As the official college radio station of Vanderbilt University, WRVU has been broadcasting from Nashville since the ’50s and on 91.1 FM since 1971. But if Vanderbilt’s plans announced last September do not change, the university will sell its broadcasting license, knocking WRVU off the air and relegating it to an uncertain, online-only future. Public Enemy leader Chuck D visited with support organization Save WRVU on Record Store Day—the day after Public Enemy played Vanderbilt’s Rites of Spring music festival—to join calls for the Vanderbilt Student Communications board (VSC) not to sell the station.
In September of last year, the VSC announced that it was “exploring the migration of radio station WRVU to exclusively online programming and the sale of its broadcast license,” prompting a meeting between the VSC and surprised WRVU staffers. The months that followed saw WRVU alumni, staff members, and supporters pushing back against a sale of the license in large numbers. Save WRVU’s Facebook page amassed more than 6,000 fans, and letters in support of WRVU were sent to the VSC and Vanderbilt chancellor Nicolas Zeppos.
Chuck D isn’t the only familiar face showing support for WRVU; musicians and famed alumni have come to the station’s defense. CNN anchor Richard Quest and Facebook’s Vice President of Technology Jeff Rothschild have recently voiced support; Quest was once WRVU’s news director, and Rothschild was once its general manager. 10,000 Maniacs and Jason and the Scorchers are among other well-known musicians standing in support of WRVU.
One of the largest college stations in the United States, WRVU averaged 28,500 listeners between July and October 2010. If a sale of its license is carried out, WRVU would be forced into an online-only format, disappearing from terrestrial radio. Online-only stations have additional costs to consider involving streaming royalties and bandwidth issues; Save WRVU suggests that this may raise annual operating costs even as their audience reach and influence is compromised.