For the first time in Georgia Public Broadcasting’s 54-year history, the station will enter the Atlanta radio market. GPB will make its debut on Atlanta airways this June through a programming partnership with Georgia State University station, WRAS 88.5.
Teya Ryan, GPB’s President and CEO, made the announcement Tuesday morning during an all-staff meeting.
‘We are very proud to be in partnership with GSU,” said Ryan.
GPB will offer its news and talk public radio programming from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m., seven days a week. Georgia State students will continue to broadcast their programming between 7 p.m. and 5 a.m. University students will also be able to continue Album 88, the student radio station, through an online live stream.
According to a news release from GPB, the partnership will include programming completely 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.”
In the press release, Georgia State’s president, Dr. Mark P. Becker, said the pairing of the media organizations would allow both the university and GPB to better serve the Atlanta region and the state.
“This new partnership is a proverbial win-win and opens the door for future collaboration,” said Becker.
“There are so many opportunities for the students to come and learn,” said Ryan. “I expect them to be integrated into our many different units, from marketing to journalism.”
Ryan says Georgia State students will have unprecedented access to GPB’s resources, including one of GPB’s digital television stations where students can showcase their own productions. The plan also includes a weekly student-produced radio newsmagazine about music, which will run on WRAS.
“We hope to create career opportunities for the GSU students,” said Ryan.
This new pairing isn’t going over quite so well with Georgia State students and alums. Tuesday’s announcement sparked an outcry on social media, where supporters of GSU’s student-run radio station started the hashtag #SaveWRAS.
Akiem Bailum was one of them. Bailum, who will be a senior at Georgia State University this summer, says he found out about the WRAS programming switch on Twitter.
“When this first broke that GPB would lease airtime, I was floored.” said Bailum. My first thought was ‘how is this going to impact students who have radio shows?’ A lot of students chose GSU for the main purpose of wanting to be on air on 88.5.”
Bailum is heavily involved in student media at Georgia State, where he covers sports for The Signal, Georgia State University’s student-run newspaper. This past semester, he also started covering news for GSU’s news program, The Panther Report. Bailum says he’s aware of the new opportunities the GPB partnership may bring, but he says Georgia State took a step in the wrong direction with this decision.
“Not everyone who majors in communications at GSU wants to go into journalism. For radio people, I don’t think this will be the biggest type of benefit,” said Bailum. “I believe that student media and public media can coexist. But when the interests of the university become so much that they take away opportunities that student media has, it becomes a problem.”
Bailum isn’t the only media student at GSU who was surprised by the news. Chris Shattuck, the outgoing editor-in-chief of The Signal, says he was also shocked.
“This isn’t a partnership. This is a takeover,” said Shattuck. “I know this was a situation that was made unilaterally, without consulting the students. And as big of a supporter as I am of public radio, I can’t stomach the displacement of student radio by public radio.”
Shattuck says he isn’t against equal opportunity partnerships, citing an example of the recent Georgia News Lab, a project between The AJC, WSB-TV, and local Atlanta colleges to increase newsroom diversity
The new partnership between GPB and WRAS will restrict a lot of student DJs to evening and night shows. Shattuck says that restriction reduces drive time which, in turn, takes away a lot of listeners.
“That’s going to have a chilling effect on who applies there,” said Shattuck. “It’s going to change the culture there.”
Earlier Tuesday afternoon, Shattuck tweeted a response to a radio listener who thinks GPB's new Atlanta stream will add diversity to the city's radio market.