Owners of the Black News Channel say they are ready to tell Black America’s story.
BY ANDREAS BUTLER
ORLANDO – It’s no secret that the so called “mainstream” media regularly portray Black Americans in a negative light.
News stories too often show the worst in African American communities: crime, drugs, poverty, sexual exploitation, gangs, ghettos and more.
The Black News Channel (BNC), a 24-hour news network focusing on African Americans and their issues, will present a different perspective.
In a press statement, BNC’s leadership explained that its network programming “will illuminate truth about the unique challenges facing urban communities and help close the ‘image gap’ that exists today between the negative Black stereotypes perpetuated by mainstream media news and our enterprising African American communities.”
BNC’s collaboration with the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) – an organization that represents approximately 200 African American newspapers nationwide – will provide the network access to stories not covered by other news organizations.
In addition, BNC’s partnership with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) offers internship and training opportunities for the nation’s next generation of aspiring young journalists. Their broadcast media students can submit content.
“Black America is excited. There is finally a voice for Black America. This network will tell our story. The story will be told by us. It is for us. It’s untainted and unapologetically Black,” commented Gary Wordlaw, BNC’s vice president of News and Programming.
The BNC hit the airways on February 10. It’s on Spectrum TV Channel 206 in the Orlando area and Channel 168 in the Tampa area, respectively. Black Americans are major consumers of subscription television services.
Celebrating at FAMU
A kickoff launch party was held at the Florida A&M University College of Law in downtown Orlando on February 21.
The event was well-attended by Spectrum officials, local media, FAMU law school staff, faculty, and students, current and past elected officials, and the general public. The event included music, food, presentations, a panel discussion and more.
“The reception and energy that we received here tonight has been the same all over the country. It’s great. I’ve been traveling around the country the past 10 days. We’ll continue to get better and grow,” responded former Republican congressman J.C. Watts.
Watts serves as the network’s chairman and he is its co-founder. Watts and Bob Brillante, the network’s CEO and co-founder, created the BNC.
“The launch of Black News Channel will be not only historic, but also transformational,” said Brillante. “We will shed more light on the stories that demonstrate our commonality, rather than those that highlight our differences.”
Glad to see it
Those who attended the event are also excited about the BNC.
“I think it’s amazing. I am happy to witness this significant part of history. We should support it. We need to bond together and get the word out about it. We also need to advertise on it and subscribe to it,” responded Tanisha Nunn Gary.
Lamard Hickman echoed, “It’s a great thing. It’s a long time coming. We as a people finally have a voice.”
Watts appeared on a panel discussion that discussed the network and took questions, along with Florida District 45 State Representative Kamia Brown and Ligon Law Group founder and CEO Shannon Ligon. The panel focused on the role and impact that the network can have in molding the image of African Americans in all aspects of American and world society.
“I am excited about this. This provides our young people an opportunity to see more than what they currently see on TV. They can aspire not just to be on camera but to be producers, directors, writers and journalists providing great content. It’s important because our culture is diverse in many ways, including generationally. It is important to have a network that displays this diversity,” said Brown.
Ligon echoed, “Let us relish this moment. We’re at a Black law school, next to a Black CEO launching this network and a Black politician. This is phenomenal!
“Representation matters. I went to FAMU Law School. I got accepted to another, but it didn’t look like me or feel like me. This is important because the television influences how we are perceived as a people and how society perceives us, including in the justice system.”
The BNC is dedicated to promoting positive images of Black people in America.
Wordlaw explained, “When you watch our network, we want America to catch us doing right. We want them to see Black lawyers, doctors, pilots, educators, experts and more. We’re more than just athletes, actors and musicians, although it’s nothing wrong with that. Our kids need to see people who work every day succeeding.”
‘Work to do’
The network does face some challenges, including dealing with social media.
Watts admitted, “We must make sure that we get good programming and we must continue to sign good distribution agreements. We have to make sure we are where our demographic is including on digital, streaming and linear platforms. We started well, but there is still work to do.”
Historically, Black-owned media entities haven’t gotten the advertising revenue that White-owned or publicly traded companies received, even with regard to political advertising during hot election years like this year.
Worldlaw responded, “Politicians wanting to reach Black voters need to come see us.
We’re well-financed. We have a financial plan that is very aggressive. We want to get stronger. We want more people watching.”
Millions of eyeballs
The Black News Channel is being broadcast in 24 million homes, including most major media markets like New York, Los Angeles, Houston, Chicago and Atlanta.
The BNC is available on Spectrum, Comcast, Charter, Xfinity X-1, Platform and Dish Network. Sling, Vizio, Roku, Zumo and Smart TVs will have it later.
“We’re a national network. We need to be a national platform,” noted Wordlaw.
BNC’s network operations center is based in Tallahassee, with news bureaus located throughout the country. Its ownership group is mostly African American, but Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shahid Khan is expected to soon hold a substantial financial interest in the network.
For more information, visit www.blacknewschannel.com.