What happened to the Black News channel? The network stops

Black News Channel co-founder JC Watts and investor Shahid Khan. When the Black News Channel (BNC) launched in February 2020 it was t...


Black News Channel

Black News Channel co-founder JC Watts and investor Shahid Khan.

When the Black News Channel (BNC) launched in February 2020it was touted as a necessary and refreshing approach to cable news, “by blacks, for blacks”.

The network’s launch was well-received, coming at a time when a series of black media outlets were folding or ceasing to publish as the industry as a whole continued to struggle (but also underinvest in black audiences and publications.) Legacy Marks like Ebony have faced financial difficulties, while digital outlets like The Root have also saw a drastic endowment and content misfortunes that alienated the public and talent.

On television, black journalists, analysts and commentators have had fewer opportunities. Between the three major cable news networks Fox News, CNN and MSNBC, CNN Don Lemon is the only black primetime host. Despite increased coverage and recognition of racial issues in the media in recent years, there remain limited opportunities for black and insufficient representation of marginalized communities throughout the industry.

Given these issues, BNC had the potential to fill a crater in the media industry. In the two years it was on the air, however, it flopped. Not only the network being sued by journalists who worked to bring it to life, but it struggled in the ratings as the on-air product became just as much a vehicle for toxic commentary as any other cable channel – if not arguably more.

On March 24, the director of human resources of BNC Nicole Collins told staff that payroll deposits for the week would be delayed. The following day, March 25, a seasoned television journalist Roland S. Martin got the email and shared it online, say on twitter“@BNCNews staff members are angry and demanding answers after getting [the] E-mail.”

In a few hours, the Los Angeles Times reported that the network was in the process of filing for bankruptcy and shutting down. Its 230 employees are out of work.

To understand how BNC fell, it’s worth exploring the unusual story behind the company’s founding. BNC was started by JC Watts, a black politician who served as a Republican congressman from Oklahoma. Watts co-founded the network with Brilliant Bob, a veteran television executive, who is white. A majority share is held by Shahid Khana Pakistani entrepreneur who also owns the All-Elite Wrestling (AEW) league and the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars.

In June 2020, Brillante resigned and Princell Hair, a former senior CNN executive, took over as chief executive. Khan continued to fund the network as Hair attracted good press. In one Tallahassee Democrat hair profile in September 2021, BNC was described as “thriving” under his leadership.

Watts told the newspaper, “I’m more bullish on BNC today than I’ve ever been, and everything Princell has brought to the network has a lot to do with it.” The article touted the availability of the network in American households and the growth in staff, especially during the pandemic, as proof of its success. Other outlets would follow in their analysis.

Over the past year, however, the network’s content offering and corporate decisions have begun to prove directly antithetical to their purpose to “celebrate black life, culture, and history” and “give voice to an underserved community.”

In an article published in the Times in November, BNC was described as aiming to “give a voice to an underserved public” and commended for its expanding membership and programming. Hair told the newspaper, “The most important motto for black audiences is authenticity.”

In December, however, the network laid off an undisclosed number of employees just before Christmas. In January, 13 employees and former employees sued the network, alleging gender discrimination and unequal pay. The class action arose out of a lawsuit filed for the first time by two women against the network in August.

“Women on the Black News Channel are consistently paid less than men in equivalent positions and forced to conform to sexist or misogynistic stereotypes about how women are expected to behave,” the plaintiffs said in a statement. BNC is currently proposing to dismiss the lawsuitbut plaintiffs’ lawyers have accused the network of retaliation against its customers.

The National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) said in a press release that they were “disgusted by the allegations” set out in the lawsuit. The network has since met the group in private to assure the organization of journalists that they “continually build on the character of our culture”.

Additionally, throughout its existence, Black News Channel has struggled to attract an audience.

BNC significantly increased its availability in recent months, claiming to reach around 50 million households and 250 million OTT platforms and online devices (up considerably from its initial reach of 2 million). The network has also launched a streaming service, aimed at Millennials and Gen Z viewerscalled BNC Go.

Again, BNC tied with Comedy.tv for second to last place in the ratings among all cable networks tracked by Nielsen in the year 2021, averaging just 4,000 viewers. For comparison: BET averaged 365,000 viewers last year, or 92 times the viewership of BNC. TV One averaged 109,000 (both networks offer far less daily news or original content than BNC). There is an audience for black-centric news and content, but BNC has never won it over.

Despite its mostly liberal host list, the network has garnered the most attention for giving airtime to controversial conservatives, like the radio host and former California gubernatorial candidate . Larry Eldertrump sycophant Ben Carsonand activist JC Pearson. BNC waves also presented Bill Cosby and its spokespersonsaccused scammers Oumar Johnson and Shaun Kingand anti-social justice activists like Christopher Rufo, allowing them to whitewash their reputations and promote beliefs or actions that critics say harm black people. Such commentary made the network attractive to the Republican Party, who made a five figure ad buy in February.

Most of these guests appeared on black news tonightthe network’s first prime-time offering led by the former CNN contributor and BET News host Marc Lamont Hill. Whether by its own design or otherwise, Hill’s show became an extended offering of the arguments that Hill had on his Twitter. Many of his guests seemed to be defending themselves against backlash for problematic comments or beliefs.

In July, the former reality TV court judge Joe Brown appeared on Hill’s show and called Bill Cosby’s conviction an example of “mob rule, mob justice”, before comparing Cosby’s earlier prosecutions to the lynchings of “Emmitt Till and all the other blacks lynched in this country”. Brown also compared drunk rape victims to drunk drivers.

That same month, Hill had a far-right podcast host Liz Wheeler on his show to ‘discuss’ critical race theory while signing for his own show (reported by Facebook and multiple fact-checking organizations for misrepresentation or misinformation) appeared in the background.

In June, television personality Benzin appeared on black news tonight with Hill to “explain” the comments he made condemning Lil Nas X for his performance at the BET Awards. Benzino went further on the show, saying he had “a lot of gay friends, gay family members” as proof that he is not homophobic, but then argued that some members of the LGBTQ community, like Lil Nas X, “just want to bully their lifestyle on people”.

In May, Umar Johnson appeared on Hill’s show and suggested that black men “who admitted to homosexual behavior or identity” were the result of parents needing “to do a better job”.

“I blame sexual abuse as one of many triggers that can lead to a gay lifestyle,” he said.

Johnson has faced allegations that his goal of creating a private academy for black students is a scambut Hill defended Johnson instead of grilling him – admitting he had donated to Johnson and arguing that ‘there is greater skepticism for black people than for white people’, misinterpreting concerns about the project .

BNC News tried to target younger, more diverse audiences (Hair’s target demographic for the network was African Americans between the ages of 25 and 54), and its supporters claimed the network would have “Programs that will benefit teens, women and HBCUs.” While their inaugural HBCU Journalism Project program reflects this objective, the allegations of discrimination made by the women who worked at the network mitigated it.

BNC didn’t have the excuse of being an older or more established network like CNN and Fox, which certainly had their own issues. with staff and content lately. Between their haul offers, the viral clips on social media, and puff bits in the media, there was no lack of availability or promotion either.

Ultimately, it was the network’s majority owner who allegedly made the decision to stop funding the first 24-hour black news network. Times reported that sources said “Khan was no longer willing to invest further”, which happened the same week as BNC said to have posted its highest number of viewers in his story for Judge’s Senate confirmation hearings Ketanji Brown Jacksonwho will become the first black woman to serve on the Supreme Court if confirmed.

BNC has had the opportunity to forge a different path where other cable news networks have failed – particularly when it comes to journalistic accountability and representation of marginalized people. His coverage of the broad terrain of black community issues was mixed, however — limited by a tendency to promote harmful rhetoric and polarizing debates. In the end, it seems the network’s failure to attract viewers proved fatal.

This is an opinion piece. The opinions expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author.



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Newsrust - US Top News: What happened to the Black News channel? The network stops
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