It's the first American news channel to focus on the authentic, eclectic experiences of African Americans.
The Black News Channel, the first 24-hour news channel created “by black people, for black people" launched last Monday, February 10.
American TV news channels may feature black hosts, commentators, and analysts but the traditional programming hardly ever concentrates on uniquely African-American experiences. The Black News Channel wants to dynamically change that conventional standard. The network's central purpose is to "be a news organization that gives voice to the diverse experiences, issues, points-of-view and priorities that matter to African Americans," according to a statement on its website.
"BNC will not just tell a story, but the network will tell the entire story."
The new network, founded by former Rep. J.C. Watts (R-Okla.), and Bob Brillante, a cable TV entrepreneur based in Florida, and reaches 33 million households in heavy African American markets including New York, Los Angeles and Atlanta. The channel aims to meet a growing demand in the Black community to fill a gap in mainstream media by telling stories and covering issues that matter to African Americans, according to the channel's website. BNC will feature all black on-air talent, plans to hire from HBCUs and it aims to be nonpartisan.
Black News Channel Chairman J.C. Watts discusses the launch of new network.(AP Photo/Brendan Farrington)
BNC is based in Tallahassee, Fla., and employs 60 people.
“I think there needs to be a more comprehensive story told about the African American community, and we’ll have a venue to do that,” Watts told NPR in a recent interview.
"We’re not looking to be liberal or conservative,” he added. “We want to provide a venue for African Americans to have a voice, to be a part of the dialogue that’s going on in the country, be it incarceration reform or impeachment.”
The network seeks to convey the broader perspectives of black life related to a host of different issues, such as healthcare reform, education, environmental concerns, privacy concerns, and original coverage of entertainment, sports, business, and weather.
As reported in Big Think, the network will include news programs like "BNC News Live" and "BNC News Prime Live," the channel plans to air culture and lifestyle programming like "Being a Woman," "Getting Ready with Jane: Today's Teen," "My Money," and "Living Social at HBCUs," which features a BNC correspondent covering student-life experiences on the HBCU campuses. Other programming will include featured content, docuseries, and "daily vignettes of encouragement and inspiration."
A few of the on-air personalities includes former Fox News anchor and reporter Kelly Wright, former CBS journalist Lauren McGee, former CNN and TBS host Fred Hickman, former Fox 44 anchor Lauren McCoy, and libertarian radio host Larry Elder.
The channel is available to Spectrum, Xfinity X-1 and Dish network customers, and looks to be available on Sling and Roku soon.
“I can’t tell you how excited I am that there is going to be a 24 hour, seven day a week Black News Channel,” Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, said at a recent launch event. “I was thrilled from day one.”
A 2012 Nielsen Media Research study showed that more than 9 in 10 African Americans "believe that black-owned media is more relevant to them." Black Americans also watch more TV than any other racial group in the U.S. accoridng to the same study.
“We’ve been really pushing for diversity and inclusion in the broadcast space and cable space and it’s because we live in a multi-racial civil society,” said Rep. Yvette D. Clarke (D-N.Y.) at the launch event. “For far too long, our media didn’t speak to that and today still doesn’t speak to that diversity. The Black News Channel will fill a void in many spaces.”
“We are more than athletes and entertainers, and on the hard news side, we’re more than crime,” said Watts in an interview with the Associated Press, who was a star quarterback at the University of Oklahoma in the 1980s and later played in the Canadian Football League.
“For every 17-year-old African American male that you show me that’s being carted off in handcuffs on the 10 o’clock news … I can show you 50 17-year-old African American males that get up every morning trying to figure out, ‘How am I going to make my mother proud of me.’ That’s the story doesn’t get told enough.”
The association's president, Benjamin Chavis, said mainstream news outlets tend to marginalize black news and focus on the more negative aspects.
"The mainstream media covers the pathology of black America. They don't cover the sociology of it," Chavis told NBC News. "The success stories are important for our community, to see black Americans striving for and achieving excellence."
Now, moderate and liberal-leaning black folk have displayed reservations and expressed some concerns with the new Black News Channel because of its markedly conservative on-air talent, ex-GOP founder, and co-founder who is a white TV executive.
"Sometimes when people outside of the culture design something for us. You can smell that," Angela Ford, founder of the Obsidian Collection, which archives African-American owned newspapers, told Mashable. "The black community is quick, we are very protective and instinctive. It'll take like two hours to see if this is us or not.
However, black Americans are not homogenous so it is not likely that few dissenting opinions concerning the network will largely impact its overall reception in the community. And, there are wide-ranging sub-genres of the demographic that enjoy or support some of the politics espoused by the aforementioned broadcasting talent. In fact, the diversity of perspective is welcomed in entertainment and news media.
"African Americans are not monolithic," Orlando told IndieWire, in an interview about the rise of black-focused entertainment. "There's room for all of us in the ever-changing content landscape, and other networks creating African-American content opens the door to more opportunities for African-American content creators, actors, and producers."
At the end of the day, this is a revolutionary power move by Watts, and will only serve as constructive mouthpiece for black voices in America while advancing authentic and unique stories.