- Patricia Neuray
Why a Black News Channel is Long Overdue
Scheduled to launch in January 2020, the Black News Channel (BNC) will be a multi-platform news and information channel created by (and for) African Americans. The timing could not be better as the African American market represents more than 43 million people and $1.2 trillion in buying power. Not only is there an extremely strong market to support the network, but it will be the first news channel to deliver a complete perspective of the black community. The network is co-founded by former Oklahoma Congressman J.C. Watts, who will operate as the network’s chairman, and CEO Bob Brillante. As Watts has stated, “Most of the current media focuses on the black community from three perspectives: entertainment, athletics, and crime." In contrast, BNC’s mission is to provide intelligent programming that is informative, educational, inspiring and empowering to its African American audience, as well as report a more complete picture of African American contributions to society.
As BNC has noted, “African Americans are the nation's most loyal users of subscription television services, and one of the fastest-growing groups of broadband online service subscribers. They own more digital (HDTV) sets; order more VOD services, and subscribe to more premium cable services than any other group, but the community has been underserved and underrepresented in programming.” And according to Adweek, African Americans watch an average of 10 hours of television per week, 1.2 times more than the overall U.S. population, and 56 percent said they are constantly active on other devices while watching. In addition, the Brookings Institute reports that within the next 25 years, the white American population will be under 50%. So, as society continues to diversify, media outlets have an obligation to tell a more complete story about the communities that they report on. BNC aims to fill the void that currently exists in coverage of African Americans.
Aside from the obvious uniqueness of catering to a black audience, the network is determined to reach this audience in whichever way they choose to consume the information. BNC will be multi-platform from day one in order to also serve the Millennial and Gen Z audiences that prefer online channels to traditional television programming. They will also be partnering with HBCU’s so they can further refine their content to appeal to a younger audience of African Americans. And they are not shying away from having a wide range of viewpoints including hiring commentator, Larry Elder whose views have been seen as somewhat conservative and highly controversial in some instances.
BNC is also determined to give a voice specifically to African American women and teens through original programming. While an estimated 12 hours will be dedicated to the news, the remainder will primarily focus on content specific to women and teens. Two such programs are Being a Woman and Getting Ready with Jane: Today’s Teen. Being a Woman is a daily one-hour hosted talk show covering topics that range from childcare and politics to business and entertainment. Getting Ready will feature family therapist Jane Marks who will provide timely and actionable advice for younger African Americans who are learning how to navigate and copy in today’s world.
While BNC certainly seems to be launching at the right time, it remains to be seen whether they will have long-term success. One concern is that they might skew a little bit too far to the right considering that Watts is a former GOP Congressman and their main investor was an early Trump supporter. However, if they can truly cover all sides of the story and provide their audience with something they cannot find in other places, they have an amazing opportunity to serve a community that is currently underserved. As Watts states, “Our network is about empowering our African American audience, so they are participants in a national conversation.” Stay tuned for the launch on January 6th!