GSU Faces Backlash over Programming Change at WRAS

WRAS has been broadcasting since 1971. It currently has a 100,000-watt signal.
WRAS has been broadcasting since 1971. It currently has a 100,000-watt signal.
Credit Yelp.com

A growing number of Georgia State University students and listeners of its radio station are up in arms: this week, GSU announced a two-year deal to change WRAS’s daytime programming.Broadcast Version

As of late Thursday afternoon, nearly 6,000 people had signed a petition on www.change.org to try to stop Georgia Public Broadcasting’s plans to air its own programming on WRAS, also known as Album 88. Several Facebook pages and websites have popped up, and community support for stopping the plan stretched as far as restaurants posting “Save WRAS” on their marquees.

According to GSU President Mark Becker, “It’s happening. It’s not going to be reversed.”

Becker says the partnership will bring more opportunity for his students not only in radio but also in film and video.

He says the partnership includes plans for students to create a half-hour weekly radio program that will air on GPB’s radio network, and film and video students will have the opportunity to help program a station that will air on one of GPB’s digitals channels 12 hours a day.

But what about the listeners of WRAS who extend far beyond the college community?

“The only change for the listeners is that the analog signal will not be available from 5AM to 7PM,” says Becker. “For the folks who are avid listeners and still want access to WRAS, they can get that through the still digital format.”

Chris Shattuck, former editor of GSU’s newspaper, does not think that is good enough. “By removing the analog signal from the cars and homes from people during the day, you’re effectively killing the power and the influence of the station,” says Shattuck. “But really what it comes down to is, should public radio substitute student radio? And I think really those experiences and the roles that those play in the media landscape of Atlanta are fundamentally different.”

Shattuck considers the change an assault on all student media at GSU. He says students had no idea of the planned partnership until the contracts were signed.

President Becker’s response to the backlash on and off campus: “We’ll weather this. People get upset when there’s change.”

The change is scheduled to start in early June.