WRVU supporters file Petition to Deny license renewal


WRVU Friends and Family filed a Petition to Deny Vanderbilt University’s WFCL-FM license renewal (it was WRVU until 6/1/11) in Nashville. WFCL is licensed to Vanderbilt Student Communications (VSC), reports RadioSurvivor.com.

More from The Radio Survivor story:

“In June, 2011, WRVU DJs and volunteers were told that the station would be sold to Nashville Public Radio for use as a classical public radio station within its WPLN network. Soon after, an operating agreement went into effect and VSC is continuing to rent airtime to Nashville Public Radio over WRVU’s (now WFCL) 91.1 FM signal. Nashville Public Radio currently operates WFCL under Classical 91 One.

“Supporters of the old college radio station WRVU have rallied under the non-profit organization WRVU Friends and Family and have been arguing against the sale since last year. Although the terrestrial signal is being utilized by Nashville Public Radio, students at Vanderbilt are continuing to operate the online-only radio station WRVU.org.

In March, VSC submitted its application to renew the license for the former WRVU. The license is set to expire on August 1, 2012.

According to a statement by WRVU Friends and Family: ‘WRVUFF’s petition insists that the FCC hold Vanderbilt Student Communications (VSC) accountable for VSC’s ultra vires actions (actions in excess of legal authority) in initiating the sale agreement with WPLN.  The petition implores the FCC to take seriously its legal obligation to consider the public interest when making a license renewal determination. It also demonstrates that recent actions by VSC compel a finding that renewal, at this time, is not in the public interest’.

The Petition to Deny points out that when Vanderbilt Student Communications was incorporated in 1967, it made clear that it was founded for ‘the purpose of the operation, publication and dissemination of student communication media at Vanderbilt University…’

A Bylaws Appendix from 2002 further adds that, ‘Critical to all facets of the VSC mission is, above all, the preservation of a core set of student media outlets…’”

See the full Radio Survivor story here

RBR-TVBR observation: Nashville Public Radio doesn’t need two full-power FMs. All too many times college radio stations have sold to the NPR affiliate machine. Some markets end up with two, three and four NPR-affiliated stations receivable in the area that play nothing but news, talk classical and maybe jazz (there are fantastic exceptions, of course, like KCRW-FM LA). It has decimated variety on the dial in many cities. Students aren’t behind the mic and listeners no longer get music discovery over FM. This is clearly not why WRVU was founded and is in violation of the bylaws. The phenomenon is one of the reasons—market after market—that younger demos have resorted to the internet to get access to varied and new music.


  1. Nice to see that you’re a cultural philistine against the continued availability of THE MUSIC OF THE MASTERS played by properly-trained musicians around the clock on Nashville radio. There are plenty of other radio stations in Nashville for the immature little Vanderbilt students who are not paying attention to their studies to listen for their precious punk rock and gangster rap. WHY AREN’T YOU SUPPORTING SENIOR CITIZENS AND WHY DO YOU WANT TO TAKE AWAY OUR BEAUTIFUL MUSIC?

  2. As a one-time prospective DJ at WRVU, I feel bold to state a lengthy criticism of Marcucci here:

    1) By what criteria does he make a judgment that Nashville Public Radio does not “need” two frequencies? Looking around at other markets in the South, there is a varied picture concerning multiple NPR stations. Chattanooga, a place approximately a third to a quarter of Nashville’s size, has two separate stations, one entirely devoted to classical (WSMC, operated by Southern Adventist University, a church-related school) and another to a split AAA/news-talk-feature format (WUTC, related to UT-Chattanooga). Memphis has only one station, with a split classical/news-talk-feature format (WKNO). Atlanta has two NPR outlets, one aimed toward the typical upper-middle-class white audience with a classical/news split (WABE) and another aimed at a black audience (WCLK, owned by Clark Atlanta University, an HBCU). And up the road in Louisville, there are no fewer than THREE NPR outlets, all under the same roof of ownership, with one all-classical, another all-news/talk, and the third eclectic music and the weekend feature shows.

    So Marcucci really does not understand that each and every market has a peculiar configuration of stations, largely the result of historical accidents (that is, initiatives by schools, governmental bodies, and NGOs to start stations at various points over time). Therefore, his argument that Nashville is over-served by public radio is really without foundation, in my view.

    2) He speaks of an “NPR affiliate machine” as if it were a conspiracy to eliminate college and eclectic community non-comms from the dial. The WRVU experience, much like the instances in San Francisco and Houston that preceded it, proves otherwise. The desire on the part of existing NPR outlets in those places to expand was only half of the story. The other half, and as a radio professional he ought to know exactly the dynamics thereof, is that students simply did not have the interest in those stations to the degree that, for instance, their parents’ generation would have had. But not only that, almost all of the potential programmers/DJs/staff have access to the internet and thus multitudes of choices to hear their favorite genres not just two hours a week as per usual on the traditional college stations, but all the time, for crying out loud. The licensee, Vanderbilt Student Communications, knew all this when it made its plans to sell WRVU; the sale did not arise out of caprice or a vacuum, as the petitioners continue to delude themselves into believing a year after the fact.

    3) “Students aren’t behind the mic”–it’s just as well they aren’t, because radio is a business that has been bleeding jobs for over 10 years now. Anyone who thinks college radio is anything other than an extracurricular activity, especially at an elite institution like VU that has never had a broadcasting curriculum to start with, is only kidding himself/herself. Kids do not attend Vanderbilt in order to go into relatively (and that is the operative word) low-paying occupations like radio; schools like Middle Tennessee State University, another NPR licensee in nearby Murfreesboro, Tennessee, are more than sufficient for that in the first place.

    4) “Listeners no longer get musical discovery over FM”–Well, I’m sorry, Mr. Marcucci, it appears that ordinary people don’t WANT to discover new music, at least not large masses of them. If they were interested seriously in doing that, non-commercial radio would not be necessary–he knows that himself. Conformity to mass taste is the name of the game in for-profit broadcasting. What has happened is that WRVU, as did other college and community broadcasters, tried valiantly to convince the public that they should explore genres, but in a consumerist society that militates against education and self-improvement at every turn, the station could not overcome the forces of habit and prejudice (no college station ever succeeded in that, except perhaps on the Eastern seaboard and in the Bay Area, perhaps). Such was not the case 30-40 years ago to the degree it is now; people were perhaps more open to alternative rock, jazz, blues, folk, and so on. Technology once again enters the picture here, with the fact that FM radio really did not have any competition (nothing widely-accessible, anyway) until the streaming breakthrough in the early 2000s. Old-line FMs inevitably become passe in the minds of youth (the target audience of WRVU), who naturally feel more compelled to follow trends than the rest of the population. Put all that together and the sentence should really read, “Listeners no longer get musical discovery over FM because they do not want any.”

    5) As for the whole bylaws violation question, there is little likelihood that those behind this initiative are likely to have the resources to pursue a full-fledged legal action against an arm of a large, well-endowed university. It’s just a matter of David and Goliath in this instance, and the slingshot is not strong enough, and the petitioners cannot find any stones by which to hit VSC–certainly any reasonable interpretation would not construe the supposed aims of the station as inherently precluding the licensee from disposing of it. If that were the case, FCC transactions of any kind would not be possible, for either commercial or non-commercial stations. This argumentation is as flimsy as they come.

    6) Finally, Marcucci has the last sentence exactly backward in terms of causes and effects. It is the other way around: because younger generations have naturally gravitated to newer technology, they see no reason to use older ones. Hence, radio makes a strong turn to older groups in order to survive, and their tastes are naturally more conservative (in this case, public radio) than their children’s. That is the real reason for declining “diversity” on radio, which, to be honest, was never particularly high to begin with given the limitations of the medium and our culture’s historic bias in favor of commercialism.

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