Stop Crying about GPB’s WRAS 88.5 Deal (an Editorial)

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Some of our millenial friends have expressed outrage that Georgia Public Broadcasting has brokered a deal with 88.5 WRAS to provide public radio broadcasting during daytime hours. Radio staff have complained that they were not welcome in talks between GPB and station ownership, and in fact, some station supporters have called for a boycott of GPB.

How strange that you weren’t consulted in a business deal regarding businesses that you do not own and will be leaving as soon as you collect your accounting degree! And let’s not forget, college aged kids, you already boycott radio. It is dying a death that no one hears.

To be fair, you didn’t kill radio. The MP3 did that during my generation’s heyday. But when was the last time you pulled up your listen-to-fm-radio iPhone or Android app? Never, because phones don’t have an FM tuner. Why would they? Did Brutus own a statue of Caesar? [Commenter known only as “Me” points out that Android devices do have FM tuners -Ed]

You’d think the generation who is rightfully angry that the war on drugs is so slow to dissolve, who are justifiably mystified that marriage equality still eludes us here in Georgia, might be able to weather change a little better. But nope! Your newfangled Instavines and FaceTweets are just as quick to fly blindly to outrage as your parents societies are.

Let’s all just calm down. WRAS will still be broadcasting student programming from 7pm to 5am. I’d bet that’s when millenials are most likely to listen anyway. And students will get to rub elbows with the people at GPB, which is a huge boon for them, because the GPB staff all have resumes as long as your arm. Just take a quick look at who works there and where they’ve been before. You might be glad to share a mic with them, and if you’re not, you don’t deserve to.

20 COMMENTS

  1. As one of the millennials (1983) maybe I’m in the minority. WABE is my
    listening choice when driving to work and then after 9 when they switch to
    Second Cup Concerts or when I’m working from home and need some good and
    different music in the background. When attending GSU, WRAS was where I got all
    of my music, I’ve been exposed to more and different kinds of music on WRAS
    than anywhere else, whether that is Pandora, Spotify, iTunes, the local Clear
    Channel stations or others. I recently purchased and installed a new stereo in
    my car just to get HD radio in addition to the standard SD radio so that I
    could have better quality reception of my favorite stations in my car.

    I’m all for GBP co-producing some content or even just doing some content on
    their own on WRAS. As a part of GSU, the students who run/operate the station
    should have been involved, even if they are leaving in a few years. WRAS is a
    legacy of the student body, not some external entity that just gets funds from
    GSU. It’s funded by student fees, so the students that are trusted to run it
    should be involved, even if, at the end of the day, the decision still comes
    down to the administration saying “well, this is what we think is best, so this
    is the way forward”.

    If we had my way (when does that ever happen? probably never) GPB wouldn’t have
    a 14 hour block explicitly devoted to their programming. Instead they would
    have a few segments that they either produced themselves or co-produced. Say
    the 5-9a block is GPB programming, the 9-11 block is music, the 11-1 block is
    more GPB content, then 1-3, etc. This way we get the local news/NPR/PRI/etc
    that GBP is there to provide, but we also keep some of WRAS’s identity.

    I love WRAS, WABE, and GPB. My listening habits will change with the loss of my
    day block of non-classical music programming, but I won’t love any of the three
    less. Change happens, even if it’s not what I want, but I am surely going to
    miss my music.

  2. Love the article, but I just wanted to point out that Androids do have an actual FM tuner (that uses the headphone cord as an antenna). I actually use mine for GPB :)

  3. What a complete load of crap! Go do some research before talking out of your a**. You do realize that 88.5’s listeners span all ages and generations right and not just millennials? I graduated from GSU ten years ago and 88.5 is still my go to station for great new music. The same goes for thousands of listeners in the Atlanta area.

    • I am 50 and never went to GSU and listen to the station every day, on analog FM. I am pissed at the shot sighted ness of the University management.

      Thomoz

    • Yup, 43 here and WRAS is also my station of choice for music (along with WABE for talk/classical). There is simply no other music station in Atlanta worth listening to, and the streaming options are nowhere near as good.

  4. Please go do some research. You do realize that 88.5′s listeners span all ages and generations right and not just millennials? I graduated from GSU ten years ago and 88.5 is still my go to station for great new music. The same goes for thousands of listeners in the Atlanta area.

  5. The school may own the license, but the station is paid for by students and has been completely run by student volunteers for 43 years. Yeah, fuck us if we want a say in the future of our STUDENT organization.

    Hot damn! We get a chance to meet with GPB employees? As if applying for a GPB internship wasn’t available prior to this takeover…

    Great argument, by the way, about how my generation supports social change. Clearly we just want change to happen, regardless of what it is, so we should be ecstatic about this. Yeah, okay. Somebody passed on that Critical Thinking course, didn’t they?

    • Hey, wait. Are you being sarcastic? Because a cynical person might think you utterly missed the point I was making because you were too ragey to get what I am saying.

      But I know you wouldn’t do that, Lauryn. Then you’d just be proving the point I was trying to make. Wouldn’t that be weird?

      Cool passive aggressive link in your comment. Totally got me! No kidding. I clicked.

  6. As a public university funded in part by tax dollars, it seems odd to call GSU a “business.” It also seems that GSU ought to be acting in the interest of said public, and in particular, GSU students and the metro Atlanta area. This deal does not serve the interest of either of those groups, no matter how much you feel Atlanta needs two NPR stations. Had GSU (or GPB) been more open about their desire to make this deal, the public could have weighed in before a legally binding agreement was met. And, as we have seen, the public’s opinion is overwhelmingly that this does not serve it’s best interest.

    For the record, for the last 15 years, I have almost exclusively listened to WRAS before 7pm, and only on the analog station. It’s always been that way for me since well before I owned an MP3 player. I listened to CDs at home, and WRAS in the car. That’s how it is for nearly every listener.

    • Hey, thanks for your comment. I appreciate that you took the time. We’ve gotten a number of very nasty ones so far, which makes yours stand out for its decency.

      The thing that bothers me most about this whole deal is the supporters of WRAS seem to feel that the will of parties who are not stakeholders in a decision should be able to override the will of people who are. That is not how our system works.

      No group should be able to tell anyone what to do simply because they are a large enough group, given that everyone involved is acting lawfully, of course. The “save WRAS” battle cry is a good one because it plays very well. It sounds very good. But if you look at the deal, it’s easy to see that WRAS isn’t going anywhere. It doesn’t need saving. It isn’t going away!

      Besides which, the time to support WRAS was in the last 40 plus years. Jumping on the bandwagon now (present company excluded if we agree that you yourself are an ardent fan), is too little too late. But the good news is that GPB’s programing will certainly be beholden to the very same laws of economics that WRAS was, even if the students who ran it thought they were exempt.

      Simply put, if, as you say, Atlanta doesn’t need two NPR stations, GPB will either change their programming or be kicked off WRAS. Things that are not good do not get to sit on valuable assets forever.

      And no, GSU does not have to act in the interest of the public. It, like all entities, has to act in the interest of itself, which means educating students properly so that they continue to attend, paying teachers enough that they’ll continue to teach, and managing whatever assets it has so that they are not depleted.

      As I said above, I honestly do not see what the WRAS supporters are up in arms about, except that they have a desire to be outraged and a mistaken belief that it is okay for a mob to tell lawfully acting persons what to do. It is not. And even if it is an unpopular one, my opinion is that the mob is wrong, especially given that working with GPB to produce content would probably be a lot of fun and maybe even more professionally relevant than the current situation.

      • WRONG!!! it’s a sell out. you’re WRAS WILL NOT BE THE SAME. IF it was such a democratic organization, why did it do this under the table? Why not public hearings? Then people like you can have your 15 minutes and the rest of us can have ours. WRAS is student run and that is empowering, it is not empowering to be dominated by another. no matter how supposedly nice they are. We have enough money in the dissent to buy out all the advertising for your point of view…there’s plenty of white men in suits blabbering about how this is a GOOD thing. WE don’t need you cheerleaders repeating their bogus claims. The students built the station and made it what it is, it’s not right for anyone to come along and steal it from them.
        “No group should tell anyone what to do..” duh. That’s what just happened!!!! The others are trying to get a voice. Thanks for stifling it.

  7. “Some of our millenial friends have expressed outrage…”

    Reading the discussions taking place, I’ve found that millennials are not alone here. Boomers and GenXers–both alumni and not–are saddened and dismayed at this deal. Some of these are folks who DJed at WRAS while they were in school, some are simply people who have lived in Atlanta for decades and value what the station brings to the airwaves. Making this into a generational issue is a tidy way to frame your argument, but it simply doesn’t reflect reality.

    “Radio staff have complained that they were not welcome in talks between GPB and station ownership…”

    This implies that they had foreknowledge of said talks at all. This is a mischaracterization of what the proceedings actually were, which is secret. As recently as 2007, GPB publicly approached Georgia Tech about leasing time on WREK, and there was an open discussion among all interested parties–not just the people who held the purse strings–and the proposal was ultimately rejected.

    “How strange that you weren’t consulted in a business deal regarding businesses that you do not own…”

    I’ll echo Crying’s comment above that regarding GSU or WRAS as a business seems wrong. It’s a public university and the station is an educational tool, and one which has always been operated by students. As well, characterizing that work as just something these kids do until they can walk away with their completely unrelated degree is incredibly dismissive of the experience of being given total responsibility for the programming and operation of a 100,000 watt radio station, of the relationships that are built in that environment and the networking that takes place with industry professionals (which is partially due to WRAS’ reputation as one of the best college radio stations in the country). Erica Jamison, former DJ and owner of the MINT Gallery, wrote a piece for CNN.com which articulates that experience nicely: http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-1130377

    You are right—the station is not going away entirely, but to have fourteen hours of programming time taken off of terrestrial radio without being consulted or notified is not something any student should be expected to take passively. As to the listening audience, having that portion of the day moved to internet streaming throws up a big roadblock to those who don’t consume media that way. You can listen to the radio for hours while sitting in Atlanta traffic without worrying about hitting your monthly data cap because you’ve been streaming radio on your phone as you crawl down the connector.

    Saying that the time to support the station was then rather than hopping on the bandwagon now is almost nonsensical. We supported the station by listening to it. It’s a non-commercial station which was never expected to make money or compete for ratings. And it was never in peril in the previous forty years, so I’m not even certain what it is you’re saying. Should the WRAS listening audience have always behaved as if the station were going off the air? You seem to be implying that no one listened and now all of a sudden a city full of people are being indignant for no reason. I’m not sure how to respond to that kind of incredulity except to say that you’re wrong, people listen to the radio station.

    You are right—important decisions shouldn’t be left up to mobs, nor do mobs have a right to destroy things just because they don’t like them. But characterizing thousands of people voicing dismay, signing petitions, printing stickers, and discussing how to save this thing they care for as a mob is uncharitable at best. In 1974, when Southern Bell approached the owners of the dilapidated Fox Theatre about razing the building to build their new headquarters, there was a massive public outcry and campaign to save the theater. That groundswell of public support is what convinced the city to refuse a demolition permit and that is why we still have that amazing piece of Atlanta’s culture and why it is designated as a national historic landmark. Would you characterize that group of concerned citizens as a mob? Would you have argued that those people shouldn’t have been stupid enough to let the theater fall into disrepair in the first place and to shut up, stop crying, and stand aside while the folks with the money ran roughshod over the city skyline?

    I really do take issue with your tone. You’re a writer, you know your words have meanings beyond their simple definitions and that tone and context inform them. You’ve written an editorial here—in a jarring tonal shift from the normal satire and comedy writing this site normally hosts—which is brusque and combative and dismissive. And that’s all fine. Do what you want with your website. But with the atmosphere of support being rallied around WRAS, you had to know that response to this would be defensive and angry. You wrote an article condescending to people who care about a thing, a thing many of them have put years of their life into and when, surprising no one, they told you to fuck off, you told them to be polite. As if you’d made some neutral good-faith argument. As if you weren’t being willfully provocative. That’s a dick move.

    • Thanks for your comment. I think I’ve said nearly everything I want to say about this whole thing. I don’t really care one way or the other what happens, I just think the way the supporters are approaching the situation is wrong.

      You’re right that “mob” has a negative connotation, but I think what the “group” is up to is negative.

  8. Disagree with the editorial.

    Yes lots of us are opposed to the gutting of WRAS. It’s an Atlanta, hell a Georgia, institution. Far from the treatment it is getting, it should be celebrated as the leader that it is.

    What’s the value of a nationally acclaimed radio station versus, say, a winless football team? Which does more for the national reputation of the school? Most supporters are not Johnny-Come-Latelys and there are many loyal supporters because of what this station has meant in the lives of many people.

    Cheers! :)

  9. Just to set ya straight my listener profile:
    43
    Native Atlantian
    UGA grad
    Listener since 1980

    You are missing the point of student radio it is the broadcast experience.

  10. I firmly disagree with this editorial. I am 48 years old and have listened almost exclusively to WRAS since 1979. This station is not just important to students, but is also has a large consistent listener base. These are people who want to hear new music and not have to deal with the force fed content from commercial Clear Channel run stations from an equally bland record industry.

    Sure enough, the station is going to still be broadcasting digitally during the day, which is when I do most of my listening. Sure I have a phone that will receive that digital streaming, but ATT throttles you if you go over a certain data amount. It doesn’t take much to reach the limit either. So that is not going to work. I can’t stream music at work either, when I usually have the station tuned in.

    GSU President, Mark Becker, has stated that digital is the way to go. He says that it is preferable to the analog signal, so the students are getting the better part of the deal. Really? If digital is so much more preferable to analog, and is the wave of the future, then why doesn’t GPB run with a digital, streaming, signal instead of ostensibly taking away a fine radio station from a loyal public? If digital is so great, then why did they pay to take the signal during the day? Streaming digital content is, from what I understand, much cheaper than broadcasting analog.

    The students and the listeners are getting the shaft.

  11. A couple points to add here:

    – this deal has nothing to do with “going digital” or “partnership.” Mark Becker won’t say this, but Georgia State has been trying to give WRAS to GPB for over a decade, and probably more. When I was a Graveyard DJ ten years ago, it was stressed many times that we needed to be on our best behavior so as to never give the administration an excuse to make this deal. I guess they got tired of waiting.

    – It is naive to think GSU will continue to allow WRAS to spin b/w 7 and 5 for very long. There’s a reason “give an inch, take a foot” is a saying. It is a sad but true fact that WRAS’s days as an FM station are numbered.

    – And while it’s technically true that the students do not “own” the station, it is also nothing like a business. In fact, much of it is paid for through student fees. To say they (we) have no hand in this is wrong. it’s also worth noting that it is the students who have made this such an attractive piece of radio property. Had it not been for the students in charge of 88.5, this current administration would not even have airwaves to sale.

    It is IN SPITE of the efforts of the ADMIN that 88.5 has remained a major part of modern Atlanta’s culture, not the other way around.

  12. You’re clearly ignorant about broadcasting. 7pm-5am are dead listening hours. Peak times are the drive-time slots, both of which GPB gets in the deal. It makes no sense from their perspective, since GPB programming airs all day just a few ticks left on the dial…unless they’re seeking to destroy creative competition, something they better not admit.

    You suggest student volunteers will get valuable intern-like experience in public broadcasting, but GPB hasn’t committed to anything on paper- by now, if they had plans to offer education and training to students, they would have said so.

    The University is the agency listed on the broadcasting license, but it was paid for by tuition and student fees, *and it is not a commercial license*. Students *do* own the station. This was not a private transaction between two CEOs. Free market had nothing to do with it. Save your self-righteousness for another issue.

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