FAMU Partners for 24-Hour Black News Channel

The new network has a commitment from Comcast to carry the channel in top African-American markets and may branch out to other HBCUs.  

Florida A&M University student
Florida A&M University student Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Trustees Approve 11-Year Collaboration With J.C. Watts

The board of trustees of Florida A&M University has approved an 11-year partnership with former Rep. J.C. Watts to produce a 24-hour, multiplatform Black Television News Channel that Watts initially announced six years ago.

A signing ceremony is scheduled Friday on FAMU’s campus. The new network plans 50 full- and part-time journalism jobs, according to Frank Watson, the vice president and general manager, with internships for students, a bureau in Washington and hopes for branching out to other historically black colleges and universities.

Robert “Bob” Brillante, a cable TV veteran, founder of Florida’s News Channel and one of the cofounding partners, told Journal-isms by telephone that Comcast had committed to carrying the channel in seven of the 10 top African-American markets: Miami, Detroit, Chicago, Baltimore, Washington, Atlanta and Philadelphia. The proposed merger of Comcast and Time Warner Cable will broaden the potential audience, he said.

Florida’s News Channel operated statewide from 1998 to 2003 and created nightly newscasts for a black audience.

The Black Television News Channel was originally announced in 2008 by Watts, a Republican congressman from Oklahoma from 1995 to 2002. Contracts were signed then with Comcast.

However, Brillante said, financing collapsed in 2010 amid the recession. Since then, he said, the partners have been busy “putting the people back together.”

Sony Corp. has agreed to equip FAMU’s School of Journalism & Graphic Communication with a network operation center and an automated newsroom, according to the announcement. The center will be located next to the existing student broadcast newsroom, Dean Ann Wead Kimbrough told Journal-isms by telephone.

Kimbrough said in the announcement, “This is not a singular opportunity. We see it as a multidisciplinary opportunity for our students, alumni and faculty.” She said the partnership “would elevate the technical expertise of the school’s faculty and the university’s ability to attract high-quality journalism students from around the globe.”

Financial investments have come from Enterprise Florida, the state’s economic development arm, and the Economic Development Council of Tallahassee/Leon County, Fla., Inc. Brillante said he was not ready to name the individual investors.