91.1 WRVU sold to WPLN- my opinion
June 7, 2011
*Disclaimer: The following statements are my personal opinion and in no way reflect the views or opinions of my employer Vanderbilt University.*
The news broke today that Vanderbilt’s student radio station WRVU had its FM broadcast license sold to Nashville Public Radio for $3.35 million. The governing body for WRVU is Vanderbilt Student Communications (VSC) which is a separate entity from Vanderbilt. VSC was created long ago so that the student media could be editorially independent from the University to avoid possible conflicts of interest, though VSC is still financially tied to the University. The sale was first mentioned back in September 2010, and VSC stated that it was “exploring the possibility” of selling the broadcast license and going to an online-only format. They solicited public comments and opinion on the possible sale. The full timeline of what transpired can be found at savewrvu.com.
I have stayed mostly silent on this issue, just watching, and supporting the efforts of the Save WRVU campaign, which is now an official non-profit organization. I can no longer be silent. They way VSC handled this was downright wretched, vile, and disrespectful to the students, the DJs, and the Vanderbilt community in general. They had been secretly working out the details of this deal with Nashville Public Radio all along, and according to a comment from WPLN President Rob Gordon tweeted by the Nashville Scene’s Steve Haruch, a letter of intent for the sale was signed in March of this year. The VSC board held its final meeting of the 2011 spring semester and claimed they’d made no final decision on the sale and also stated they would not be making any decisions over the summer. Well, they lied. To everyone. And to make matters worse, they basically ignored the fact that almost all of the solicited public opinion on the sale was in support of keeping WRVU as it was. Today they simply cut the station off the air without giving the DJs or the listeners any warning that the deal had been done. This is possibly what hurts me the most about this horrible situation- the fact that many good DJs never got a chance to give a formal goodbye or have an official last show. As a former college radio DJ on MTSU’s student station WMTS, I can’t imagine how horrible it must be to have your beloved show ripped out from under you with no warning. The move was also disrespectful to the students, because they did the deed during summer, while most of the students are away. I am literally appalled by how VSC handled this, and they should be ashamed. Save WRVU is going to do everything they can to fight this, and I applaud their efforts. They’re an official non-profit, though I have no idea what means that gives them to fight this. They’ve said themselves that it’s not over. I’m no legal expert so I’ve no idea what options exist at this point, but I’ll keep an eye on savewrvu.com to see what they’re up to.
While I’m devastated that this sale happened, after reading the press release, the outcome is honestly the most tolerable circumstance I can think of. If it had to happen, this is probably how I would want it to happen. In a nutshell, 91.1 FM is now owned and operated by NPR and
will be is an all-classical music station with the call letters WFCL, and WRVU will remain on the air via WPLN’s HD3 channel (and remain online as well). Honestly I don’t know that much about HD radio, but it does seem like a viable option for WRVU to remain on the air. The problem is not many people have HD radios. I just don’t know if HD radio is really going to catch on unless the FCC forces it like they did with HDTV broadcasts. But that’s a whole separate issue. The fact is, this deal is not nearly as bad as it could have been. I still hate it, but I hate it less than I ever thought I would.
In the end I have a much bigger problem with the way VSC handled the overall situation than I do with outcome of the sale itself. This is my opinion given what I know right now. If I learn something new regarding either side of the issue, my opinion may change slightly.