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Monday, June 2, 2014

WRAS alumni form nonprofit to keep station student run, force cancellation of GPB-GSU contract

A group of Georgia State University alumni are ramping up their fight to keep WRAS 88.5 FM's tradition of independent, student-run programming intact by demanding the cancellation of the station's controversial format switch.

As part of growing opposition against GSU's deal with Georgia Public Broadcasting, several graduates have formed a new organization called "Album 88 Alumni" that plans to fund select station initiatives, help preserve WRAS' history, promote awareness about the #SaveWRAS movement, and better connect past and present station DJs though a series of events.

"Our main goal is the same as GSU President Mark Becker's," Album 88 Alumni President Zachary Lancaster said in a statement. "We want to give GSU students who work at WRAS the best possible opportunities to learn about radio, music production and broadcasting. But we believe giving most of the daily broadcast hours to GPB will reduce, not expand, the opportunities for students to learn. For 43 years, Album 88 has represented a unique format in Atlanta, which GSU's contract with GPB would silence and replace with talk radio content in a market already saturated with such programming."

Last month, GSU President Mark Becker and GPB CEO Teya Ryan announced a multi-year, $150,000 partnership that would give the state media network control of a 14-hour daily programming block from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. The format switch, which last week was postponed until June 29, would replace a variety of student programming with a mix of local and national news shows. WRAS student DJs would be left to broadcast each evening and early morning for the remaining 10 hours, plus have 24-hour control over the station's Internet radio stream. In exchange, GPB has offered GSU students "unprecedented access" to its television studios and expanded internship opportunities.

"The small number of GPB internships mentioned in the contract should have been offered to GSU students with no strings attached, and not in exchange for access to WRAS's broadcast signal," Lancaster said.

Album 88 Alumni says it's filing to become an official 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. That IRS designation would allow people to make tax-deductible contributions to help fund their efforts. The nonprofit's board includes Lancaster, Lee Morin, Victoria Rey, Jez de Wolff, Gail Harris, and Reid Laurens.

The group's members hope to meet with Becker to express their opposition to the contract and seek its cancellation. If that doesn't happen, Album 88 Alumni will pursue "alternate means" to force the end of the agreement.

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