Selling Caribbean TV Network from the Island of Newark

Frederick A. Morton, who grew up in St. Croix, USVI, with parents from Nevis, is founder and chairman of Tempo Networks, which focuses on Caribbean music, travel information, and social commentary and is heard in 26 islands, reaching “three million people via cable providers with names like Cable Bahamas Ltd., TDS Curacao, and Karib Cable Communications.” The New York Times reports on how this lawyer-turned-broadcasting entrepreneur began advocating a Caribbean network. See excerpts with a link to the full article below:

One could imagine an infinitely cooler, updated version of “WKRP in Cincinnati” in the multicultural beehive of hip young programmers and geeks at play in the worlds of reggae, soca, dancehall, ska and calypso emanating from Mr. Morton’s offices just down from the New Jersey Historical Society. Yet one would have a hard time coming up with a better salesman for the network than Mr. Morton. “I do believe I was born to do what I’m doing; I believe it’s a calling,” said Mr. Morton, 42, who in his earth-tone light green suit and vest was one part corporate cool, one part island visionary. “I believe in the region. I’ve always been a student of Caribbean culture. I know there’s nothing out there that represents it — no media company, no quality programming. So that’s what I want to do.”

[. . .] But if Mr. Morton’s career path was law, his heart was Caribbean culture, whether in his activities at school, the nightclub he ran on the side or the vision he couldn’t get out of his head. [. . .] Mr. Morton got the green light and the job of starting the network, which began operating in 2005, but he soon began thinking it would never reach its potential as an ancillary network at MTV. After complicated negotiations, he took it private in 2007, moved it to Newark, where he had lived, and began expanding it, first in the Caribbean and this year, if all goes well, in the United States.

The programming is rooted in music but also includes food, tourism, religion and a diffuse sort of social commentary, most noticeably an antiviolence campaign rooted in the phrase “badness outta style,” which has become an island buzz phrase.

The logic is threefold. The Caribbean, 30 million people by one definition, is united culturally but has no common media. There’s a lucrative Caribbean diaspora, about 15 million in the United States alone, depending on how it is counted. And the music and culture of the Caribbean have mass commercial appeal that has never been tapped. “The Caribbean is probably the most nonthreatening place in the world,” Mr. Morton said. “What we’re doing here is tapping into this wonderful, extraordinarily appealing culture with universal appeal. Not everyone gets to go there, so we’re bringing it to the world.”

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