Channeling Community

Ernesto Schweikert, III of KGLA-DT Telemundo 42 New Orleans, uses Spanish-language broadcasting to shine a light on the Hispanic community.
Ernesto Schweikert Kgla Cherylgerber

Photo by Cheryl Gerber

Ernesto Schweikert, III, a native of Guatemala, comes from a long line of entrepreneurs. However, he never anticipated being at the helm of New Orleans’ KGLA Radio Tropical 1540AM, let alone KGLA-DT Telemundo 42 New Orleans, the only full-power Spanish-language TV channel in New Orleans.

“It’s in my genes,” Schweikert says. “My whole family are entrepreneurs, but I’m a broadcaster by coincidence! I had my own tour-guide business for the Latino community visiting New Orleans, and we advertised on the radio station.”

When he eventually heard that Radio Tropical was being sold, Schweikert decided to buy it. “I wanted to preserve the only Spanish-language station in the area, because I saw its value to the community.”

In 2005, Schweikert decided to stay in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina, operating Radio Tropical using only a small generator. He fielded over a thousand calls each day, providing vital information, urging people to evacuate and finding help for those who needed transportation.

Those efforts led to a moment Schweikert says he will never forget. He describes seeing footage of a woman in her 80s, her house flooded, using a small radio by the window to reach his channel for updates during the storm. Seeing that image, Schweikert says he realized the impact his station was making on the community. “I said, ‘Wow. Now I am really proud.’”

For their heroic diligence broadcasting during the storm, Schweikert and the staff of Radio Tropical received the The National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ) Broadcast Journalist of the Year Award, as well as other accolades. This recognition, combined with Schweikert’s dedication, prompted investors to support the creation of KGLA-DT Telemundo 42 New Orleans.

“They said that if I can do this much with a little daytime radio station, I could do a lot with a TV station,” says Schwikert.

In December 2007, KGLA-DT went live, providing local news in Spanish (it is the only regional station to do so) as well as entertainment programming. By that time, the Hispanic population in New Orleans had doubled during rebuilding efforts after Hurricane Katrina, and the fledgling station was an immediate success.

Today, Schweikert is CEO and general manager of MayaVision, Inc., also known as KGLA-DT, Telemundo 42 New Orleansand Radio Tropical KGLA 1540AM. Both the TV and radio stations have been highly successful, providing the thriving Hispanic community with music, news, entertainment and Saints games broadcast in Spanish.

Schweikert says Hispanic businesses have also found great success by advertising on the stations, and he is always eager to be a resource for other Hispanic professionals. That support only stands to grow, as KGLA-DT completed a $4.8 million overhaul and refresh of their TV Broadcast Center in 2021. Their new main transmitter, new back-up transmitter, transmission line, antenna and tower enhancements will help them reach an additional 1.5 million people in 12 parishes and two counties in Mississippi.

Schweikert also encourages other Hispanic entrepreneurs to take advantage of another prime resource in the region: the HCCL.

“I am proud to be part of the HCCL,” says Schweikert. “The Chamber shows people how to become more productive in their business ambitions. They open a lot of doors that we cannot open. And during the pandemic, they’ve done a lot for the community, providing many of these resources online.”

The pandemic has left no community untouched by tragedy, and last year, KGLA-DT lost two wonderful and highly-valued members of its team. That loss is still felt today, but Schweikert and his team seek to honor those they lost by becoming an even stronger beacon of hope. Soon, KGLA-DT plans to expand their service to the Hispanic community by bringing Telemundo to Baton Rouge.

“The community is growing, and we’re excited to continue growing with them,” Schweikert says. “We may not have the resources that big companies have, but we have the passion. The things that seem impossible to do, we make them possible.”