Thursday, April 17, 2008

Chattanooga State Selling Off Radio License to Christian Group

OK, this is just sad. Chattanooga State Technical Community College in Tennessee is selling off the license for its non-commercial radio station WAWL 91.5 FM, most likely to a Christian organization. After that happens the school will be 1.5 million dollars richer and the campus radio station will become Internet-only. According to an article in the campus paper:

"Chattanooga State President Jim Catanzaro said a religious organization that planned to buy the FCC license for the college radio station, WAWL, backed out on the deal, but another religious group has signed up for the $1.5 million deal. 'That group is currently going through the due diligence on the transaction,' Dr. Catanzaro said. He said a broker is handling the deal, and he had no part in either transaction. After the due diligence is completed, the sale application will go to the Federal Communications Authority for its approval or rejection, he said...

Dr. Catanzaro defended the decision to sell the station, saying that radio 'is moving to the web and to satellite radio. The technology is changing so rapidly.'

He said the college has a mass communication program involving both radio and TV and it would have had to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars moving to a digital system. He said, 'We have to be on the cutting edge and that is digital.'

On WAWL listenership, he said, 'They will probably lose some listeners, but others will hear them who couldn't. It will be 24-7 worldwide.'"

It's depressing and fascinating that this decision is justified because the university believes that terrestrial radio is no longer cutting-edge or relevant to the future. Here's an opinion piece from today's Chattanoogan protesting the station sale and recounting a bit about station history (it used to be known as WCSO).

According to WAWL's website:

"The WAWL’s exciting and magnetic on-air segments span the spectrum from the Latino Hits and Reggae to Native American, New Age, Jazz, Metal, Punk, Local and hip-hop. The Chattanooga market is a 'stepping stone' for many celebrated musicians, making the WAWL's focus on local talent a very popular launching pad for new talent in the area."

The station website does not discuss the sale, but there are some student rumblings in this article about a protest last month, which states:

"Students at Chattanooga State come together to protest the sale of the college's radio station. WAWL-FM, or '91 Rock, The Wall' as it is known, will soon going off the air on FM radio. Administrators say the sale allows them to update equipment and bring the college's mass communications program into the future. But the students are not taking the sale lying down. Trey McKinney, along with many others, want to let Chattanooga State administrators know that the college's radio station doesn't deserve to go off the air. 'We are a student run radio station,' he says. 'The only one in the area. It's just that I don't agree with his reasonings for why he's doing this and all the other good things that are coming from it.' The 'he' McKinney is referring to is Doctor James Catanzaro, the President of Chattanooga State."

How would you feel and what would you do if your university sold off your FCC license?

For more on this story:

Courter: Clearing the Air Regarding WAWL's Sale (Chattanooga Times Free Press, 3/28/08)

Chattanooga State Students Protest the End of WAWL Radio (, 3/27/08)

Questions on the Sale of Chattanooga State Radio Station (The Chattanoogan, 3/27/08)

Remembering the Start of WAWL (The Chattanoogan, 3/27/08)

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