TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Live from Tallahassee, Florida, is the “Black News Channel.”
The network was promoted last year by a group of promotional appearances from California to New York.
Black News Channel is a creation of former U.S. Republican representative J.C. Watts, who serves as president, and veteran television manager Bob Brillante as executive director.
Watts and Brillante announced the launch in November 2018 and spent most of last year hiring a management team, renting space, hiring studio designers and talents on the air, and spending millions of dollars to renovate and equip a location.
And although the ambitious vision has been received in the past with some skepticism, it had its greatest momentum last October.
The owner and billionaire entrepreneur of Jacksonville Jaguars, Shahid “Shad” Khan, announced that he is the majority investor in the network, which promises to capture a hungry audience of news and information aimed at black viewers.
“I think there is an undeniable call to everything that Black News Channel will deliver to the African-American television audience, which has historically been neglected,” Khan said in a press release. “My decision to invest is easy, because we can answer that call.
“This is an opportunity for me to have an impact on how African Americans report and consume news and related programs, how their voices are amplified and heard, and how all of us can connect better socially, culturally, economically and more.”
Brillante said that Khan and his family have been “working” with the management team for the past two years. The New York Post has reported that Khan’s investment is “over $ 25 million.”
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A national outlet that is ‘culturally specific to the African-American community’
Watts, Brillante and others have been working on the plan since at least 2005. Watts said the network will first be a news operation, but will offer programming aimed at women, culture, history, weather and other commodities.
“We are a CNN-type organization, Fox News, MSNBC that will be culturally specific to the African-American community,” said Watts.
“Who is today in the market that talks, in terms of well-being, about sickle cell anemia,” Watts said, referring to the most common red blood cell disorder among black people. “Who in the market today talks about HBCU (historically black colleges or universities)?”
Unlike networks that use political experts or other journalists to address national policy, BNC will take advantage of the Association of African-American Mayors to learn the opinions of its members on how Washington’s policy is being developed in urban cities. The Washington office will provide insights from the Black Caucus of Congress.
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“I am talking about talking to people who really live politics, those who have to implement the policies and see how it impacts their communities,” said Watts, who served as an Oklahoma Republican congressman from 1995 to 2003 and is now president. from JC Watts Companies and runs several other companies.
Gary Wordlaw, who has been in the news business for 50 years, said that what BNC is doing is innovative, since it is a news channel first, one that will speak directly to black viewers.
“The news has grown and changed and many people don’t like the way it has changed, especially on cable news,” said Wordlaw, who joined in January 2019 from WVLA-TV / WGMB-TV in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where he was news director. “Identity policy governs the day. We are not going to take sides. “
A multi-million dollar studio and a production facility.
Instead of being located within the School of Journalism and Graphic Communication at the University of Florida A&M as proposed a few years ago, its nerve center is now a renovated 20,000 square foot office building, with a multi-million dollar studio and production facilities .
Wordlaw, an experienced television news executive, is vice president of news and programming, and veteran broadcast news executive Frank Watson is vice president and general manager.
Its primetime news presenters are former CNN news and sports presenter Fred Hickman, former Central Florida television journalist Laverne McGee and sports presenter Anthony Amey.
Jane Marks, a Florida therapist and television personality, will co-present a daily program aimed at women’s interests. Her husband, former mayor John Marks, is vice president of government and community relations at BNC, as well as a financial investor in the operation.
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The announcement of Khan’s investment came before what would be the original launch on November 15, 2019, which was then moved to January 6.
Brillante said the second delay until February 10, announced on New Year’s Eve, is the result of BNC securing distribution rights that will boost its projected initial audience reach of 23 million homes with satellite television and 10 million from homes with cable television to new projections of 75 million viewers, including smartphone users.
“It took us much longer to build the applications … and then the cable transmission network,” said Brillante.
The network has agreements with Comcast (Xfinity), Dish Network, Charter / Spectrum, Vizio and Roku.
Brillante said the “handshake” agreements that must be formalized have been made with Samsung and T-Mobile to offer BNC through their smartphones.
“I am 100 percent sure that we can launch 10,” said Brillante. “If we believe that we are not prepared to launch the entire market, we will not launch a product on the air until we consider it to be the best.”
“This is not a station that has been acquired,” Watts told the Tallahassee Democrat, part of the USA TODAY Network. “This is a network that is starting from the zero zone.”
‘Just getting started’
BNC has hired about 65 employees in its network operations in Tallahassee, Brillante said.
“We are just beginning,” said Brillante.
In addition to live news, weather, sports and feature shows planned from Tallahassee, BNC also has news studios in Atlanta and Washington, D.C., attended by its journalists.
Smaller offices will be located in the top 20 African-American television markets, in association with the National Association of Newspaper Publishers, said Brillante. The network administration also has plans to work with several historically black universities and university journalism schools to offer students a practical training opportunity.
Brilliant said Tallahassee will serve as the brain center of the operation.
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Watts and Wordlaw said the news and report programming will highlight the perspectives of doctors, lawyers, engineers, professors and black scientists, who are rarely given a national platform to bring their knowledge to the table.
Much of that experience will come from HBCU, where there are a lot of resources, from student voices to experienced teachers.
Michelle Ferrier, dean of the School of Journalism and Graphic Communication at FAMU, said she appreciates the new perspective.
“I think the network will provide a much needed focus on the lives of people of color here and across the country,” said Ferrier.
Another important approach will be to reveal the role of African Americans in history.
“There is a hidden history of the African American community that many in the (black) community are unaware of,” said Watts, who will contribute by organizing his own “My America” program.
Brilliant cites a 2012 study by the Center for Analysis and Economic Forecast of the Florida State University that shows that BNC could generate $ 33.6 million in economic stimulus annually in Tallahassee.
He said the network is paying high salaries to recruit talents from cities like New York, Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles.
How to see what BNC offers
A vice president of Comcast said the company is prepared to offer Black News Channel as a “video on demand subscription service.” A spokesman for Dish Network said the company has a similar agreement.
Here is a look at the programming of the Black News Channel program for the week of February 10 to 17:
6 am. at 9 a.m.: “BNC News Live”, anchored by Lauren McCoy and Rarione Maniece; meteorologist Kevan Smith. The anchors are based on Tallahassee, with news from reporters across the country.
9 a.m. at 10 a.m.: “D.C. Today Live”, news-oriented program presented by Del Waters and Anqoinette Crosby, of Washington, D.C.
10 a.m. at 11 a.m.: “Being a woman”, co-organized by Lauren McCoy and Rarione Maniece. A show anchored in Tallahassee aimed at young women.
11am. at 2 p.m.: “BNC News” (with morning broadcast updates)
2 p.m. at 4pm.: A variety of BNC exclusive news programs, including HBCU This Week; BNC presents the history of us; BNC Sports Weekly; All things men; From the heart; Stem color; My america; Taste of the Town (with restaurants, places to visit in New Orleans and other cities).
4 to 5 p.m.: “Being a woman”, co-host of Lauren McCoy and Rarione Maniece (repeat)
5 pm. at 6 p.m.: “Ladies First”, co-presented by Laverne McGee and Jane Marks. He lives from Tallahassee about the lives of women 30 years of age or older.
6 p.m. at 7pm.: “Kelly Wright Show,” presented by former Fox News presenter Kelly Wright. A talk show focused on Washington experts, as well as “normal people” who discuss the news of the day.
7 p.m. at 10 pm.: “BNC News Prime Live”: evening news in primetime, anchored in Tallahassee by Fred Hickman, Laverne McGee and sports director Anthony Amey.
10 p.m. at 1 a.m.: “BNC News” (repeat)
1 am. at 2 a.m.: “Kelly Wright Show” (repeat)
2 am. at 3 a.m. “Ladies first” (repeat)
(Live news starts at 6 a.m. with “BNC News Live”)
Folllow reporter Byron Dobson on Twitter @byrondobson.
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