Black News and Black Views with a Whole Lotta Attitude
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Black News and Black Views with a Whole Lotta Attitude

How The Black News Channel Fell Apart

From gender discrimination to layoffs, the "CNN for Black viewers" struggled internally before it permanently shut down.

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Black News Channel Chairman J.C. Watts discusses the launch of the nations only 24-hour news network during an interview in Tallahassee, Fla.
Black News Channel Chairman J.C. Watts discusses the launch of the nations only 24-hour news network during an interview in Tallahassee, Fla.
Photo: Brendan Farrington (AP)

Black News Channel, or BNC, shut down in March after just 2 years after its launch. The television outlet boasted its majority stakeholder as Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan. Anchors included notable media personalities Marc Lamont Hill, Charles Blow and Sharon Reed.

Originally started as a vital voice for people of color, its abrupt closure shocked both viewers and the channel’s employees. “During the past few months, we have endured very painful workforce reductions at all levels of the network as we worked to achieve our financial goal of a break-even business,” CEO Princell Hair stated in a memo sent to employees.

“This has forced all of you to do more with less, and your contributions have been remarkable. Unfortunately, due to challenging market conditions and global financial pressures, we have been unable to meet our financial goals, and the timeline afforded to us has run out.”

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However, former BNC employees are now speaking out. According to Mediate, the channel suffered from major internal problems that eventually led to its collapse. In addition to low viewership, there was a class-action lawsuit by 13 women who claimed that they were paid unfairly compared to their male peers. BNC also faced multiple sexual harassment lawsuits.

After nearly 80 employees were laid off in the fall of 2021, staff began worrying about the future of BNC. “This was exciting and thrilling work – but we were constantly wondering if the budget was going to last,” a source explained to Mediaite. On March 24th, employees did not receive their paychecks. The following day, the news broke the network was shutting down.

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After those reports circulated, anchor Marc Lamont Hill took to Twitter to share how BNC workers were still without pay: “The real exclusive is that he’s refusing to give people their paychecks today. Hundreds of employees, many of whom already took significant pay cuts, are now being denied money they’ve already worked for.”

Just last month, the channel legally filed for bankruptcy while employees were still seeking out unpaid wages, unused pto payouts and severance. A solidarity statement the National Writers Union said that they planned to place their “full weight” on BNC to pay former staff.