WRAS at Georgia State assumed status as one of the nation’s leading college radio stations in the 1980s. Yet as this article reveals, participants confronted a crucial moment in the emergence of college radio’s role in the music industry and the emergence of alternative rock as they debated the station’s new format in 1979. While the format fight revealed the dynamics between DJs who preferred a sound that was familiar and palatable to a wide range of audiences versus those who wished to air less conventional, more adventurous rock music, the surrounding politics instead reveal the inseparability of college radio and its role in popular culture from campus politics, particularly the ongoing Black Campus Movement. WRAS’s internal format fight, while heated, neglected the concerns of other students at Georgia State, particularly Black students, who felt shut out of the power dynamics of these stations. Federal regulatory shifts also influenced station affairs through a more public relations–oriented administration, all of which reveal the intersection between institutional and regulatory politics and the soundscapes being created by college radio participants in the early 1980s. The debates regarding genre and sound at Georgia State thus reveal the dynamics that shaped college radio, yet which nonetheless rendered Black students as bystanders in determining the sound of that influence. This article argues that college radio’s “modern” reputation as the home of college rock obscures campus dynamics that were important in shaping college radio culture and practices, which belie stations’ commitment to liberal values of sonic diversity. This history expands beyond the influence of a single, powerful station, moreover, and reveals the potential for expanded research into the emerging network and influence of college radio throughout its history.

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