

Staff writers Kristina Torres and Rodney Ho contributed to this article

Georgia State University postponed for a month a format switch for campus radio station 88.5/WRAS-FM that would have had Georgia Public Broadcasting take over the station’s daily programming beginning next week.

University officials announced the delay Friday on the college’s Facebook page after meeting previously and hearing concerns from WRAS leadership.

Initially, GPB was to take over the station’s FM airspace from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily starting Monday. WRAS students have asked to retain control over some portion of the station’s drive-time and weekend programming, according to GSU’s student newspaper, The Signal.

The delay to June 29 allows the college to address student concerns and lets GPB finalize plans for new local programming, officials said. For station supporters and alumni who oppose the transition, the delay gives them more time to protest the change and push for preservation of the student-run station in its current form.

“Both Georgia State University and GPB remain fully committed to this radio partnership,” GPB spokeswoman Mandy Wilson said, “and are excited to come together in an effort to provide students with a beneficial learning opportunity and increased public radio in Atlanta.”

WRAS can be heard across most of North Georgia, giving GPB a definitive entry into the crowded metro Atlanta radio market and allowing it to compete with 90.1/WABE-FM, another public radio station. This week, documents obtained by The Signal, showed that discussions about the partnership with GPB began two years ago.

At 100,000 watts since 1987, WRAS, known as Album 88, is one of the strongest signals in the country for a college radio station.

The student-run station has long been a fixture in the industry and has helped launch artists such as Weezer, Arrested Development and Outkast into musical stardom.

The GPB partnership announced earlier this month sparked an immediate protest from supporters, alumni and students who objected to being excluded from discussions before GSU President Mark Becker finalized the deal. A Save WRAS group formed immediately, and a social media campaign was launched to protest the change.

“You’ve seen thousands of people oppose this in a way that has never happened before,” said Zachary Lancaster, a GSU alum and former WRAS production director. “This proves that taking something away isn’t just taking something away from students, but this is taking something away from everyone in the city, whether you attended Georgia State or not.”

The partnership has also grabbed national attention.

“The bigger issue is the loss of college radio and the foundation of what it is: live, local, one of the last bastions of free creative radio,” said Shawn Isaacs, a board member of College Radio Day, a consortium of college stations that support and celebrate college radio.

As part of the movement, 39 college radio stations across the country had scheduled a one-hour simulcast for Monday in support of keeping WRAS as it is. The simulcast was postponed after Friday's announcement.