Black News Channel, First 24-Hour News Channel ‘By and For’ African Americans, is Set to Launch During Black History Month

J.C. Watts speaks at the state Capitol in Oklahoma City on April 16, 2019.
Sue Ogrocki / AP file

The Black News Channel, the first 24-hour news channel aimed specifically at an African American audience, is set to launch on Feb. 10 to coincide with Black History Month.

Founded by former Rep. J.C. Watts, a Republican from Oklahoma, the network will premiere in 33 million households primarily in large African American markets such as New York City, Los Angeles and Atlanta.

Based in Tallahassee, Florida, BNC says it will produce television programming and digital content written and produced “by black people, for black people.”

BNC programming will feature all-black on-air talent like former libertarian radio host Larry Elder and will pull from historically black colleges and universities for much of its on-air expertise, according to Watts. The network will not be entirely black-run or owned, though: CEO Bob Brillante and COO Jim Zerwekh are both white.

Watts said the network will provide reliable and accurate nonpartisan coverage of issues that are often neglected by mainstream media outlets, like mass incarceration, but said it would also cover other areas from a black perspective, such as health and wellness.

Watts told NBC that planning for the network began more than 10 years ago. He said he knew then that there was market demand for a black news channel, and that his company’s research shows that demand still exists.

A 2018 Nielsen report found that MSNBC, the 24-hour news channel, was the most popular prime-time cable channel with African Americans. And according to a 2012 Niselsen study, 91 percent of African Americans believe that black-owned media is more relevant to them. With the BNC, Watts saw a chance to meet the growing demand for cable news among the African American community.

“Today, information is so targeted to groups,” Watts said. “Every demographic out there has a venue that they can access for news information, culture, wellness, etc. Except for the African American community.”

The channel will partner with the National Newspaper Publishers Association, a trade association made up of over 200 African American-owned community newspapers across the country. The association’s president, Benjamin Chavis, told NBC that the association would act as a system of national bureaus, and much of BNC’s news coverage would build on reporting done by NNPA members at a local level.

According to Chavis, the association would benefit from the BNC’s distribution network and digital advertising revenue. He added that he believes in BNC’s mission, and is excited that the newspaper publishers association will be a part of it.

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SOURCE: NBC News, Liam Knox