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UMASS-Lowell's WJUL is being sold to the highest bidder. (english)
Email: raveneye (nospam) riseup.net
21 Jul 2003
At WJUL, the student-run radio station at UMASS-Lowell, DJ's and student administrators recently had 25 hours of airtime a week sold by the university to the Lowell Sun, a newspaper owned by the Media News Group, the seventh-largest newspaper owner in the US. The following is a letter from Abram Taber, WJUL's general manager to station alumni, seeking help and support. You can help, too!
Hello WJUL Alumni.
There is an important situation currently playing itself out here at WJUL. About a year ago, the University (at the request of the Board of Trustees) began looking at ways to utilize WJUL as a promotional tool with the goal of increasing enrollment. At that time, a committee was formed to explore ways of achieving this; Dana Skinner, the Athletics Director, was put in charge of this committee. The final option the committee decided upon was to create a morning news program that would be geared towards adults in commute. The Lowell Sun was approached to produce this news program, but nothing was settled upon at that point. The program was scheduled to run 5 days a week (Monday through Friday) from 5 AM to 10 AM.
At the beginning of the 2003 spring semester, WJUL was notified of the proceedings that had been going on with the Lowell Sun. Needless to say we were taken by surprise and were rightfully angry. In light of the situation, the directors discussed ways we could promote the university without outside assistance. Several ideas were presented to the administration but none was ever agreed upon.
The most recent development in this situation alarms us even more. As of Friday, June 27, a contract with the Lowell Sun has been signed. None of the directors were notified of any plans to actually sign a contract. We had been told that changes were coming and we would be notified before they came. Apparently the administration thought it was a good idea to go ahead with the plans to sign a contract and tell WJUL about its signing as an afterthought. My suspicion is that the administration saw the summer as a good time to catch us off our guard. Many of the directors live in far flung places, with only a few residing in the Lowell area. I see this newest development as systematic of how WJUL has been treated thus far: with little to no respect.
With the signing of this contract, plans are being carried out to build a new studio at Tsongas Arena that will be used by the Lowell Sun for their morning news show. Another ?benefit? of locating the studio in Tsongas Arena is that it will make broadcasting hockey games easier, as facilities will be available on-site. In addition to this, a WJUL Programming Assistant position will be created to act as coordinator for a ?morning news program? and ?non-student programs.? This position was originally going to be located in the Athletics Department, but has been moved to reside in the University Communications and Marketing Department under the supervision of Chris Dunlap. Attached to this letter is a document explaining some of the stipulations of the contract. It is taken from an e-mail sent by Mary Connelly, the Director of Student Activities.
This situation is beginning to look more and more bleak for the station. One of the original stipulations was that if 25 hours a week were going to be cut from our schedule every week, we should get something in return. We were told that plans for a brand new studio were being discussed in order to accommodate this news program. The idea was that this new studio would be usable by students. Now this doesn?t seem to be the case.
The Tsongas Arena is not a stop available on either the University Shuttle or Escort Service. The Tsongas Arena is not open 24 hours a day.
Basically, it will not be accessible to all students who would like to use the facilities, though claims have been made to the contrary. The whole situation has become more and more about the Athletics Department (under the direction of Dana Skinner) gaining more of a foothold at WJUL and less about promoting the university and giving the students something in return.
In addition to these concerns, there is the idea of diversity in the media. With the FCC currently deregulating radio and television stations, the choice of voices available to the public is thinning. The Lowell Sun is owned by a Midwestern media conglomerate. Does it seem right that a small, student run radio station that has been operating for 50 years is being slowly infiltrated by a large corporate entity? As a station member once was told by a music director at WGBH, ?college radio is the last hope for radio.?
I urge you to get in touch with Chancellor Hogan or Dana Skinner, Athletic Director and let them know we will not stand to be taken advantage of in this manner. Words of support are also appreciated and can be directed to Provost John Wooding and Assistant Provost Ken Lemanski.
William_Hogan (at) uml.edu
Director of Athletics
Dana_Skinner (at) uml.edu
John_Wooding (at) uml.edu
Kenneth_Lemanski (at) uml.edu
WJUL General Manager
If you have any questions or suggestions, feel free to e-mail me or our former general manager, Nathan Walsh (beeffajitas (at) hotmail.com).