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With president and CEO Sanford Inouye leading the way, ‘Ōlelo Community Media will continue sharing Hawai‘i’s diverse voices with its viewers for many years to come.

Sanford Inouye has been involved with community access programming in one way or another for quite some time now, and he’s got ‘Ōlelo Community Media to thank for that.

In the mid-1990s, his path led him to first engage with the local media company as staff attorney for the state Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs’ cable division.

“I got to work directly with the initial executive and management (teams) at ‘Ōlelo, and we also started to help develop the neighbor island community access organizations,” he recalls.

So, it’s fitting to say that Inouye’s appointment to president and CEO of ‘Ōlelo nearly five years ago has brought the Kaimukī grad full circle.

Prior to taking the helm at ‘Ōlelo, he spent a handful of years on the West Coast working for cable companies like AT&T Broadband and Com-cast Cable Communications, focusing his efforts on governmental affairs.

“I got to meet a lot of different people — elected officials from city, county, state and federal,” he says. “But my favorite piece was getting to work with community organizations and getting to know what they do.”

Thus, when the opening at ‘Ōlelo came about, it was a no-brainer for him to apply.

“I thought it would be a good opportunity to come back and give back,” he says.

‘Ōlelo, he adds, is a wide-reaching platform that allows individuals, businesses, nonprofits, governmental organizations and educational institutions to share their stories with the greater community.

“Without ‘Ōlelo, individuals wouldn’t have a voice to tell their stories on a platform that was created by Congress for the very purpose of having diversity of voices throughout the community,” he says. “We give people a chance to express their views in a safe place.”

In addition to its mainstay channels, the media company also does executive productions, PSAs and specialty programs, like Island Focus, which highlights leaders in the government, business, education and community sectors, as well as state Capitol-focused Live at the Legislature.

“It’s all local,” Inouye adds. “It’s what we call ‘hyper-local.'”

There is also similar public access programming on the outer islands. Maui, for example, has Akakū. Kaua‘i, meanwhile, utilizes Hō‘ike, and the Big Island broadcasts through Nā Leo. Similar to ‘Ōlelo, the neighbor island media entities provide video production training and resources to adults, youth and organizations, as well as coverage of local government proceedings, community and special events, and more.

“All four community access organizations, while separate and independent, work cohesively on state and national issues, as well as sharing programs and best practices,” adds Inouye. “They have been instrumental in expanding the reach of ‘Ōlelo’s Youth Xchange student video competition throughout their respective counties.”

‘Ōlelo, though, does so much more than broadcast, and its main focus outside of producing is to ensure that the up-and-coming generation has what they need to succeed.

“Our children and our students are the future storytellers of Hawai‘i,” Inouye continues.

In line with its youth-focused mission, ‘Ōlelo has on its list of offerings the Youth Xchange video competition and its Junior Academy for Media, the latter of which is a project-based learning experience for O‘ahu students.

‘Ōlelo Community Media’s Youth Xchange video competition event is a staple among statewide youth programs and allows kids to harness their creativity to film and produce everything from mini documentaries to PSAs to industry-specific categories that run the gamut from Clean Energy (sponsored by Hawaiian Electric) to 808 No Vape (sponsored by Hawai‘i Public Health Institute and the Coalition for a Tobacco Free Hawai‘i).

Now in its 18th year, it saw judges sift through more than 900 entires in 15-plus categories from more than 2,000 students in elementary, middle/ intermediate and high school divisions.

“When you see their imagination and creativity in terms of the message in video format, I am blown away,” adds Inouye. “It’s a great platform for students to be able to work together to create a message, showcase and be judged by the sponsors.”

Youth Xchange won’t be hosting a live awards banquet this year, but will still dole out finalist nominations and first-place honors during a virtual ceremony slated for 5:30 p.m. Monday, May 11 — find it on channel 53 online at olelo.org/tv-schedule.

Additional airtimes will be at 7:30 a.m. May 12 and 17, and 1:30 p.m. May 18, all on channel 53 online.

‘Ōlelo celebrated its 30-year anniversary last year to much fanfare, but there’s so much more in store, to hear Inouye tell it.

“We want to make sure that we are around for the next 30 years, and how we do that is not complicated,” he adds.

“It’s simple. We need to provide value to the community and also garner support from the community to help us do this.”

For more information on all of ‘Ōlelo Community Media’s live streaming and on-demand video options, and a full schedule, visit olelo.org, and keep up with Youth Xchange at olelo.org/yxc2020.

WHAT’S ‘APP’ENING

Relevancy is of utmost importance to ‘Olelo Community Media, which is why it recently launched a free mobile app for iOS and Android.

“This is really new tech for ‘Olelo,” says president and CEO Sanford Inouye. “It gives people access to what we provide, and it also o˚ ers interaction on portable devices.”

The app gives consumers access to community happenings at their fingertips. “If there’s something going on at the state Legislature, like there’s a live hearing on a certain topic, the app will give you a message letting you know,” he adds.

The most popular feature, though, might be the app’s live tra˝ c cameras. “People, they like to check tra˝ c,” Inouye says with a laugh. “It’s on in the morning and afternoons.”

For more information, visit olelo.org/mobile.

KEEPING UP WITH COVID-19

‘Ōlelo Community Media is updating the public on the statewide effort to combat COVID-19 by streaming gavel-to-gavel “Senate Special Committee on COVID-19” and “House Select Committee on COVID-19 Economic and Financial Preparedness” meetings, as well as Live at the Legislature every week.

“The public can hear directly from policymakers and decision-makers,” explains president and CEO Sanford Inouye.

The special committee hearings don’t have set airtimes, but interested viewers can keep up-to-date with the schedule online at olelo.org. Live at the Legislature, meanwhile, airs at 8:30 a.m. Tuesdays on channel 49 and on the web.

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