The author is director, MMTC Media and Telecom Brokers at the Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council. Ernesto Schweikert is the president of Mayavision Inc., owner of KGLA(AM/FM), WFNO(AM/FM) and KGLA(TV) in New Orleans. Radio World welcomes opinion and points of view on important radio broadcast industry issues.
Suzanne Gougherty: When did you start thinking about becoming a broadcast entrepreneur?
Ernesto Schweikert: Since 1990 — when the only local Spanish radio station was offered to me.
Gougherty: Was radio broadcasting an area where you had prior experience?
Schweikert: Nope. I learned it from scratch!
Gougherty: Why did you establish your business in New Orleans?
Schweikert: I went to school here from Guatemala and ended living here.
Gougherty: Please share your thoughts on what Hispanic broadcasters have learned about weather disasters, most recently Hurricane Maria that hit Puerto Rico, devastating the entire island?
Schweikert: We take hurricanes very seriously. It's in our culture. Hurricanes usually go through the Caribbean, Central America and Mexico before they end up in the USA. We collected and sent various containers to Puerto Rico and helped the victims of Hurricane Maria ... We also lived the experience of Hurricane Katrina.
Gougherty: What was your experience during Hurricane Katrina?
Schweikert: Very unique. Our radio station (KGLA-AM 1540 kHz) became the only local Spanish-language communication and information network center, before and after Hurricane Katrina. We were connected to radio stations in Honduras, Mexico, Guatemala and other Latin American countries, providing information of the whereabouts of their relatives living in the New Orleans metro area. During Katrina we were off the air for two days, and during that time no other broadcasters provided life-saving information in Spanish. Thirteen years later, the FCC is still trying to figure out how to prevent that from happening again.
Gougherty: Days ago, Hurricane Florence hit North and South Carolina. As you know MMTC played a role with several broadcast outlets to get Spanish-language alerts out to the public — what else should be done to serve all communities during huge weather events?
Schweikert: We should create an emergency national Spanish-language radio network and activate it when is needed. Not only to help the victims but to inform of job opportunities to clean and rebuild.
Gougherty: What format is hot?
Schweikert: Hurban for millennial and Spanglish listeners.
Gougherty: What has been the most successful format on your stations and why?
Schweikert: Adult contemporary, because we provide music, talk, news and sports.
Gougherty: Spanish-language radio stations have had explosive growth in a variety of music formats — do you feel there is room for other Spanish-language formats — sports, news and others?
Schweikert: Yes, especially in large markets.
Gougherty: Digital platforms, such as pure play, streaming, etc., index high among Hispanic audiences — how do you use and monetize them?
Schweikert: Social media ... interact is the name of the game.
Gougherty: How have all the changes in national politics impacted your business and growth in the past months?
Schweikert: Thank God for the hard-working Latinos; they are earning money and contributing to the local economy... And we had a banner year, especially for broadcasting the World Cup.
Gougherty: Are your stations telling the stories about what will impact the lives of your listeners — such as health care, taxes, immigration and other economic policy changes?
Schweikert: Yes we are, and we also have multiple weekly legal talk shows with lawyers and other professionals.
Gougherty: Have you partnered with other media to do special events, broadcast news, or promotions in your market?
Schweikert: Yes we do.