Georgia State University announced Friday that it is searching for a new FM frequency for student-hosted music programs, which will soon be cut from daytime hours on GSU's WRAS-FM.
Starting Sunday, GSU will air public radio news and talk programming provided by Georgia Public Broadcasting from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m., replacing the student music shows. The agreement, announced May 6, has drawn criticism from GSU students and WRAS fans.
In its announcement, the university said it has hired engineers and media consultants to look into broadcasting the student-produced content on an FM translator. That idea was first suggested by a group of WRAS supporters known as Album 88 Alumni in a proposal sent to the university Wednesday.
The deal between GSU and GPB included providing a 24-hour HD Radio stream for the student station, but few people own the radios needed to pick up the digital signals. A translator, however, can pick up the digital signal, convert it to analog and broadcast it on a frequency close to 88.5 FM.
Though GSU did agree to look into using a translator, it turned down the alumni group's suggestion to broadcast GPB content on the lower-power signal rather than the student shows.
The alumni group calls the move by the university a step in the right direction. But members would still prefer that GSU students continue to be heard on the stronger signal. “This is a chance for GPB to get access to the Atlanta market, which is what they want; they’ll get a chance to do that with the low-power frequency,” Album 88 Alumni spokesperson Reid Laurens said. “They’re going to get more listeners either way, so they don’t have to take listeners from WRAS.”
Album 88 Alumni also suggested organizing internship opportunities for students, a one-on-one mentoring program and an alumni networking programs. The alums say their proposal would benefit students more than the internships and television-studio access that GPB promised in their contract.
Earlier this week, WRAS partnered with College Radio Day, an organization that advocates for college radio internationally, to air an hourlong program June 26 titled We Are WRAS. Fifty-three college radio stations in 25 states simulcast the program, which documented the station's history, featuring archival recordings and interviews with current and former station leaders. Listeners also heard excerpts from the station's first broadcast in 1971 and promotional recordings by musicians such as George Harrison and Outkast.
Local backlash against the WRAS switchover continues, with a group named Defend WRAS organizing a Sunday protest at Atlanta’s Hurt Park. A Facebook event page has garnered 350 potential attendees.