Another One Bites the Dust?

Jim Radio sent along this post from rbr.com (with the added note “Kill all student-run radio! Kill! Kill!!”) about another student radio station about to be assimilated into the borg, this time at Vanderbilt in Nashville:

Deals for college radio stations in Florida and Texas have been struck in 2010, and now Vanderbilt University’s Vanderbilt Student Communications Inc. is contemplating spinning off student-run WRVU-FM. If it does, the buyer for the 91.1 MHz facility would have to be another noncom.

English professor Mark Wollaeger, who doubles as VSC board chair, said, “Currently, operating revenue for student media is mostly generated from print advertising whose future is less than certain. We want to explore whether a sale would help protect our students’ future interests better.”

Perhaps another Starbucks is needed on campus? It’s apparently fated to join the thousands of other unremarked radio stations on the internet:

The station would live on as an internet operation; and regardless how the decision on divesting the station goes, use of the internet and other streaming applications is going to be increased.

“A new set of mobile device apps was made available this summer to local and worldwide fans of WRVU to deliver the shows they love anywhere via the Internet,” said Wollaeger.

Explaining the decision to explore a sale, Wollaeger said, “Our surveys indicate that each year fewer Vanderbilt students are listening to over-the-air radio. Our other traditional media outlets, such as InsideVandy.com and VTV at VanderbiltTelevision.com, have already begun to experiment with new opportunities within today’s rapidly changing media environment, making them among the most innovative and progressive nationally. It is time to explore how WRVU could be transformed as well in order to keep pace with the times and anticipate new developments.”

The site tennessean.com, here, notes that all is not rosy on campus:

The proposal has sparked protests from fans of WRVU-FM, including letter writing campaigns and Facebook support groups. But Vanderbilt Student Communications Inc., the nonprofit that oversees the station’s operations for the university, said tightening budgets and shifting student interests are pushing the sale….

Budget pressures have prompted other area colleges to take a hard look at their radio stations as well. Last year, Middle Tennessee State University floated the idea of selling the campus jazz station, WMOT, but eventually opted to cut the school’s share of its operation costs. Trevecca Nazarene University has announced plans to sell the campus FM station, WNAZ.

In just three days, some 1400 people joined a Save WRVU Facebook page, here, which has now climbed to 1900, and an accompanying website sprung up, here. A second Facebook, here, boasts 1200 names. Comments there show some ingenuity, including a link, here, to a site on how to fight a station takeover. Says one alum, Joseph Whitt:

The irony is that selling the broadcast license in order to fund “other media projects” erases the most effective media project that Vanderbilt has. The arguments that students are “losing interest in radio” is dubious at best, but also doesn’t take into account the enriching effect that WRVU . . . has had and still does have on the Nashville community at large.

Skye Bacus added this:

Either the VSC is composed of geniuses or the e-staff is a little slow on the up-take . . . because the battle tactic they just executed was brilliantly spot-on. Weaken your enemy, divide it if you can, and then attack when they least expect it. (DJ axe –> selling broadcasting license.)

Wish I could tell you that we didn’t . . . foresee this coming. But I’m still going to stay positive and hope for the best. Thanks Chris Carroll [director of Student Media for Vanderbilt Student Communications Inc.]! Oh and R.I.P. WUSC! I hope he doesn’t get WRVU the way he got you.

To which Sharon Vegas Selby responded:

Don’t forget, Carroll also took down Tulane’s station WTUL. http://www.scpronet.com/point/9603/p09.html

And this from the Spinning Indie blog:

Oh man. The bad news about college radio just keeps coming. Today I got word that Vanderbilt University radio station WRVU may be in danger of losing its 10,000 watt FM terrestrial signal. This is even more disappointing to me personally since WRVU was the most recent stop on my Spinning Indie 50 State Tour of college radio stations. . . .

I’m saddened to see the same language being used by the VSC board as we’ve seen in the rhetoric being used by those in favor of selling off the Rice University radio station KTRU. In both instances they claim that online listenership is the wave of the future and that terrestrial radio is increasingly irrelevant. This argument is short-sighted in that it ignores the many community members and students who listen to the station over FM. In the quote above from the VSC Board Chair, there’s a fixation on WRVU’s student listeners, who are said to be less and less likely to listen terrestrially. I would imagine that the WRVU audience is much broader than the community of Vanderbilt students and that many of those listeners would be dismayed to have their station go online-only.

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2 Responses

  1. At this rate, we’ll be left with three corporatized monoliths on the FM dial: Clearchannel, Christian, and NPR. Blech.

  2. […] The ‘Keeping the Public in Public Radio’ Blog posted an article about our situation. It’s interesting that they are drawing a parallel […]

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