(AUDIO) – GSU, WRAS discuss station’s futureFILE PHOTO, May 16,2014: Right to left: Jenny Nesvetailova, Josh Martin, Ana Zimitravich and Alayna Fabricius discuss the results of a meeting with GSU officials. Photo by Dan Whisenhunt
Current and former employees of Georgia State University’s radio station and the president of the university held a private meeting on Friday, May 16 and left optimistic about the station’s future.
The meeting followed days of uproar over GSU’s plans to replace student programming during the day on WRAS 88.5 with content from Georgia Public Broadcasting. Students at the eclectic, quirky station said they weren’t consulted prior to the announcement of the partnership on May 6. If the agreement stands as is, GSU student programming on the FM station will move to 7 pm and 5 am.
Current and former WRAS employees held a press conference after the meeting Friday and said GSU President Mark Becker gained a better appreciation for how the station operates.
“We feel like there is an effort to make this more of a partnership and less of a takeover,” Ana Zimitravich, former general manager of the station, told reporters. “We started the meeting by presenting our strategic plan for the next 10 years, what we hope for WRAS to be in the coming years, and how we think that this could be a greater asset to the university than the current partnership. Although, the administration mentioned that the contract is already done and has been signed, they are taking our concerns into consideration, and we are hopeful.”
Here is an audio recording of the press conference with WRAS employees:
GSU released a statement following the meeting between WRAS and Becker.
“At the request of the Student Government Association (Georgia State University), we met today with the leadership of Georgia State University’s student-programmed radio station, WRAS Album 88 – 88.5FM ATLANTA, to discuss student concerns relating to the recently announced partnership between Georgia State and Georgia Public Broadcasting,” GSU’s statement reads. “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.”
The WRAS employees said Becker was interested in what they had to say and is exploring options about how to better partner with WRAS in the future.
“The future is still uncertain but we do feel more optimistic about the future,” WRAS General Manager Alayna Fabricius said. “And again I am grateful they gave us the professional courtesy and respect that we have established over the past 43 years and met with us to open up this dialogue.”
They also said that Becker clarified the terms of the contract with Georgia Public Broadcasting.
“Our concern has been about the shared time arrangement and the renewal agreement specifically,” Zimitravich said. “The shared time arrangement allows for negotiations to begin within the first 12 months between GPB and GSU to have a shared license with us. They told us that they have no intention of negotiating a shared license with GPB. So we are very relieved about that.”
WRAS employees said the contract is for a 50 year term, but it can be cancelled at any time with a year’s notice. Becker also told them that GSU does not intend to sell the WRAS license.
“He said he sees value in WRAS and that the partnership was made specifically for the TV exposure on GPB between 6 pm and 6 am as an outlet for student programming and for Georgia State University content to be aired on public TV,” Zimitravich said. “So that was the motivation behind this partnership.”
The WRAS employees said they plan to meet with GSU officials again to talk about the next steps. GSU still intends to move forward with the GPB deal, but the WRAS employees are hopeful there will be a change to the contract that will allow the students more influence over WRAS programming.
A few hours after the press conference, WRAS alumni pledged to withhold financial support in response to GSU’s actions.
“Since the administration has not been receptive to the demand by the student body and community at large for the cancellation of the agreement, we The Alumni pledge, from this day forward, to withdraw all of our financial support for GSU as alumni, until such time that the administration completely and irrevocably terminates its contract with GPB with respect to any WRAS interference whatsoever,” the alumni letter says. “We also expect no further interference with any student media moving forward. We vow to make it our mission to solicit all GSU alumni to take the same position.”