A WEALTH OF WORDS

Jamaica 2018 | ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Garth Walker, General Manager of Business Access TV, on starting a new national conversation, giving small businesses a national platform, and becoming the Bloomberg of the Caribbean.

Garth Walker
BIOGRAPHY
With a bachelors in management from Nova South Eastern University and an MBA from the University of New Orleans, Garth Walker’s first job as Operations Officer at George & Brandy Merchant Bank later brought him to Mainland International. There he became Group Executive and then Vice President of marketing. Now the owner of Creative Media and Events, Adam and Eve Day Spa, and Business Access TV, Walker and his business partner Leighton Davis launched Wealth magazine in 2009 during an economic recession—to date lauded as Jamaica’s number-one business publication, while Wealth Business Access remains the country’s leading business television program.

What has the creation Business Access TV brought to Jamaica?

It has revived the conversation about entrepreneurship and put a direct focus on local domestic business. We are not a financial channel, but a business one. We cater to all sectors of the economy, from telecoms to finance and manufacturing. We look at all aspects of the economy. We also focus on blue-chip, medium-sized, small, and micro-companies. We also look at the creative industry. In a nutshell, Business Access TV has opened the conversation around entrepreneurship and showcase many new businesses that, under normal circumstances, would not be able to afford television. We have become a gateway and platform to showcase many of these businesses that do not have access to exposure. Our news programs in the evening do not talk about death or murder; they only cover what took place in the business community and activities on the stock market.

How have your programs evolved since you launched the channel?

The programs have evolved in an organic format. When we launched, we designed programs that would cater to specific needs. For example, we have programs that focus on small businesses, blue-chip companies, the creative industry, business and current affairs, and one on lifestyles called Chill Spot.

How do you plan to boost your audience?

We plan to do this by reinventing ourselves. We consistently look at the programming and market and see who is consuming the product. From there, we determine if we need to tweak the programs or introduce new ones. Currently, we are introducing a new program called Teen Boss to be launched in early 2018 and focus on the teen market that is interested in business. If we can catch them as viewers from this point in their lives, then we can hold them as they grow older. Before launching the channel, we launched the Wealth magazine, which is complementary. Wealth was first launched at a time when Jamaica was going through a recession and many were complaining about losing wealth. As wealth was a popular theme at the time, that is what we decided to call the magazine. Rather than focus on people's fortunes, it focuses on the journey they made to amassing them. The tagline of the magazine is “educate, inspire, and empower." The TV station was built on a platform on the backbone of the magazine.

What are your expansion plans?

We have plans to expand to the Caribbean in early 2018 into Trinidad and Tobago, St. Lucia, Cayman, Barbados, and the Bahamas. We will have the same channel with the same content. Then we will regionalize the content, so that interviewees on Chill Spot will no longer be only from Jamaica, but the other five islands as well. I see us as the major CNN/MSNBC/Bloomberg combination of the Caribbean. As we show a great deal of local content for Jamaica, we will do the same for each of the other countries. Business Access TV will no longer be a Jamaican product, but a Caribbean one. All of the programs will have a more regional feel. Our news will include top stories from within the region. This expansion will require new capital, and we are forming new partnerships to raise this.

What are your short-term goals?

The short-term goals for Business Access TV are to continue to dominate Jamaica and expand our reach locally. We want to include content not only from Kingston and Montego Bay but also St. Thomas, St. Elizabeth, Mandeville, and all the 14 parishes. We currently have an average of 160,000 viewers on which we are looking to build. This is why we also plan to expand into some smaller satellite and community-based cable companies in order to expand our reach. We also want to continue to associate ourselves with every major event and breaking business news.