College Broadcasters Inc. and the Student Press Law Center are speaking out against a channel-sharing agreement that gave Georgia Public Broadcasting control of Georgia State University’s 88.5 WRAS-FM during daytime hours.
Under the agreement announced May 6, GPB will program the station with news from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. The student organization that until recently controlled all programming will take over nighttime hours.
The announcement surprised and disappointed the station's student hosts, who set up a website to protest the agreement. In letters to the University administration, CBI and SPLC expressed support for the students and denounced the deal, which was made without notifying the programmers.
“CBI believes, and I believe personally, that student ownership is key for these student media outlets, and it’s been taken away from them by all accounts without any discussion or dialogue,” CBI President Greg Weston said in an interview.
In a letter to GSU president Mark P. Becker, SPLC Executive Director Frank D. LoMonte criticized in particular the secrecy of the deal, which was not made public until after the contract was signed.
“To say that you did not consult the campus community before making the decision because you knew that the community would react badly is the approach of a 16-year-old sneaking out the window of his family’s house after curfew,” LoMonte said in his letter.
University officials have repeatedly pointed to the benefits to students from the partnership with GPB, which include access to GPB’s television stations.
“Having been unable to meet surging student demand for TV and film production training given facilities and equipment constraints on our main campus, access to GPB means we can add classes taught in their state-of-the-art studios,” said David Cheshier, chair of GSU’s communications department.
CBI acknowledged the partnership's possible benefits but said it opposed the deal because students have lost the educational opportunity of controlling a station.
“While partnerships with professional broadcasters can provide some benefits to students, nothing can replicate the experiential education offered to students who control their own student media outlets,” the CBI Board of Directors said in their statement. “Therefore, we cannot support any deal or this agreement that takes student broadcasting out of student hands.”