After nearly 40 years, WQNA is nearing the end

From the SJ-R website:

Career Center confirms WQNA-FM is up for sale

Springfield radio station WQNA-FM, a cooperative between the Capital Area Career Center (CACC) and community members that is marking its 40th anniversary this month, is up for sale.

The CACC’s executive council has hired Chicago-based Paramount Media Advisors, Inc. to broker the sale, confirmed Jodi Ferriell, CACC’s director.

The 250-watt station, which can be found at 88.3 FM, is known for its eclectic mix of music, including country roots, hip-hop, gospel, Motown, blues, jazz, swing and classic rock, among others. Those shows are staffed by volunteers DJs and the station has a devoted following.

The potential sale, Ferriell said, had been brewing for about the five years. She said the main reason was a lack of student interest in the center’s radio/TV program.

CACC, which was founded as the Capital Area Vocational Center, serves students from 21 high schools, including Springfield District 186.

“When you’re serving zero students, you can’t justify pouring $30,000-$40,000 into the station,” Ferriell said. “It’s not a decision that we’ve taken lightly. It was a difficult decision. It’s a great station.”

CACC will maintain the radio/TV curriculum, Ferriell confirmed, but isn’t going to offer any radio station component.

“It’s more (audio/visual) technical training, operating cameras and video,” Ferriell said.

Also at issue, Ferriell added, is about $15,000 to $20,000 in potential equipment upgrades for the station, a figure Jim Pemberton, WQNA’s program director, said “might be low.”

Earlier this year, a series of events, including the studio’s main on-air computer getting hit with a cryptovirus, led to the station being knocked off the airwaves.

The station’s antenna became encased in ice, putting a load on the main transmitter, while a part for the back-up transmitter also failed.

The station also doesn’t have a back-up antenna, the control board is aging and it has only one on-air computer, Pemberton said.

Lately, the station has had problems with intermittent static that was audible over the airwaves, Pemberton said. A processor that works to control the situation is old and the station can’t get replacement parts.

Ferriell said she hoped the station would fetch $90,000 to $95,000 and the board would “entertain any offers.”

Pemberton, who was a student in the program in the 1980s, said he isn’t surprised by the sale and CACC’s management has been upfront and honest in its dealings.

“I don’t think any of us have ill feelings towards CACC,” Pemberton said. “CACC owes us nothing. For the past 20 years, we’ve been able to do about anything we want with no interference. You usually don’t get that.”

As for DJs possibly buying the station, Pemberton said “short of winning the lottery or getting a wealthy benefactor, we’re not going to be able to do that.”

In its early days, WQNA was a student station with limited wattage and was only on the air during school times. WQNA went to a 24-hour operation in 1998 and that’s also when community volunteers got involved, said Pemberton, who came back as program director shortly after that.

About 80 percent of the programming on WQNA is live and local, he said.

Pemberton said if the end is in sight for WQNA in its current incarnation, he has no regrets.

“This has been a blessing,” he said. “We can all be proud of what we’ve done.”