This month marked the beginning of the 2015 legislative session and a push back against the negative and counter productive tone of GPB. It is our chance to speak directly to our legislators, to those who control GPB and GSU budgets and to speak to GPB leadership about how this deal has been handled. We are asking each and every person who is willing or able, to lend us a few minutes and e-mail a few people on the lists below. We have prepared a letter for you to send to each of them outlining the problems and why they should be concerned. We hope that you will join us in pushing back against this deal and helping to return WRAS to student control.
Thank you very much,
As a taxpayer and concerned citizen, I wanted to contact you about an issue that is very important to the Atlanta community. I hope you will read this letter, give it some thought
and then take action. I have been following the work being done by SaveWRAS, which has nearly 10,000 followers on Facebook, and Album 88 Alumni, an Atlanta 501(c)(3) group, in their quest to help the students of Georgia State University’s WRAS-Atlanta (“Album 88”) to regain the 24/7 airwaves that were taken from them. First, I was just upset that my favorite radio station was being gutted to make way for duplicative NPR programming that is available on WABE. But, after further investigations by these two organizations, I have found that what is happening at GSU and GPB doesn’t align with my beliefs about how taxpayer dollars should be spent and how public organizations should behave.
After a recent Georgia Public Broadcasting board meeting, some startling revelations came to light that the Atlanta community believes should be investigated further. Creative Loafing reporter Max Blau was present at the meeting and gave a rundown in last week’s edition here: http://clatl.com/freshloaf/archives/2015/01/22/wras-student-djs-accuse-gpb-leadership-of-violating-open-records-laws. Following the meeting, Album 88 Alumni and SaveWRAS sent a letter to Chairman of the Georgia Public Telecommunications Commission Chairman, Dr. Michael McDougald echoing a presenter at the meeting in calling for the board to remove Teya Ryan as CEO of GPB.
From the Album 88 Alumni and SaveWRAS investigations, the largest area of concern is regarding the amount of money GPB on WRAS is costing taxpayers of Georgia. In the first quarter of this partnership, Georgia State University lost a sum totaling more than $50,000. This was due to GPB falling well short of its membership fundraising goals. This loss was represents a taxpayer burden regardless of who absorbed the costs. On top of these losses, GSU will potentially be required to spend upwards of $90,000 to perform upgrades to the tower/antenna power grid for reasons related to being an NPR affiliated station. Those upgrades would not be needed were this still a student-run station. This deal is costing GSU significant sums in hidden costs and expenses and at no point in the SaveWRAS and Album 88 investigation, does Ms. Ryan offer to be a partner and assist in covering these outlays.
As you are aware, GPB receives nearly half of its funding through taxpayer dollars. What you may not know is that the majority of GPB’s programming can be heard on WABE, a community run station that requires zero tax funding for its operations. As is documented in the Creative Loafing article, the duplication of NPR programming on WRAS’s signal is not getting the type of traction that would show that listeners are “clamoring” for this type of programming as GPB claimed after the announcement of the takeover in May. Ratings for the most recent period show a cume figure of 54,400 listeners and a share of .2 with a loss from November to December of 14,700 listeners and .2 share points in one month alone. This represents a 25% reduction in listenership since GPB took over daytime hours from the students in June of 2014. This is not a thriving partnership, but a failing one that is costing the taxpayers of Georgia for no good reason.
Also of note is the behavior of Teya Ryan in her public capacity as CEO. By comparing open records request documents from GPB and Georgia State University, Album 88 Alumni and SaveWRAS have learned that GPB CEO Teya Ryan has been using her personal email account to receive and reply to official messages from Georgia State University regarding the 2014 agreement between GSU and GPB. This use of a personal email account has no basis in convenience or access. All of us have access to our work email from home. The only possible reason for such behavior is to keep those messages out of an open records request — in what appears to be a deliberate attempt to hide information from the taxpayers who pay for GPB’s operations.
Given these compelling facts, I am requesting that you investigate the funding mechanism for Georgia Public Broadcasting and the partnership between GPB and Georgia State University, as both should be held to the highest standards as publicly funded, higher education institutions in the state.
Chair and Vice Chairman of Appropriations
|Greene, Gerald E||Vice Chairman|
House of Representatives, Higher Education Subcommittee on Appropriations
|Ehrhart, Earl||Chairman of Subcommittee|
|Cheokas, Mike||Vice-Chairman of Subcommittee|
|Burns, Jon G.||Member|
|Smith, Richard H.||Member|
|Yates, John P||Member|
House of Representatives, Higher Education Committee
|Williams, Chuck||Vice Chairman|
|Dempsey, Katie M.||Member|
|Pezold, John David||Member|
Senate Higher Education Committee Members
|Martin IV, P. K.||Vice Chairman|
|Jackson, Lester G.||Member|
Higher Education (Subcommittee on Appropriations)
|Ligon, Jr., William T.|
|Unterman, Renee S|