Georgia State University President Mark Becker met with WRAS staffers Friday for the first time since he decided to let Georgia Public Broadcasting handle most of the programming on the student-run radio station.
On the surface, the meeting went very, very well. Both sides called it positive and productive, but if you dig deeper you'll find out that both sides have very different ideas of what's to become of WRAS.
"They're exploring their options of how we could work together," said Josh Martin.
It might have been the most outside media ever inside GSU's student run radio station, Album 88, since its debut 43 years ago. They gathered for a rare news conference as staffers shared what happened in a closed door meeting with President Becker.
Becker issued this statement after Friday's meeting:
"At the request of the Student Government Association, we met today with the leadership of Georgia State University's student-programmed radio station, WRAS, to discuss student concerns relating to the recently announced partnership between Georgia State and Georgia Public Broadcasting. We had a highly positive and productive meeting and agreed to work with them to explore options. We are committed to addressing the concerns that have been expressed so we can move forward together to pursue what is best for Georgia State and our community."
"They seem to care whether WRAS is happy with this deal which is the most important thing," said Anastasia Zimitravich.
To stay happy students want two things. First, to keep the student run station in control of students, not its new partner, GPB.
"To keep the student run aspect so that we don't feel like we're losing out," explained Alayna Fabricious.
"No where in this agreement does it say that the students would not be able to program the station. It's been a student programmed station for 43 years," countered Dr. Doug Covey, VP of Student Affairs.
The WRAS staff's other hope is to keep Album 88 on the air 24/7.
GSU will gain access to GPB's resources through one of GPB's digital television stations to showcase student productions and other GSU 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. GSU's home football games will continue to be broadcast live on the station.
We asked Covey, "Could the radio station get more airtime?"
"We're looking at some technical things that make impact in how we operated this agreement. No promises were made," he said.
GSU feels the deal offers students a valuable television partnership for training. WRAS staffers feel that makes their station a bartering chip that they believe has proven valuable for training broadcasters on its own.
GSU and WRAS staffers vowed to meet again, working together to find compromise.
We asked Covey, "Is there any chance the students efforts can change the deal?"
"The University is in a contractual with Georgia Public Broadcasting and we will honor that," he said.
That contract to change the airwaves goes in to effect June 2.
Meanwhile a group of former WRAS DJs and GSU graduates have formed a movement being spread online with the hashtag "#SaveWRAS."
"We are not sure that the administration is really going to budge, and we will keep on rallying the alums to be the students' voice since they are in a tough place," said former station manager Jez de Wollf.
Staffers at WRAS also presented a 10-year plan to the university on Friday. It aspires to give WRAS national exposure by expanding the station's reach creatively and through its webstream. Potential projects include fundraising to create a more secure budget, and the creation of a music show similar to "Austin City Limits." The plan points to a broadcasting template in place at KEXP 90.3 in Seattle. That station is run in pary by students at the University of Washington and could serve as a model for the future of WRAS.