Posted: 2:27 pm Wednesday, July 2nd, 2014

WABE chairman blasts GSU/GPB partnership with WRAS 

By Rodney Ho

WABE's current logo

WABE’s current logo

In an open letter released today, Louis Sullivan, chairman of Public Broadcasting Atlanta’s board of directors, blasted the Georgia State University partnership which allows Georgia Public Broadcasting to use its 88.5/WRAS-FM’s airwaves for public radio news and talk programming 90 hours a week.

That deal went into effect this past Sunday.

Sullivan wrote that this is “bad public policy—fiscally, substantively, and procedurally.  This transaction should be revisited by the parties and it should be significantly modified or rescinded.”

Read the entire letter here.

WABE-FM airs a mix of classical music and public radio programming such as “Morning Edition,” “This American Life” and “Fresh Air.”

About 64 percent of GPB’s programming is the same programming offered by WABE on its 90.1 FM airwaves. Sullivan calls this “an unwarranted duplication of service.  It is a waste of Georgia’s tax dollars that could be better allocated elsewhere.”

Sullivan also notes that GPB is heavily taxpayer subsidized. That is not the case with WABE. While Atlanta Public Schools owns WABE, the station is largely self sufficient, with minimal reliance on APS.

“(A)t best, what can be gleaned from GPB’s financial statements is that, in 2013, GPB received $13.4 million in state appropriations, some 47% of its annual operating budget. By contrast, PBA operates a $12.6 million budget without any state or local taxpayer dollars for its operations.

GPB logoIndeed, I have studied PBA’s finances over the years and the station has thrived over the past decade. They have a solid balance sheet and were able to grow even during the recession. (They do get a bit more than 10 percent of their budget from the federal government.)

Sullivan also noted the legacy of WRAS and how this arrangement would neuter the station. He pointed out how major WRAS stakeholders were excluded from the negotiation process, including the students themselves. “Had all relevant stakeholders been provided the chance to share their views on this, many of the problems this arrangement presents would have come to light and could have been appropriately factored into a decision,” Sullivan wrote.

wrasHe then cut to the chase: “GPB desires to cut into PBA’s Atlanta community fundraising base.”

While GPB has characterized this has healthy competition, Sullivan sees it differently: “One public broadcasting service using its Georgia taxpayer funded position to undermine the Atlanta community support of another public broadcasting service is irresponsible.”

He said GPB and PBA should be more collaborative, not competitive. (In an interview a few weeks ago, PBA COO John Weatherford told me since Teya Ryan took over GPB, efforts at collaboration between the two organizations have withered.)

Ultimately, he added, “The WRAS agreement is antithetical to the spirit of collaboration and to the stewardship of the limited resources entrusted to us for providing services to the public.”

A GPB spokeswoman said the organization declines to publicly comment about the letter.

Recent stories about the GPB/WRAS arrangement:

6/30: GPB releases WRAS schedule, faces protests

6/27: GSU seeking another FM signal for WRAS, gives students 8 hours back

6/26: WRAS alumni offer alternative to GPB deal

6/7: What does the GPB/GSU radio deal mean for Atlanta?

6/6: GPB release preliminary schedule

5/30: GPB delays GSU deal by a month

5/12: Will protests of GPB/GSU deal work?

5/7: GSU president Mark Becker justifies GPB deal

5/6 GSU announces deal with GPB over WRAS

57 comments
robodawg
robodawg

To have the SAME programming on 88.5 and 90.1 during the commute hours serves no public interest whatsoever. 


WRAS is funded by student fees, is historically a student-run music station, and does what it does well. It should remain student-run. Students, though paying for the radio broadcast, had no input in this decision. (GSU student fees, by the way, are not cheap.)


While 90.1's local news coverage is quite good, I do like the idea of additional NPR programming over Atlanta airwaves. But not thru the shady takeover of a well-run student radio station. Given the importance of Atlanta for fundraising in our state (not to mention GPB's apparent desire to stick it to PBA), this deal smells fishy.

CAC-Bob
CAC-Bob

I've always been jealous of cities like LA, San Francisco, SLC, Boston, DC, etc. that had separate public broadcasting stations for music and for public affairs (full time).  WABE is so focused on classical music that it doesn't cut it for me.  WRAS provides options that weren't available here previously, but it too is lacking when it switches to student music.  I know there is more on the web, but my preference is to listen on ubiquitous FM radio.


WABE and WRAS need to quit feuding and work together to meet the needs of a diverse audience.

mnt
mnt

For what purpose does GPB exist if not to support the efforts of existing public broadcasters in the state? "Competition" is an insane defense when you're talking about using taxpayer funds to duplicate services. GPB should be supporting WABE, not competing with it.

SeanIrish
SeanIrish

Teya Ryan is a "winner take all" type - not known for team playing, unless you're on her team taking all her instructions. Then, yeah.

ludlow2
ludlow2

This arrangement should be rescinded. WRAS's programming was one of Atlanta's biggest cultural assets, and to take it off the air robs the city of one of the few quality radio choices, a major loss for everyone, especially commuters. 

We will refuse to support GSU or GPB until they reverse this bad decision. 

IamJacksConscience
IamJacksConscience

Rodney, you've 'studied PBA's finances over the years'? Really? If so, then the only thing I can come up with is that you're intentionally lying to your readers. 


WABE is the sister station of WPBA in Atlanta. To try to talk about the finances of one while ignoring the other is pretty shady since they are inextricably linked. Combined, they are FAR from self sufficient. In FY 13, AETC (Atlanta Educational Telecommunications Collaborative) - the entity behind the stations, collected $1.4m in public funds at the federal level. It's all in their budget information posted on their website. 

Also, Sullivan outright lied in his letter. According to the budget of Atlanta public schools, AETC got over $100k in funds from the school board in FY13. Again, that's on the APS website.

But you already knew that since you've "studied PBA's finances over the years..." 


Also, if you were any sort of journalist, you'd look at some of the claims made by Sullivan in regards to the funding for GPB and how much of those dollars are for state-mandated programs that WABE/PBA is not equipped to provide. Things like educational programming that's beamed directly into schools via satellite. A significant portion of the money GPB sees from the state government is to pay for state-mandated initiatives and not one cent of it stays within GPB itself.

But you already knew that since you've "studied PBA's finances over the years..."
Are you on the payroll over there? Just wondering. 

Sagebasics
Sagebasics

After listening to 88.5 off and on the last couple of days, I don't think WABE has anything to worry about. During the morning and afternoon periods when the NPR programming is duplicated, WABE's news is outstanding compared to GPB. There is more content. They even do some traffic reports. Steve Goss and Denis O'Hayre do a great job. 

Many have questioned why GBP is duplicating "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered." In other cities that have competing NPR programming during morning and afternoon drive, the station that elects not to carry "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered" have fewer listeners.

I hope WABE continues to program for its listeners who love classical music as well as news and information. 

Put succinctly, the students at Georgia State got screwed by GPB who want the station for only one reason --  prying money from Atlanta area listeners during pledge drives. More than 50 percnet of Georgia's population lives in the 39 county Metro Atlanta Statistical Area.

I don't think WABE's fundraising will be hurt significantly. People can send a message to GPB and the inept administrators at Georgia State by cutting off the anticipated money spigot to GPB and directing their pledge dollars to WABE. Money talks!

JereE
JereE

It would be much better if WABE would stick with playing classicial music only and ditch the NPR drivel.  If GPB wants an NPR station they should start one.  I would much rather support a classical music station than an NPR station anyway

Cayce
Cayce

Sorry, but if WABE had been a real public radio station instead of a classical station that plays a little public radio, this wouldn't be happening.  Dr. Sullivan can say what he wants but WABE is a shameful excuse for an NPR station in a market as large as Atlanta's.  If you've never lived in a market with at least one great public radio station, you might not understand.  But if you have, you were probably stunned when you moved to Atlanta and realized how limited WABE was and immediately subscribed to Sirius.  


Dr. Sullivan is afraid this will be the death knell of his little classical station and he's probably right.

bioprof
bioprof

I totally agree with Dr. Sullivan.  As a professor at GSU I am outraged at how the admin pulled the stataion out from under the students.  The programming, while not really my style as an old geezer, provided welcome diversity to the Atlanta airwaves.  Radio is Atlanta was already a wasteland, why does GSU want to make it worse?  And why alienate the main constituency of the University?  This was a really dictatorial move made in very bad faith.  I hope they reconsider.

BigHat
BigHat

Racist demagogue Nathan "JB Stoner" Deal will do anything despicable and morally bankrupt to create a new plantation society where the landed white elite rules the "urban" types.  Destroy APS/ ABE/ PBA, privatize ATL airport, destroy MARTA, replace all public education with charter (religious) schools, shoot-a-negro-get-a-free-pass" gun laws, whatever it takes to keep "those people" in their place.  WRAS was just a pawn that Deal via the BOR via GSU via GPB could hurt ABE/ APS, and the fact that so many of those "urban" types attend GSU, so what, collateral damage, "those people" shouldn't have any education anyway, only makes them "liberal" and "entitled".  

ReallyAJC
ReallyAJC

He's right if the programming is really duplicative.  BUT, if WABE would ditch classical in favor of music or more news programming then he'd have a case. 

RobertSeaman
RobertSeaman

One less unneeded bomber and we could fund National Public Radio (and with corporate control of most of the media these days--see the Weimar Republic) for the next 20 years; nationwide!

Hank_Hill
Hank_Hill

Does anyone know if GPB tried to go after WRFG?  Admittedly, WRAS was the easiest of the 2 to apprehend since it's owned by a public institution.

Robobby
Robobby

I wish AM 1690 WMLB,"The Voice of the Arts", would have a stronger signal coming out of Avondale Estates because this station is the INCREDIBLE when it comes to variety and depth of music with announcer's who have deep insight and knowledge of music.

waxtex
waxtex

GPB is not making the world a more verdant place by hijacking WRAS!

phillunney
phillunney

This mess is WABE's fault. The fundraising juggernaut that is the Cornerstone Society has forced the continuation of the Classical music format on a station that is licensed to the Atlanta Public Schools.

WABE should be carrying the programming that is being 'forced' on WRAS.

So, let's settle this, put the GPB and NPR programming on WABE, put the classical on a digital channel and give the Cornerstone Society digital radios to hand out to their aging supporters and start serving those who own the license, the students of the Atlanta Public Schools.

Nobody has questioned that WRAS was not serving its base and providing some of the best music programming in Atlanta.



displayname101
displayname101

Maybe ironic that this is a miserable deal for the public.  We already had public radio with WABE.  And if you have satellite radio, even more NPR stations available.  With WRAS, we did have one station where we could hear interesting rock and pop instead of the same mindless drivel the other stations play.

kemo1
kemo1

"If a station as powerful and influential on both a local and national level as WRAS can be gutted, a station whose progressive philosophy was, for decades, synonymous with the urban university that housed it, then all college stations are also at risk. If Rice and Vanderbilt’s stations were the first major dominoes to fall, then WRAS is the biggest — large enough to damage the entire college radio industry. This is the future of college radio, and it’s no future at all."

From Salon.com

http://www.salon.com/2014/06/02/college_radio_is_dying_and_we_need_to_save_it/

Boses
Boses

Radio is dying.  Internet is the future. 

kemo1
kemo1

GPB ought to be ashamed of this whole fiasco. So should GSU - who got next to nothing out of the deal; perhaps AJC needs to look at who personally approved of this - because GSU literally gets nothing out of this. They sold their cultural identity - the very soul of the school - for literally nothing. Just so GPB can duplicate broadcasts and waste taxpayer money. Something stinks...

devildog0300
devildog0300

He just gets around to publishing a letter about it? Where was he weeks ago? 

Scalabrini-Ortiz
Scalabrini-Ortiz

WRAS was a unique cultural institution that was sacrificed - in secret - between the clueless dupes at GSU and the true antichrist at GPB, the horrid Teya Ryan.  Wow, Teya, you're duplicating on WRAS 60% of what is already available on WABE.  How about you take your dogs out for a walk (at work) and think that over?  Surely even a morally bankrupt "administrator" such as yourself can see the folly in this.  I used to turn Album 88 on all day to enjoy the intelligent, eclectic programming.  I will never listen to WRAS as long as you Teya - the radio station killer - Ryan is involved, along with the stultifying programming you've forced on us.  #SAVEWRAS!   #FIRETEYARYAN!


Soccerwmn
Soccerwmn

I smell a "deal" in this mess..

Shar1
Shar1

I stopped giving money to GPB when they built that pointless palace on 14th Street, which they neither needed nor could afford.  Then they sold out and took Chip Rogers off of Nathan Deal's hands and paid him more than anyone else at GPB to do absolutely nothing.  Clearly, they don't need money from the public as all they do is waste it.  Trying to muscle into WABE's territory because they have disgusted and turned off so many of their other viewers is disgusting.  GPB needs to get their own house in order and stop using tax money to undermine functional public broadcasting.

swhaviland352
swhaviland352

I have an idea. Why not replace the six hours of classical music on WABE with the six hours of NPR programming now on WRAS and keep WRAS as the great independent music station that it was? 

That way us NPR fans won't have all that repetition and WABE won't have all that competition. 

drewK
drewK

Teya Ryan.....That is one crazy, self-promoting whack job...hope GPB goes down the drain.

BlindOwl
BlindOwl

Maybe if the kids who were on WRAS were trying to actually get better at the craft of radio and not just stay in school for eight years to play DJ, they'd have more of a leg to stand on. You've got people that have been in school at GSU for 10 YEARS hosting shifts on the station! Is that what these students are "fighting to save"?


Considering WABE is worried about GPB siphoning off listeners, there's not much leg to stand on there either. About the only person I'd really be interested in hearing from in Atlanta media is Richard Belcher, who was the first GM of the station.

cjmarr
cjmarr

YES!!   It is past time that GPB had broadcasting capability in the City of Atlanta.  WABE, subsidized in-kind by the Atlanta Public School system for years (at a substantial cost to city of Atlanta taxpayers for the benefit of people far beyond the borders of the city) has had a 40 mile diameter exclusive broadcasting right.  Most large cities have access to more than one NPR affiliate.  I celebrate that the citizens of Atlanta will finally have an alternative to WABE, which is my opinion provide totally substandard local coverage.  WABE's sole claim to any quality broadcasting is what it streams from NPR or the other major public radio producers.  


I have long been a supporter of GPB, even when I could not listen except through streaming, because I consider GPB programming far superior.

WABE -- get over it.  

SeanIrish
SeanIrish

If this is all GPB can think of, then they're in trouble.

SeanIrish
SeanIrish

@phillunney let's just play Mariah Carey on all the public airwaves, all the time!


Your absolute hatred of classical music is extraordinary, sir. And it shows.

SeanIrish
SeanIrish

@displayname101 "interesting" meaning YOU CAN'T HERE THIS MUSIC ANYWHERE ELSE - 


except perhaps a rare disc shop... which are becoming "rare" in themselves

SeanIrish
SeanIrish

@Boses Money is dying, too. And print. And the oil industry.


"BTW, that plastic you have in your wallet? It's money. And who did you say you were again?" (hands me business card, jumps into petroleum fueled vehicle for commute)

SeanIrish
SeanIrish

@kemo1 not "nothing", a full commercial license like what they're LEASING for pennies is probably worth $1/4 million...

Manman
Manman

@BlindOwl 

You mean the Richard Belcher who is helping spearhead #SaveWRAS?

That one?

Fucoff
Fucoff

@BlindOwl You don't understand the concept of 'college radio' apparently. It is not meant to sound or operate like Star 94.

Scalabrini-Ortiz
Scalabrini-Ortiz

@cjmarr you are an idiot.  WRAS was a unique cultural institution in this city that was truly sold off to the lowest bidder. Get some taste.

Pat_Pending
Pat_Pending

@cjmarr  You obviously haven't listened to Steve Goss and Denis O'Hayer - two experienced and respected radio journalists who have consistently brought Atlantans local news and quality analysis for years at WABE. GPB? Not so much.

Fucoff
Fucoff

@cjmarr Next time read the article before spouting ridiculous - and blatantly wrong - comments.

PhlpDvs
PhlpDvs

@cjmarr You should read the article, "By contrast, PBA operates a $12.6 million budget without any state or local taxpayer dollars for its operations"

IamJacksConscience
IamJacksConscience

@freebitz @IamJacksConscience
I am on the side of journalistic standards which are totally absent in this story. 


Everything I stated above is 100% verifiable by anyone with a computer and internet access. Just because the data doesn't fit your narrative doesn't make it moot, nor does it matter what my motivation is in exposing this junk. Rodney should have checked out the statements in the letter before blowing them out to the AJC audience and endorsing them "as fact". Instead, he just parroted it out - lies and all. THAT is what I am mad about. Not only us WPBA lying, but it would appear that Rodney (and thereby the AJC) is as well. 

YOU should be mad about that as well. You're being misled. 


BlindOwl
BlindOwl

Put it this way AvailableName: one if the videos Save WRAS is using in their promotion was made by a student in a Production I class in 2005. Same person hosted up until Saturday a specialty show on the station. Or maybe look at Sunday with a person that got a shift mid-'00s and was still hosting about seven years later. Nice people, I'm sure. But move on!

insidebaseball
insidebaseball

@PhlpDvs @cjmarr The article, and that statement by Sullivan is a pretty disingenuous  portrayal of the facts. WABE got over a million dollars from the FEDERAL government last year. They are FAR from self-sufficient.