A Call to Arms

College radio has taken it on the chin over the past year — from Austin to Boston to Nashville to Houston to Pittsburgh to Gainesville to San Francisco. Now, in the spirit of Wisconsin protests, change is in the air. Sharon Vegas Shelby in Nashville is seeking to unite the diverse protests in the college radio battle with a new Facebook page, COLLEGE RADIO UNITE! (link added on right), to go with the following pages, among many others, that are part and parcel of the fight:

Community and Independent College Radio Facebook page

Fans of Former Folk Radio WUMB

NPR Ate My Local Public Radio Station

Radio Survivor

Radio Survivor Facebook page

Save KTRU Facebook

Save KUSF Facebook

Save Our WDUQ Facebook page

Save WRVU (Vanderbilt) Facebook page

Spinning Indie

Support Larry Monroe and Paul Ray at KUT

Supporters of Folk and Blues on WGBH

Keep WTJU Weird Facebook

As noted in this Radio Survivor post by Jennifer Waits, a longtime crusader for college radio and author too of the Spinning Indie website, this past week a notable step was taken in this direction. On Friday, the 18th, New Jersey-based free-form community radio station WFMU lead the charge on an ambitious multi-radio station live remote broadcast celebrating the DJs of embattled San Francisco station KUSF. As Jennifer noted here on Spinning Indie:

Ultimately, 15 stations ended up broadcasting the Save KUSF event, including WFMU (91.1 FM in New Jersey), Stanford University station KZSU (90.1 FM in the San Francisco Bay Area), Loyola Marymount station KXLU (88.9 FM in Los Angeles), University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill station WXYC (89.3 FM in Chapel Hill, North Carolina), Foothill College station KFJC (89.7 FM in the San Francisco Bay Area), Georgia Tech station WREK (91.1 FM in Atlanta), Cazenovia College station WITC (88.9 FM in Cazenovia, NY), University of California at Davis station KDVS 90.3 (90.3 FM in Davis, CA), University of Texas, Austin station KVRX (which broadcast over their webstream), University of California at Berkeley station KALX (90.7 FM in Berkeley, CA), University of Michigan, Ann Arbor station WCBN (88.3 FM in Ann Arbor, MI), community radio station KRFP (Radio Free Moscow at 92.5 FM in Moscow, Idaho), Santa Clara University station KSCU (103.3 FM in Santa Clara, CA), University of Southern California’s online-only student radio station KXSC (Los Angeles, CA), and even KUSF.org (which is for the most part separate from the efforts of Save KUSF and still in the process of being conceptualized. It’s currently airing a mix of student and cultural shows from the old KUSF studios at University of San Francisco)….

[I]t was easy to sense both the inspiration and the optimism that everyone was drawing from the event and from the outpouring of support from radio stations from all over the country. It was clear that the fight for independent radio in San Francisco resonated across the United States, as other stations stood in solidarity while giving over their airwaves to the KUSF DJs who had been silenced one month prior….

So dust off the old flintlock and jine up now, before they come for your free-form college station.

And the latest from Nashville, where the sale of student station WRVU is still up in the air? This from the Nashville Scene blog:

On Dec. 6, 2010, a business feature in The New York Times discussed the possible sale of WRVU’s license. Citing Arbitron figures, the article stated that “the station reaches just over 30,000 people each week in greater Nashville.” That assessment seemingly did not square with [VSC board chair Mark] Wollaeger’s statement (at a hastily convened public meeting just after the initial VSC announcement) that “the estimates are, like, 300 regular listeners in the community.” In a sternly worded email sent to the Scene soon after the Times article was published, Wollaeger wrote, “The context of my comments at the September meeting clearly indicate that I was talking about listeners at any given time” (emphasis ours). In any case, he added, “VSC has never cited Arbitron numbers as a significant factor in our decision to explore a possible sale.”

Not long after, VSC director of student media Chris Carroll issued via email a list of questions that, presumably, the board would consider as it mulled a possible sale. Among them: “Is there an immediate alternative to fund an endowment?”; “Are there likely alumni or other donors willing to match or substantially match the sale offer?”; “Is the revenue potential presented by retaining the broadcast license equal to or greater than the offer?”; “Would the learning experience for students affiliated with WRVU differ substantively if the station’s programming was online-only?” While the board has not released any answers, a group of WRVU supporters tells the Scene they’re preparing their own item-by-item response, to be made public at www.savewrvu.org later this week.

Meanwhile, strain may be showing in relations between the VSC board and station supporters. Sharon Scott Selby, an alumna and former WRVU station manager, received a letter from VSC on Jan. 28 informing her that she is barred from appearing on WRVU, that she has “not been approved to host a show for the station or appear as a guest on the air,” and that her Jan. 27 show, 91 Rock, was “in direct violation of station policy.” Selby contends that she went through the proper channels in applying for her show, which was added to the station’s schedule, and that she followed all FCC requirements while on-air. She admits to a “Save WRVU theme” to her show, and says, referring to Carroll: “Perhaps he didn’t like that I dedicated The Louvin Brothers’ song ‘Satan Is Real’ to ‘the people who want to sell this radio station.’ ”

Selby says she feels the act was “censorship” meant to silence opposition to the VSC board. Assistant director of student media Jim Hayes, who is listed as the follow-up contact on the letter, did not reply to a request for comment before press time.

Most recently, 42 faculty and students from Vanderbilt’s Blair School of Music signed an open letter to the VSC board, which includes this plea: “WRVU is a cultural treasure with deep roots in Nashville’s music and business sectors, and a passionate listenership that extends far beyond the university. Music is one of the most effective and powerful ways that Vanderbilt serves its community. Please keep WRVU’s broadcasting license intact.”

And a commenter added:

All it would take is one or two high profile VU alumni to make a financial statement in protest of this sale, and this controversy would be over. So don’t patronize us with the line that VU is staying out of it. What you mean is, the university is staying out of the decision process unless someone with the last name of Ingram calls the chancellor and says “don’t sell the radio station.”

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