After 27 years on the air with Anderson University, 98.7 The Song, formerly WQME, is for sale.
Four full-time employees will be affected by the sale, and the university is currently in discussion with potential buyers. The decision came as part of a long line of program changes in accordance with the university’s new strategic plan.
Ryon Kaopuiki, who is new this year to the role of vice president for enrollment and marketing, said that the decision has been long discussed by administrators and other campus leaders.
“As the university looked at the strategic plan and what our core competencies are and the direction that we’re going, the radio station just fell outside of that strategic plan,” he said. “This was a difficult decision that leadership wrestled with for quite a while.”
There is no clear timeline for when the sale will be made.
“We don’t have a specific timeline that we’re saying we have to sell the station by ‘this date’ or even a specific amount that we’re saying we have to sell it for ‘this amount,’” he said. “We just know that it falls outside the scope of what we’re trying to do as a university and we wanted to make a decision and move quickly into action in living out who we say we are.”
In recent years, the radio station has been utilized less and less for academic programs in the Communication and Design Arts Department. Kaopuiki said that the lack of academic function served as a reason the station is being sold.
“There have been a number of years since there has been academic value in the station,” he said. “As we look at where the priorities are, at that point it’s probably best that we pivot away.”
Kaopuiki also said that although the station is not currently being used for classwork, the equipment at the station is not expected to be sold. Instead, it will remain with the university to be used as needed for future classes.
Selling the radio station is also a financial move.
“It will allow us, from a financial standpoint, to take those resources and put them toward areas that align more with the strategic plan,” Kaopuiki said. “We want to do more to invest in marketing so that we can increase enrollment from a new student perspective, but also from a retention standpoint.”
He said that the university has yet to determine exactly where income from the sale will be distributed.
“One of our pillars is fiscal strength, and we have a fiduciary responsibility with any funds we have to be responsible with those,” he said. “As we look at anything, whether it’s WQME or other programs that have previously been changed, all of those things are done with a goal of fulfilling or living up to those expectations that are within the strategic plan. As we eliminate some expenses that are not feeding into [the plan], then I think that demonstrates some of that responsibility and allows us to then pivot and invest more appropriately.”
As AU pivots away from The Song, leadership is now tasked with determining what comes next for students and the university’s marketing plan.
“We’re in the process of exploring that, if not terrestrial radio, then what is relevant today? It’s streaming, it’s digital, it’s podcasts,” Kaopuiki said. “What does the next thing look like for us and what would the academic value be, given what our current program structure is and such?”
He said that podcasts stand out as a possible new marketing tool.“We’ll form a committee to look at and investigate [the next steps] and make some of those decisions,” he said. “What is key to me is what’s relevant, what’s distinct and compelling and where’s the academic benefit? Where is the benefit that goes to the student and how does it align with the strategic plan of an outstanding student experience?”
Kaopuiki stressed that employee performance had nothing to do with the decision to sell the station.
“This wasn’t a decision about the employees not doing a good job,” he said. “We’ve got employees who have been there for almost 25 years. They’ve done an amazing job in contributing to the university as a whole and have long tenure here. That’s the part of this that is really disappointing.
“Anytime that we make changes and individuals are impacted in this way, that’s the unfortunate part,” he said. “As a university, we have been really fortunate to have really great people working at the radio station, and I am confident that God is going to continue to bless their lives and the work that they do.
“The radio station was an important part of the last quarter century of the university, and I’m excited about what the next 25 years will be,” he said.