Yesterday's story about WGTB-FM gave the impression that FCC warnings of alleged obscene language and administration discontent with program content contributed to the station's closing. These events occurred before a previous shutdown in 1976.
With 15 minutes of air time left, the disc jockey waved away a proffered message: "I don't want to waste time on words, man -- I want to play music!"
WGTB-FM, Georgetown University's embattled "alternative" radio station, was shutting down for the last time, signing off to the sounds of David Bowie and the disgruntled shouts of around 300 demonstrators.
If administration officials have their way, the FM license will be transferred to the University of the District of Columbia for $1. Georgetown will retain some of the station equipment in case the school ever starts broadcasting again -- presumably, without the programming and attitudes which have troubled the administration.
Officials were particularly displeased by public affairs programs which discussed gay rights and methods of birth control, and by FCC warnings of "six to eight" complaints about allegedly obscene language.
The usually dim studio was garish with television lights yesterday as the staff shouldered together like soldiers in a bunker. The telephone blinked continuously. One man called to say he had stayed up for three days taping the final broadcasts. A Pennsylvania man who picked up the station at night phoned in his regrets. "You have meant more to me than you will ever know," wrote a woman from Greenbelt.
"I think I can speak for the whole staff when I say we support you as you support us," said Jessica Cole, the deejay, as time ran short. "Please, stay in touch."
Most of the staffers (all volunteers, except for the station's general manager and chief engineer) wore WGTB T-shirts and brittle smiles. In the next room, two women wept quietly in each other's arms.
As the last record faded away at noon, a crowd of supporters gathered in the traffic circle in front of the administration building. A light snow clung to the demonstrators as university police looked on.
The public address system faltered as staffers urged the crowd on, cheering "GTB!GTB!" Placards appeared, denouncing the "disco" formats of most contemporary radio stations and approving the progressive rock 'n' roll and New Wave leanings of WGTB.
In a burst of determination, the protesters marched off to the Federal Communications Commission building at 1919 M St. There the protest fizzled into promises of more demonstrations.
The FCC must approve the transfer of the license to U-D.C.; the matter, although reportedly ruled on at the staff level, must be cleared by the commission itself. The WGTB case has not yet been scheduled; sources inside the agency suggest it may not be docketed for several months.
Also pending is a petition to deny transfer. It was submitted by the Alliance to Preserve Radio at Georgetown (APRG), an organization of students, Georgetown alumni and area listeners. According to APRG, their petition includes 20,000 names.
In 1976, the administration pulled the plug on the station for three months. After hiring Robert Uttenweiler as station manager, then-president Robert Henle returned the station to the air.
As tensions grew between the staff and Uttenweiler, President Timothy Healy concluded that the station did not enhance the university's reputation and announced last April that Georgetown would give up its license.
The FCC could either approve the transfer or accept "bid" petitions for the frequency.
The non-commercial license, in the crowded radio spectrum, could be worth as much as $1 million annually, according to a local media management consultant.
In a prepared statement released Monday, the station's management board said in part: "For some years now, the Georgetown station has operated in a vacuum. With no department of communication arts, and no curriculae in radio or television, it has lacked an academic base. The university has thus kept an undeniable asset in a kind of limbo, not parting with it, but at the same time not assigning it the kind of priority budget... which would enable it to fulfil its promise."