America’s only Black-led news channel arrived during February of 2020. Black News Channel founded by J.C. Watts and Bob Brillante debuted as a 24/7 cable channel composed of Black anchors reporting on news from the Black perspective, per CNN. After two years of programming, reaching 33 million households, the news service is expected to cease operations, reported Los Angeles Times.
When BNC made its introduction, their focus was on providing “reliable and accurate nonpartisan coverage” of news but from the Black point of view, per NBC. “We’re not looking to be liberal or conservative.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,” said Watts to NPR in 2020.
The Tallahassee-based news channel drew support from not only politicians but also investors. Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan became the investor who ironically helped jumpstart BNC’s launch and also caused its closure.
More from LA Times:
The Tallahassee, Fla.-based outlet, whose majority stakeholder is Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan, failed to meet payroll on Friday, a day after telling employees that paychecks would be delayed. An announcement that the company will cease operations, putting its staff of 230 — a vast majority of whom are people of color — out of work, could come later in the day.
Black News Channel was conceived by a group headed up by former U.S. Rep. J.C. Watts (R-Okla.) and media executive Bob Brilliante. The channel launched after Khan made a $50-million investment in 2019, making him the majority shareholder.
Khan’s failure to meet payroll wasn’t the only challenge BNC saw.
The LA Times reported BNC struggled to generate a significant audience, averaging about 10,000 viewers. Also, their entry into broadcast television was during a time when people were shifting away from watching cable television. Quarantine was right around the corner which spiked the number of Netflix and Hulu viewers. On top of that, they faced a class-action discrimination lawsuit from their former and current women employees who alleged they were paid less than the men at BNC and were called “insufficiently feminine” by managers.
Employees were angered, of course, seeing something with such great potential be shut down so easily, reported LA Times. One of the reasons they came to BNC from the widely known organizations they worked for was so they could report news for people of color.
According to Tallahassee Democrat, the staff received a mass email from CEO Princell Hair who attributed the closure to “challenging market conditions” making them “unable to meet their financial goals.”
“It’s with a broken heart that I am letting you all know that, effective immediately, BNC will cease live production and file for bankruptcy. We are saddened and disappointed by this reality and recognize the stress that this puts on you and your families,” said Hair.