GSU-GPB partnership planning dates back to August 2013

On May 29, 2014 • By

Documentation revealed Georgia Public Broadcasting made an attempt to place their programming on WRAS 88.5 FM’s channel in 2008, as mentioned by The Signal previously.

Jeff Walker, Douglass Covey and Kerry Heyward are included in the emails. Walker is the retiring operations manager for WRAS, Covey is the current Vice President of Student Affairs and Heyward is the university’s attorney.

GPB representatives and individuals of public relations and marketing at Georgia State were also included in emails, according to documents obtained through an open records request (ORR).

Below is a condensed chronological timeline between Aug. 2013 – May 2014.

Note: This story serves as Part (II) of the previous story published by The Signal.

Conversations between GPB reps. and GSU regarding WRAS air time.

Aug. 2013:

Walker sent Covey an email concerning the WRAS football schedule on Aug. 6, 2013. Copied to the email was Heyward. Walker mentions all athletic games will be aired on WIFN 1340 AM “The Fan”. See documents for more details.

Margaret Miller, attorney of law sent Peter Tannenwald an email about the GSU-GPB term sheet the same afternoon. Tannenwald is also an attorney.

“Peter: I am forwarding a draft of the GPB/GSU Term Sheet for the radio station for GSU’s review and comment. Once the Term Sheet is approved, our plan is to move quickly to three (3) definitive agreements: (i) a Programming Agreement for the radio station; (ii) a Share Time Agreement for the radio station (assuming that the parties mutually agree to move forward with that plan); and (iii) a Digital Channel Programming Agreement (for GSU programming on the GPB TV network)…”

– Miller to Tannenwald (Aug. 6, 2013)

Tannenwald then emailed Heyward about the term sheet that evening. He also copied Walker to the email. Tannenwald said Miller said she originally intended for them to work together on the term sheet before it went to clients.

“…However, she must have shown it to GPB, because she says that they are diving in full tilt and are not leaving her time to talk to me privately first. Therefore, I thought I had better sent it do you right away, before I have had a chance to think through all of the issues. I am a little disappointed in how long this is taking, but I can see that I am going to have to do more than I thought and rely on GPB less. That is not intended as criticism of Meg, but I would like to simplify the basic terms at least if I can.”

– Tannenwald to Heyward and Walker (Aug. 6, 2013)

Tannenwald then asked Heyward and Walker if the intention of student programming on WRAS will be distributed statewide to be heard through the sound systems of TV sets. See documents for detailed information of the GSU-GPB time sheet.

Walker forwards the same emails to Covey on Aug. 7, 2013 and says it appears there had been a decision made about the partnership.

“…It looks like there has been a decision—one year of the original plan then a license split. I don’t see how we can start Sept. 1 with all of the technical details to be worked out.”

– Walker to Covey (Aug. 7, 2013)

Heyward then responds to Tannenwald the same evening saying there is no possible way for the start date to be Sept. 1.

“…At one point we had discussed a timeframe of starting either in December or March, with March being more realistic option. I have a message from Bob Olive of GPB, so this may be the reason he is calling. I’ll try and connect with him this week. I’ve only had a few minuets to skim the agreement, but have numerous questions/concerns. I’d like to be able to go through the agreement with you, but based on some other projects, won’t be able to do so until the week of Aug. 19.”

– Heyward to Tannenwald (Aug. 7, 2013)

Sept. 2013:

Walker emailed Covey on Sept. 3, 2013 stating Arbitron’s radio ratings estimated WRAS had 76,200 listeners per week. Walker also said it was the highest estimate since the station began receiving ratings information the year prior.

Oct. 2013:

On Oct. 4, 2013 Walker sent an email to Covey and Heyward titled “Tower Timeline”. Walker said with FCC approval and ideal weather conditions, the station’s tower project could be completed by June. Heyward was also copied to this email.

“… As you might expect, with the FCC being shut down [because of the government shutdown], this timeline is subject to change. Weather conditions also have to be favorable for the actual installation, so that portion of the project is unpredictable. If the lease, FCC approval and weather all go our way it could be completed as soon as June…”

– Walker to Covey and Heyward (Oct. 4, 2013)

On Oct. 7, 2013 Heyward responded to Walker and Covey. She asked Walker if there was a particular reason why April was the new finish date instead of August. Walker then responded to Heyward saying the project was not going to be completed before the FCC permit expired in April.

“As we’ve progressed with obtaining more information about the antenna and how it will be mounted on the tower, it was clear that completing the project before our FCC permit expires in April was increasingly unlikely. In several emails and a phone call with Peter Tannenwald, he gave examples of how the FCC only grants extensions if there is some kind of act of God delaying construction. He strong suggested that we prepare a new FCC application for the American Tower site and file it as soon as the lease is completed. I have been reviewing the length lease from American Tower and [I] am preparing a list explaining the technical and FCC portions so that our staff will have some context while making changes.

– Walker to Heyward and Covey (Oct. 7, 2013)

Walker then said the FCC shutdown could result in it taking three months before they could get another construction permit (CP).

“All that said, it is possible that if we can get the lease done this month, the FCC grants our new Construction Permit (GP) within a few weeks, the antenna purchase is not delayed, the weather holds during construction , and we don’t have any surprises, we could be on the air sometime in May. However, the FCC shutdown is going to create a backlog of regular work on top of a new filing window for Low Power FM stations, so it could easily take 3 months for the FCC to approve a new CP. We need to have a lease approved before filing the CP, so that’s my current focus.”

– Walker to Heyward and Covey (Oct. 7, 2013)

Covey sent an email to Heyward and Walker on Oct. 7, 2013. He explained voting by the Mandatory Fee Committee would take place on the Oct. 18 or Oct. 25.

“That recommendation will be taken up by FACP in November. I don’t know the date, but the copy of this, I’ll ask Jeff to get the FACP schedule. From there it goes as recommendation to the President. I believe the President submits his request to the BOR in January, where it receives no action until after the appropriations are finalized by the General Assembly in March or April…”

– Covey to Heyward and Walker (Oct. 7, 2013)

Heyward then responded to Covey asking if he wanted to include the dates of the student fee approval process in the timeline. See documentation for further details.

Nov. 2013:

On Nov. 8, 2013 Heyward sent an email to Covey and Walker asking if there was an update for a revision of a WRAS digitalization timeline. She also asked if there would be a revised version the next week. Walker responded to Heyward the same day.

“….We have a way to achieve the goal, but in a slightly different way than intended. It would involve making changes to the old site rather quickly then we would have to not worry about whether the new site is ready by the deadline. I can go into more detail on the phone Monday if you would like, but I believe we can be ready sometime in March.”

– Walker to Heyward (Nov. 8, 2013)

See documentation for the digitalization timeline. The title of the sheet is “GPB Rollout”.

December 2013 emails were not provided within the documents.

Jan. 2014:

Robert Butler, Vice President for engineering at GPB, emailed Walker and Tom Taylor on Jan. 7, 2014 about radio equipment. Taylor is the chief engineer at Georgia State.

Walker forwarded Butler’s original email to Covey the next day, saying Butler provided a list of costs for equipment to deliver previously.

“….In an earlier email he gave us a list of over $11,000 of equipment to deliver to their signal at GSU, but in the message below he is thinking we are to pay for part of the system. I don’t know if there is an agreement that specifies which party is paying for equipment, but we didn’t budget for this cost. I was assuming GPB would pay for the equipment to get their signal to us on the basis that it would be the only item they would pay for and half of the equipment (there is a transmit / receive device on each side of the line) would be in their facility…”

– Walker to Covey (Jan. 8, 2013)

Walker also told Covey in the email that Butler told one vendor the equipment was to connect the two studios to keep the purchase confidential.

“…I don’t know why the purpose of the equipment is necessary to reveal. If you have a moment today, we can discuss this issue.”

– Walker to Covey (Jan. 8, 2014)

Walker forwarded the same email to Heyward on Jan. 9, 2014 regarding his contact with Butler.

On Jan. 24, 2014 Heyward sent an email to Covey and Don Hale about the GPB’s relationship with WRAS developing. Hale is the Vice President of public relations and marketing communications at Georgia State.

“The WRAS/GPB relationship that has been in discussion for months is getting traction. The engineers are working out the technical aspects and I have outside cousel working on the contract. The next thing we need to do is discuss the messaging, both external and to students. I’d like to schedule a meeting for us (and Andrea and Jeff?) to go through the timeline and additional items we need to be working on…”

– Heyward to Hale and Covey (Jan. 24, 2014)

Heyward lists Jan. 29, 30 or 31 as option for them all to meet. The meeting was held on Wednesday, Jan. 29, according to the emails.

Feb. 2014:

On Feb. 3, 2014 Walker sent Heyward and Covey an email about the WRAS timeline. Attached to the email was the GPB Rollout document.

“Here is the proposal, with a slight adjustment after today’s meeting. I also noticed an entry in the GPB plan for a “Program Changes Press Release” dated May 27, but we would, of course, need a press release for the announcement date. If GPB is thinking of having a joint staff meeting with the students of the station in the March 31 – April 2 timeframe, I don’t think that would be a good idea. The WRAS messages should be crafted within GSU and communicated with the student General Manager internally.”

– Walker to Heyward and Covey (Feb. 3, 2014)

On Feb. 5, 2014 Walker contacted Heyward and Covey again. This time about the possibility of receiving the transmitter by April, 2014.

“I’ve included the transmitter information as best we know it, but it depends on our not receiving an objection to the Intent To Bid notice that Purchasing posted. The Deadline for that is February 13. We may receive the transmitter as early as late April, but even if we don’t we can still carry their programming using our existing equipment until the new transmitter arrives. The only thing we’d be missing is the extra HD channel, but it will take time to get the word out to all of our listeners about the existence of the HD channel and how they can access it. The existing potential audience for HD is small, but growing. It will be the stream that will be the primary way for current listeners to hear the daytime programming.”

– Walker to Heyward and Covey (Feb. 5, 2014)

March 2014:

On March 27, 2014 Walker sent his letter of resignation and retirement to Covey. The letter was included in the documents requested by The Signal.

“…It is with regret that I submit this letter of resignation and announce my retirement effective August 1, 2014. My last day in the office will be Thursday, July 24, 2014, as my annual vacation is scheduled to begin Friday, Jul5 31, 2014.”

– Walker to Covey (March 27, 2014)

April 2014:

Walker sent Heyward and Covey an email on April 4, 2014 titled “Transmitter Update”. He said the new transmitter would be shipping late, but the FMR was approved to upgrade the electrical wiring at Panthersville.

“…Tom will have the transmitter ready a few days after the electrical work is done. The June target looks secure knowing what we know now.”

– Walker to Heyward and Covey (April 4 2014)

Walker also said the construction permit for the WABE tower was canceled and they would apply for a new permit from the American Tower site on April 7, 2014.

That date was the first date the university was allowed to file under FCC procedures, according to Walker’s email.

“… As soon as the new Construction Permit is issued we will place the order for the new antenna, which will take several months to build and install. There are too many variables to know how long the whole process will take, but we should be on the air at the new site by next Summer.”

– Walker to Heyward and Covey (April 4, 2014)

Heyward responded the same day, asking Walker if the university would still be able to broadcast GPB content as of June 2. Walker then responded saying yes, even if there was a delay in electrical work.

“…. The current transmitter will become our stand-by when the new one arrives, so we could be on the air with either. The GPB broadcast line, which will carry their audio to us, was just installed in our new studio a few days ago. The connection is being tested by their contractor. “

– Walker to Heyward and Covey (April 4, 2014)

Covey sent Milton Clipper, President and CEO of Public Broadcasting Atlanta, an email about his duties at Georgia State preventing him from participating as a member on the Board. Covey sent this email on April 22, 2014.

“… It has been my honor to serve on your board since shortly after my arrival at Georgia State. Although I initially was much more actively involved, in recent years my duties at the university have prevented me from participating fully as a member of the Board. I do not believe these circumstances will change in the foreseeable future, so I think it [‘s] appropriate to resign at this time. As you suggested, I shared our discussion with Dr. Becker. His schedule is extremely busy at this time of the year but he will be available to discuss my replacement later this summer…”

– Covey to Clipper (April 22, 2014)

Covey said there is no conflict of interest of him being on the Board, according to an article by Creative Loafing (CL).

“…For one thing, WABE was not privy to this agreement between Georgia State and GPB. Also, I did not negotiate the agreement. I was uninvolved with negotiations with GPB. So there isn’t a conflict of interest.”

– Covey to CL

May 2014:

Heyward sent Covey, Jones and Hale an email titled “GPB Announcement” on May 2, 2014. Attached was a draft of the GSU-GPB partnership release. Covey said it looked good to him. See documents for draft details.

On May 5, Walker sent an email to Heyward and Covey titled “Ibiquity Contract”.

“I dropped off a contract in Purchasing form a company called Ibiquity and I am hoping it gets back to your office today. Ibiquity holds the copyright to HR Radio and we were led to believe that the HD radio license and fee that each radio station must pay would be included in the purchase of our new transmitters. That is not the case – we have to sign a contract and pay a one-time fee of $9,000, with an annual fee of $1,000. The software in our new transmitter, delivered last week, has a key which can only be unlocked by Ibiquity so we can’t fully test the transmitter until the contract is returned and the fee is paid.”

– Walker to Heyward and Covey (May 5, 2014)

Walker then told Heyward and Covey the company easily accepts changes to the governing law sections, because they deal with state governments.

He also said there were several references to to paying fees if the university used sub channels for subscription services

“…But I don’t believe we would do that and we’d be under the same FCC rules against accepting money for programming. From a quick read, it appears noncommercial stations are free of any further fees as long as they broadcast non subscription services. I am sure Peter has experience with these agreements if we need more detail…”

– Walker to Heyward and Covey (May 5, 2014).

Rodney Ho, entertainment blogger for The Atlanta Journal Constitution, emailed Walker on May 7, 2014, according to documents. Ho asked if WRAS was the first station to play OutKast or R.E.M.

Walker then sent the email to Jones and Covey confirming Album 88 was the first to play OutKast, but WUOG in Athens was the first to play R.E.M.

The Position Review Form Supplement (PRFS) for Bryce McNeil, student media advisor, was also included in the ORR documents. See embedded documentation for further details.

Ryan Coskrey, a student at Georgia State,sent an email to the chancellor on May 10, 2014 titled “Board of Regents Complaint Concerning the Actions of Mark Becker and Georgia State University Representatives”. See documentation for further details.

Joyce A. Jones copied Covey to the email on May 12, 2014.

“… Burns Newson has asked me for some background information on how student fees will be used. The Article in today’s paper about the protest at graduation is the first that I had heard about the radio station. This student seems to think student fees are being used inappropriately. How are you responding to the student correspondence that I assume you are getting? I am sure we will have some pretty soon.”

– Jones to Covey (May 12, 2014)

Covey responded on May 13, with a summary of his understandings of the agreement.

“…. GSU did not ‘hand over’ it’s license, or facilities to GPB. Student fees supporting the station continue to be used entirely for the station’s operation. No student fees are transferring to GPB. The payment received from GPB is to defray the costs associated with carrying GPB programming. It is true that students were not informed that negotiations were underway, but news of the agreement was shared with student management and staff at WRAS the day after the agreement was finalized with GPB…”

– Covey to Jones (May 13, 2014)

See documents for Covey’s other responses.

Lanier Henson, current president of the Student Government Association (SGA) at the university, sent an email to Becker and Covey on May 14, 2014. Henson’s email served as an outliner of the WRAS representative.

“First off I would like to thank you for your willingness to meet with and discuss the concerns from the WRAS students this Friday. I have attached a document outlining the concerns that were presented by the WRAS representative in today’s meeting with some of the Student Government Association Vice Presidents and myself. The Student Government Association will have at least one member of our executive board present at the meeting, but unfortunately I am unable to attend to to my surgery tomorrow morning.”

– Henson to Becker and Covey (May 14, 2014)

Some of the concerns outlined by Henson in the email were loss of sole ownership of the license, lack of incorporation of the news department and hindering WRAS’s operations. See documents for other outlining concerns.

Becker met with members of WRAS on May 17, 2014.

“At the request of the Student Government Association, we met today with the leadership of Georgia State University’s student-programmed radio station, WRAS, to discuss student concerns relating to the recently announced partnership between Georgia State and Georgia Public Broadcasting. We had a highly positive and productive meeting and agreed to work with them to explore options. We are committed to addressing the concerns that have been expressed so we can move forward together to pursue what is best for Georgia State and our community.”

– Becker’s statement following the meeting with WRAS (May 17, 2014)

On June 2, GPB exclusive content will air from 5 a.m. – 7 p.m. each day.

1 Comment

2 Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  1. Covey, Walker and Becker address ORR documents - The Signal
  2. WRAS supporters express concerns over improper FCC filings for the station - The Signal

Comments are closed.