Pigs Can’t Fly

Selling Low in Nashville

The writing is on the wall in Music City: Vanderbilt student station WRVU, a fixture for nearly 60 years, appears to have been sold down the river. As noted here in a piece on Radio Survivor by Jennifer Waits here in an article on CMJ by Kodi McKinney, and here on Tom Taylor’s newsletter, station suits acted after the spring session ended, changing the call letters to WFCL on June 1st, suggesting that WRVU’s license may have been sold by the VSC. No one on the staff was informed of the move.

As Kodi wrote, “VSC president Chris Carroll said he was waiting to hear from an attorney that handled the FCC filings and declined to comment otherwise.” You may remember Carroll, aka the Station Slayer for his role in selling off two other college stations, from this post, where he nobly proclaimed that at least they weren’t Rice:

At Vanderbilt, [Carroll] said, “what’s happening, really, is a big public discussion about is this a good idea or not, and there’s no conclusion to that yet.” Rice, he said, made the decision to sell KTRU behind closed doors — without student input.

Yet here we are, looking up at that lonely high road… Mr. White Hat at least hasn’t padlocked the station doors, as at KUSF, and given the workers the bum’s rush out to the curb — yet.

Kodi’s article lists some of those involved in the high-spirited defense of the station, besides its 6,000-strong Facebook page and website (links on right):

WRVU alumni, staff members and supporters have been vocally opposed to a sale of its broadcasting license. The Pledge Nothing campaign has urged Vanderbilt donors to pledge lengthy suspensions of donations to the university until plans to sell the license are abandoned. Most recently, WRVU general manager Robert Ackley pledged to eschew donating for eight years. Alumni speaking out in opposition include CNN anchor Richard Quest and Facebook’s vice president of technology, Jeff Rothschild, both former managers at WRVU. Public Enemy’s Chuck D also came out publicly to support WRVU during Record Store Day, joining artists such as 10,000 Maniacs and Jason And The Scorchers.

As Pete Wilson remarked on the Facebook page:

It has been very demoralizing to be treated as an adversary and kept in the dark by the corporation which is supposed to facilitate and promote Vanderbilt student media, not buy and sell it. Not only did the Board of the past year have no one on it with any official connection to WRVU, but nobody representing WRVU was even ALLOWED IN the final meeting of the year, nor was any information given about what exactly would be discussed, other than that “nothing irrevocable” (I believe that is a direct quote from a conversation I had with the chairman before the meeting began; if not, it’s a very fair paraphrase) would be done at that meeting. This has all been said before but I say it again because I am still struck by the glaring lack of consideration shown both students and hard-working non-student volunteers like me.

This is the new reality: teaching our students how the real world works. In the dark, behind their backs.

Expect word to come out in the coming days, the same mealy-mouthed self-justification and concerted obfuscation that VSC has spouted from the beginning, with the same  assertions that “we know best what’s good for you” — as promulgated by the seven full-time staff members of the VSC that now suck up a vast majority of the budget for the organization. (As noted here “The annual outlay of VSC on WRVU’s behalf, on the other hand, is minimal — less than or equal to the salary of just one of the seven current full-time staff members,” where once a single paid staff member sufficed.)

At work here is a cold calculation of those seeking to cash in on what students have built over the years into a vibrant part of the Music City scene. There has been from the outset a dogged determination to evade or ignore what has been presented in rebuttal to the overbroad assertions of the bean counters wielding the cudgel. They had their agenda and just waited for the “appropriate” time — i.e., when students were away.

But that does take care of that pesky, “undesirable” element associated with this student station — which, from all indications, is too independent, too alternative for the buttoned-down bureaucrats running this show…


5 Responses

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  4. Well, it certainly doesn’t look like there will be any in Nashville soon. As for the rest of the US, the number is dwindling almost by the day. Here in Austin we have student-run KVRX but it’s only part time, shares its license with another station, KOOP. And you would think if the 2 premiere Music Cities in this country, Nashville & Austin, can’t keep viable student-run stations alive, then what hope is there elsewhere? As long as administrators are willing to use backroom deals and underhanded tactics, then I see no hope for things. I would never advocate violence, but pitchforks and torches are starting to seem reasonable……

  5. Are there any independent, alternative student or not student radio stations left in Nash, or the US? I hope freedom of speech and thought are not at risk of being muzzled. With freedom we are able to find better ways of doing things such as finding cure for illnesses.

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