|Broadcast area||Atlanta metropolitan area|
88.5 GPB Atlanta
|Slogan||Left on the dial, right on the music (Album 88)|
|First air date||January 18, 1971|
|Format||Public Radio News and Talk (5 a.m. to 7 p.m.)
College radio (7 p.m. to 5 a.m.)
|HAAT||318 meters (1043 ft)|
|Callsign meaning||Radio at State (Georgia State University)|
|Affiliations||GPB (daytime only)|
|Owner||Georgia State University|
|Webcast||Album 88 24 hour feed
GPB Atlanta 24 hour feed
WRAS (88.5 MHz) is a public FM radio station in Atlanta, Georgia. It is owned by Georgia State University and its schedule is split between public radio programming from Georgia Public Broadcasting (88.5 GPB Atlanta) airing from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. and college radio programming (Album 88) airing from 7 p.m. to 5 a.m. The Album 88 and 88.5 GPB Atlanta formats are both available 24 hours a day on separate internet streams, and Album 88 is available full-time on WRAS's HD-2 subchannel.
Students at Georgia State host and produce many of the programs on Album 88 with the exception of Georgia State Panthers sporting events. While Georgia Public Radio is heard around the clock on several simulcast radio stations in Georgia, listeners in the Atlanta area only hear the daytime schedule, on WRAS. Atlanta has a full time National Public Radio affiliate, 90.1 WABE, with its own news department and airing many of the same national programs, such as All Things Considered and Morning Edition.
Album 88's first general manager was Richard Belcher, well known to Atlanta TV viewers for his investigative reporting on WAGA-TV 5, and later WSB-TV 2. The "Album 88" name dates back to the late 1970s. It is rare for noncommercial stations in North America to use a moniker (other than their own call sign), the way commercial stations have for decades. It refers to the album-based rotation the format employs: stressing several cuts from each album rather than a single.
Album 88 has won numerous awards, frequently beating out commercial radio stations, from the Atlanta weekly Creative Loafing, the monthly Atlanta magazine, and the College Music Journal. Album 88 has over 50 student volunteers who host many of the programs.
Among the specialty shows on Album 88 are: The Georgia Music Show (dedicated exclusively to artists from Georgia), I Don't Care (punk), Soul Kitchen (funk, soul, disco and related), Crossroads (blues), Jet Lag (international psychedelia), New Theory (chillwave), Beatscape Lounge (ambient, electronica and nu jazz), Subterranean (drum and bass), Cowtipper's Delight (classic country and alternative country), Dot Dash (post-punk), Mighty Aphrodite (female vocalists), We're Not Gonna Take It (heavy-metal music), Tower of Song (psyche, prog, freakbeat), a large variety of hip hop including the long-running shows Tha Message, Rhythm and Vibes (Atlanta's longest-running hip hop show) and Hush Hush (instrumental hip hop), One Step Beyond (ska, bluebeat & rocksteady) and many more.
Album 88 has played a crucial role in "breaking" a wide range of artists including R.E.M., Deerhunter and Outkast (all of which Album 88 was the first to play on radio). Several platinum and gold records hang in Album 88's studios and offices. According to Bob Geldof, he penned the Boomtown Rats hit song, "I Don't Like Mondays" in the Album 88 office after reading a telex report of the schoolyard shooting on which the song is based.
On March 14, 2008, an F-2 tornado struck Atlanta's downtown core and led to the evacuation of students and employees from parts of the Georgia State campus. Album 88 was forced to suspend broadcasting for nearly two days. (See 2008 Atlanta tornado)
On May 6, 2014, Georgia State University announced that WRAS would turn over its daytime hours to a new Atlanta-only service from the radio division of Georgia Public Broadcasting, with news/talk programming between the hours of 5am to 7pm, leaving the remaining ten hours of the day for student airtime. Daytime programs would continue on Album 88, but accessible only via a new digital subchannel and streaming live on the station's website.
GPB paid $150,000 to GSU, while GSU communications-major students getting internships with GPB. GSU was promised a weekly Georgia music program on the GPB state network. The contract was drawn for a two-year period, but it automatically renews, and has a clause that could lead to the sharing or transfer of the license to GPB in the future. The student government (SGA) had allocated over $300,000 for the transmitter, before finding out that most of its usage would be for GPB instead of for GSU students.
Despite being in the works for months, the deal was kept secret until the day after final exams ended, as students were leaving campus for the summer or preparing for graduation, and the station's management was making its annual change. GSU and GPB officials claimed that the deal had only been finalized the day before. This made Album 88 staff and GSU students upset at the manner in which it was handled, with some claiming that the transaction may have been illegal. Student anger manifested itself at a protest during GSU's spring commencement ceremony, and a social media campaign with the tag #savewras, A petition on change.org drew over 10,000 signatories.
The switch had the benefit of bringing more NPR news and talk programming to radio listeners in Atlanta. Until the fall of 2015, Atlanta's other NPR station, 90.1 WABE, had long aired classical music during the day outside of drive time. A number of NPR popular programs weren't heard in Atlanta until WABE launched an all-news stream on its third HD subcarrier. But with WABE's move to more informational programs in the daytime, many of GPB's programming on WRAS duplicates programming already airing on WABE.
This is the second acquisition that GPB has made of a student station from a state university. In 2004, WUWG was acquired from the University of West Georgia, its entire broadcast license transferred from UWG to GPB. During the 2000s, the Radio Communications Board of Georgia Tech declined similar overtures made by GPB to 91.1 WREK.
Album 88 supporters also raised concerns about the appearance of a conflict of interest of Douglass Covey, VP for Student Affairs at GSU. Until April 2014, he served on the board of Public Broadcasting Atlanta, the arm of the Atlanta Public Schools that oversees WABE and WPBA-TV, while at the same time GSU was negotiating the deal to bring GPB into competition for listener donations and corporate underwritings that are needed to support WABE.
As one of the most influential college radio stations in the nation, support for keeping the Album 88 format on WRAS full-time, with no outside programming, came in from across the country. Efforts to save fulltime programming on Album 88 were organized.  Some called for a boycott of Georgia Public Broadcasting and its sponsors. In late June, 55 stations in 25 states broadcast a live program in support of Album 88.
Album 88 alumni proposed the use of a low-power FM translator for GPB programming. Another solution would have been the purchase of a different FM station in the Atlanta radio market. But those ideas were rejected.
- "Call Letter Origins". Radio History on the Web.
- Broadcasting Yearbook 1973 page B-47
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