Nashville Catsfight

More coverage on the Vanderbilt student-run radio station WRVU, here, on the Consequence of Sound website. Caitlin Meyer, writing in the Where We Live section of the site, has this to say:

College radio, the age-old home of alternative and underground music especially, in these unstable economic times, has seen more than its fair share of the budget chopping block. Luckily, Nashville still has WRVU. You’ll find it nonchalantly tucked away in the corner of the basement Sarratt Student Center, with its soundboards and microphones. The robin’s egg blue walls, dim lights, and old show posters and newspaper clippings adorning the hallway walls feel like home. You’ll find it on the resumes and on the minds and tongues of the 50 years’ worth of student and community DJs, who claim their time with WRVU to be some of their favorite memories. Most importantly, though, you’ll find it preset on the FM dial at 91.1, broadcasting at 10,000 watts, sharing music from all walks of life with middle Tennessee….

Today, WRVU is still that breath of fresh air on Nashville airwaves – a break from the monotony of Top 40, country, and Christian stations that occupy literally almost every other strong frequency. The station’s executive staff are still students, and the DJs are still passionate members of both the Vanderbilt and greater Nashville community. Enthused listeners call in all day long to request songs and share WRVU stories, ranging from random people driving through town and accidentally landing on 91.1FM to detailed accounts of religious WRVU listening and attempts to better listening experiences in poor weather through aluminum foiled walls in the attic. One day of listening to WRVU takes you on a ride from the expected indie to the best of Motown, from nu-metal to old blues, from international tunes to Americana to punk. The variety is unparalleled, and a mere hour of WRVU is bound to play a song you’ve never heard, followed by one you haven’t heard in 15 years.

In September of this year, Vanderbilt Student Communications, Inc., the autonomous organization that owns WRVU and was established to avoid liability issues for the school, suddenly announced the potential sale of WRVU’s broadcasting license, moving it to a solely online entity. This would mean not only losing the terrestrial presence of the station, but the deeply-rooted connection and relationship with the community. Half a century of concerts, on-air performances, exposure to new music, DJ banter, and public service announcements would be traded for, essentially, podcasting.

Another Nashville institution, Hatch Show Prints, has donated ‘Save WRVU’ posters for local businesses to display, petitions have circulated, a resistance movement has gained momentum online, and letters from alumni, community members, and donors flooded the mailboxes of the Chancellor of the school as well as all of VSC’s board members, all outraged at the potential loss of something so infinitely valuable. Arbitron ratings and financial analyses cannot gauge the worth of WRVU; that shallow glance completely undermines a community now more tightly knit than ever. The huge public response resulted in VSC postponing the deliberating until January 12th, the first day of second semester classes.

Stay tuned. This battle is far from over.


2 Responses

  1. I’m going to try to read between the lines, with incomplete information, and make a guess at what is happening at Vanderbilt now. Vanderbilt very well might quite likely have something like a non-binding letter of intent to sell to a buyer, that isn’t a formal purchase offer contract. The decision makers at Vanderbilt saw what happened at Rice when the secret deal to sell eventually became public and exploded in their faces, so Vanderbilt is seeking to avoid that PR disaster. The decision to sell at Vanderbilt has already been made, the buyer identified, purchase price negotiated. There might be wiggle room to let the buyer off the hook and walk away, but maybe only if the buyer drops the deal for the buyer’s own reasons. What Vanderbilt is doing now is just a PR exercise to generate the appearance that students and alumni who pay the bills have not been disenfranchised from the process.

  2. WRVU is the last bastion of Freedom of music choice on Nashville’s airways that people can listen to all the way North-to-South from the Kentucky state line to the Alabama state line.

    WRVU’s license *IS* up for sale, that was why they made the announcement in September 2010, to get the word out, and also to let everyone involved with WRVU know about the plans to sell the station they’d been deliberating about for over a year.

    The January 12th, 2011, date is the first VSC meeting of the year, and the date where the VSC will officially begin entertaining any offers.

    The “waiting period” between their announcement in September, ending January 12th, 2011, was to allow “feedback” to be sent to the VSC, but in no way stopped the planned sale of WRVU. The VSC said they would take all feedback into consideration, but after deliberating secretly for a year and attempting NO OTHER OPTIONS FIRST, don’t think that WRVU is safe. The sale of the station should never be an option. And if it was, it should have be a VERY LAST OPTION considered only as a very last resort after trying ALL other options. There is no current financial crisis. It’s all about the attractive glow of a pile of money. These folks are supposed to be guiding and helping the media, not selling off one branch to benefit the others.

    Imagine if your parents decided to sell you to benefit them and your other siblings, due to a potential future budget problem. And you hardly cost them anything to feed, but you just happen to be worth more than the rest of your siblings. Oh, by the way, your parents now have a $900,000 yearly budget which has been growing by leaps and bounds over the past decade or less. A large percentage of which they pay themselves as salary. What great parents!

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