After WRAS deal, student opportunities under Georgia Public Media provide no unique benefits, former staffer says

GEORGIA — A partnership with Georgia Public Media will not provide any specific benefits for student deejays at the university, members of the WRAS-FM student radio station said after a meeting with officials from the university and the state media network.

Douglass Covey, GSU’s vice president for student affairs, said during the Oct. 28 meeting that student deejays could produce a weekly show that GPB would broadcast during its airtime, along with taking advantage of internship opportunities. But GPB and GSU officials were unable to explain how these opportunities differ from what students were previously able to do before the partnership, said former WRAS General Manager Anastasia Zimitravich, who attended.

In May, the university officials announced a contract with GPB, under which student deejays were told that 14 hours of their airtime on WRAS-FM would be sold to GPB for $150,000 for the first two years of the partnership and a minimum of $100,000 in the succeeding years. The deal was reached without input from students or the public.

The Oct. 28 meeting was the first opportunity students had to meet with Teya Ryan, Georgia Public Broadcasting’s president and chief executive, since the deal was announced on May 6. The students requested the meeting, Zimitravich said, because they wanted to know why the university agreed to sell WRAS daytime programming and they wanted to know what opportunities the agreement would offer students.

Zach Lancaster, president of Album 88 Alumni, a group of former student deejays who worked at WRAS and oppose the agreement with GPB, attended the meeting and said the meeting was students’ attempt at a “diplomatic discussion.”

But now, students are open to all other avenues, including legal action, he said.

“The university has shown they have no interest in being diplomatic, that they have no interest in working with students,” he said.

According to the agreement, students deejays are able to broadcast on the FM station between 7 p.m. and 5 a.m., broadcast 24 hours a day on a live online stream and have an HD channel, which wasn’t functioning properly at the time of the broadcast switchover June 29.

In a statement, Ryan, the GPB president and chief executive, said she believed the meeting was positive and looks forward to working with the students. However, many of the students disagreed.

“We wanted to see if they really considered this a partnership where if we wanted to negotiate some terms they would be open to those terms, as you would be in a business partnership,” Zimitravich said, “and they were not.”

SPLC staff writer Anna Schiffbauer can be reached by email or at (703) 807-1904 ext. 127.