Today is the day that supporters of college radio at Vanderbilt University have been dreading. After yesterday’s news leak that the call letters to beloved college radio station WRVU had been changed to WFCL, official word came today that the station is in the process of being sold to Nashville Public Radio for $3.35 million for use as an all-classical radio station.
Another shocker is that the format change will take effect starting tomorrow, meaning that WRVU DJs will only have today to say goodbye to their terrestrial listeners.
[UPDATE at 2:49PM Pacific Time: I just heard that WRVU DJs have already been locked out of the studios, the FM signal has been cut off and the online station is running on automation]
The Nashville Public Radio website states that Classical 91.1 will begin broadcasting at 12:00 AM and they even have a proposed June schedule (PDF) of programs posted on their website.
As I noted yesterday, it’s summer break at Vanderbilt University, so the timing of this format transfer is particularly distressing as many DJs won’t get a real opportunity to say goodbye to their terrestrial listeners.
As has been the case at KTRU and KUSF, administrators are offering up a rosy picture of the simple transition of the station to an online-only broadcast, making it look as if nothing will change. And, as with KTRU, there’s the promise in this case of an HD channel, even though ownership of HD radio is miniscule.
According to a press release on the Vanderbilt Student Communications website:
“The Board of Directors of Vanderbilt Student Communications and the Board of Directors of Nashville Public Radio agreed today to the transfer of the license of WRVU 91.1FM to Nashville Public Radio. The new station’s call letters will be WFCL, and its mission will be to showcase classical music and the arts and promote local performances and events. The change in format is effective June 8.
WRVU’s eclectic programming format continues without interruption as an online service and will resume over-the-air broadcast service on WPLN’s HD3 channel beginning in the fall of 2011.
…After careful deliberation, which included inviting extensive feedback from the community over the last nine months, its Board concluded the creation of an endowment was critical to ensuring VSC’s ability to service the information and cultural needs of the Vanderbilt student population.
‘The media industry is changing dramatically, a fact nowhere more obvious than on a college campus where younger consumers and content producers are gravitating to innovative technologies,’ said Mark Wollaeger, Vanderbilt University English professor and chair of the VSC Board of Directors. ‘This agreement will help ensure for our students the opportunity to shape the future of media for years to come. Students and faculty members representing VSC researched various options privately and publicly for two years and ultimately concluded the sale to Nashville Public Radio best addresses the greatest number of needs,’ Wollaeger said.
‘This arrangement will allow 91.1 to preserve students’ radio experience online and on-air via HD, remain a community asset, develop an internship program at Nashville Public Radio and create financial security through an endowment for VSC.’”
As of today, there is nothing in the FCC database indicating that paperwork has been submitted to the FCC. The sale will not be finalized without FCC approval, so I would anticipate that Save WRVU will focus its campaign on stopping the sale during the public comment period.
Complete coverage on the history of the situation at WRVU can be found here.