Georgia Public Broadcasting Will Hit Atlanta Airwaves on WRAS

WRASlogo2010The news hit today that Georgia Public Broadcasting will soon begin a radio partnership with Georgia State University’s WRAS 88.5 FM.  In a press release, GPB said “GPB Radio and Georgia State will share the broadcast schedule on WRAS, with GPB offering public radio programming on WRAS daily from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. 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.” The full content of the press release is below.

The plus side of this is that WRAS will offer NPR and other public radio programming that hasn’t been airing on WABE (the existing NPR station in Atlanta).  WABE airs a block of classical music locally that pre-empts much of the national programming.  Some of that will likely air on WRAS.  GPB has for many years been broadcasting all over the state, with metro Atlanta the big hole in their broadcast map.  But many of people (myself included) have always wished we could hear their great news programming locally.

It’ll be interesting if we see this new station drawing some radio talent from other news radio stations in the market. There are lot of former CNN Radio folks around as well, so maybe we’ll see some of them over there.

On the down side of this announcement today, it seems from initial reports that the GSU students at WRAS weren’t told of this in advance and are very unhappy with losing much of their daytime programming.  Several alumni have also voiced their opinions.

One alum wrote on PeachPundit.com: “Now Atlantans have lost one of the best radio stations in the country and possibly the world. Instead of cutting-edge new music that can’t be easily found, we’re getting programming available from literally dozens of other outlets, all available with the click of a mouse. Just what we needed!”

A statement from WRAS staff and management is below.

I’ve contacted several folks in the radio business to get their expert opinions on this deal and will add to this blog posting later tonight or tomorrow.

Full Press Release from GPB:

For Immediate Release

May 6, 2014

GEORGIA PUBLIC BROADCASTING ENTERS THE ATLANTA RADIO MARKET IN HISTORIC PARTNERSHIP WITH GEORGIA STATE UNIVERSITY

Georgia Public Broadcasting (GPB) will make its long-awaiteddebut on the Atlanta radio airwaves this Junethrough a programming partnership with Georgia State University station WRAS 88.5 FM. The new alliance was announced today (May 6) at GPB’s Atlanta headquarters by GPB President and CEO Teya Ryan.

GPB Radio and Georgia State will share the broadcast schedule on WRAS, with GPB offering public radio programming on WRAS daily from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. 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.

Daytime radio broadcasting of Album 88, the student radio station, will be streamed live online. Georgia State also will have unprecedented access to GPB’s resources through one of GPB’s digital television stations to showcase student productions and other Georgia State content from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. each day. Plans also include a student produced weekly half-hour magazine radio program about music. Georgia State’s home football games will continue to be broadcast live on the station.

The partnerships call for GPB’s programming schedule to be dedicated to news and information. The programming will be a mix of nationally produced programs from public radio providers, including National Public Radio (NPR), Public Radio International (PRI) and American Public Media (APM), and locally produced news programming to include a local talk show anticipated to begin in fall 2014.

“This new partnership is a proverbial win-win and opens the door for future collaboration,” said Dr. Mark P. Becker, Georgia State president. “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.”

The daily public radio programming on WRAS marks the first time in GPB’s 54-year history the network has been able to enter the Atlanta radio market.

Known for its superior radio news and information coverage statewide, GPB will bring the same quality programming to the Atlanta market. GPB serves public television and radio audiences across Georgia with nine television stations and 17 radio stations.

 “The programming partnership between GPB and Georgia State will give us the opportunity to provide the highly desired all-news and information public radio schedule not previously available to Atlantans during the most important radio hours” Ryan said.

GPB will also use the talents and resources of its award-winning reporters and bureaus across the state to generate news and information programming.

GPB’s newly developed programming partnership with Georgia State is the latest relationship it has forged with a university affiliate. GPB partners with Mercer University through their Center for Collaborative Journalism, and the Macon radio station is on the Mercer campus. Other affiliations include GPB’s Augusta station on the campus of Georgia Regents University, GPB Athens on the campus of the University of Georgia, GPB Savannah at Armstrong Atlantic State University and a Carrolton station on the campus of the University of West Georgia.

“At our core, GPB is an educational institution,” Ryan said. “This partnership will provide statewide recognition for the university, and provide enormously exciting opportunities for Georgia State students. We look forward to working with professors and students in creating both radio and television programming. In addition to our radio presence, our network of nine television stations and vast digital offerings will provide students with the chance to learn about the growing emphasis on multi-platform journalism and collaborate with our award-winning reporters and producers.”

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Official Statement from WRAS Management & Staff on GPB Amalgamation

Today, May 6, 2014, WRAS management and staff were informed that the university has struck a deal with Georgia Public Broadcasting. According to representatives from central GSU administration, this deal will begin a 2-year contract that will increase GSU’s presence on the GPB statewide network of affiliate stations. With this new deal, programming on WRAS 88.5 FM will consist of GPB programming from 5 AM to 7 PM. WRAS programming will fill the 7 PM to 5 AM time range on the analog station (88.5 FM), but will air around the clock on our HD FM stream along with our online stream. WRAS Atlanta Album 88 is a 100,000-watt student-run and managed radio station that has been operating from downtown Atlanta since 1971. Prior to the announcement, neither members of staff nor management were informed of – nor given the opportunity to discuss – the decision that was made public today.

Although WRAS’ first on-air broadcast took place on January 18, 1971, its roots reach back to the mid-1960s, when GSU was still known as Georgia State College. On November 12, 1969, Georgia State University – which had only recently attained its University status on September 10, 1969 – officially filed with the FCC as a radio broadcasting station on 88.5 FM. In February of 1970, the FCC granted a permit allowing for WRAS to begin its operations at 19,500 watts, for which two small studios were utilized within what was, at the time, GSU’s Student Center (and is currently its University Center).

In 1974, WRAS aired Atlanta’s first live “Quadrophonic,” broadcast together with WREK, employing a short-lived technology which provided listeners with two front and two rear channels of sound. WRAS quickly championed and upheld its reputation for being among the most influential and professionally run student stations in the nation. While most other college stations had poor training, sparse technical facilities and little knowledge of programming, Georgia State students produced a progressive sound so popular that it influenced format decisions down the dial at the commercial stations as well. WRAS has continued this trend into the new millennium, ensuring that quality programming coincides with discovering unheard music and maintaining professional relationships throughout the music industry and the Atlanta community as a whole.

While we regret the decision greatly, know that neither WRAS staff nor management had any part of this change. Acting unilaterally as the FCC licensee, Georgia State University administration has chosen this route with stated goals of increasing listenership and generating a positive partnership between the institution and GPB. The staff of WRAS was met with surprise by this announcement for two reasons. First, up until the announcement was made this morning, WRAS staff was never of the understanding that our ratings mattered. As a college radio station, the mission of our station has never been to make the rich richer or to give airtime to mainstream music. This being true, we have never been concerned about ratings nor were we aware that the administration was until this morning. Our interests, instead, were delivering quality and diverse music to our listeners and supplying an alternative to mainstream radio.

 

Secondly, the support we have received throughout the decades from the GSU and Atlanta communities has been overwhelming. It is because of this consistent support that we have never even questioned our ratings or stature among listeners. We as a staff and family are devastated by this decision that we had no say or part in. While we understand our programming will persist mostly via online streaming and HD FM, this completely disrupts our mission: to provide top-grade programming that allows our listeners to connect via discovering new music. We feel that with these changes, we will face a diminished listenership and overall decline in quality of our station.

We as a staff are deeply saddened and want to apologize for these changes that, again, are completely out of our control. As mentioned before, the university will assess the contract again in two years and determine where to move forward from there. Since this move is driven so much by listenership, we cannot guarantee how the university will act in the future. This could mean that we either revert back to our original format, stay in the partnership with GPB, or perhaps even switch WRAS over to 24/7 GPB programming. Whatever the case is for the future, we appreciate the listenership and love we have been showered with over the years. If you want to voice any concerns, please contact that powers that be directly: Andrea Jones (Assoc. VP of PR & Marketing) can be reached at 404-413-1351, Mark Becker (President) 404-413-1300, or Dr. Douglass Covey (VP of Student Affairs) at 404-413-1500. Can also be reached via email: andreajones@gsu.edu, mbecker@gsu.edu, or dcovey@gsu.edu.

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