Friday, November 26, 2021

Black News Channel wants to give voice to underserved audiences

Like other cable news networks, the Black News Channel reported on Gabby Petito, a 22-year-old woman who went missing in September and was found dead the following month.

But the reportage was complemented by discussions about the haunting coverage of the white-blonde story of Petito and how the media largely ignored the missing women of color. BNC regularly reports on missing black women and devotes a lengthy segment of their plight each week to its legal program Making the Case, run by attorney and former judge Jodit Tevolde.

While CNN, MSNBC and Fox News focused on the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse, a white teenager accused of killing two people during the 2020 civil unrest in Kenosha, Wisconsin, BNC reported from Brunswick, Georgia. , a courtroom where three whites are accused of stalking and killing Ahmaud Arbury, a young, unarmed black man, after they spotted him running in the neighborhood.

The nascent Tallahassee, Florida-based channel is the only national full-time news channel dedicated to serving black audiences. BNC is available in over 50 million Pay TV homes, up from 2.5 million when it launched in February 2020, and is owned by most of the major carriers including DirecTV, Infinity, Spectrum, and Cox. Next year, BNC will also offer its programs as an online subscription service directly to consumers.

BNC is trying to invade as cable TV news audiences shrink and technology lowers the barrier to entry for video news startups like the Black Star Network, a streaming channel launched last month by seasoned journalist and commentator Roland Martin.

Launching a 24/7 news channel is no easy task. Qatari Al Jazeera tried the American version of its channel, but went out three years later. Nexstar Media Group launched NewsNation in September 2020 and has struggled to find an audience.

The BNC is seeing a revelation, however, as a recent Nielsen study shows that 58% of black audiences say they don’t see enough of themselves on television, despite their value to advertisers. According to the Selig Center for Economic Growth at the University of Georgia, the purchasing power of black audiences in 2020 was $ 1.57 trillion.

BNC was co-founded by former Oklahoma Republican Congressman JK Watts and CEO Bob Brillante and was launched with the support of Shad Khan, owner of the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars. Khan holds a majority stake in BNC through a $ 50 million investment.

BNC has undergone a change over the past year, led by Princel Hare, who was the first black executive to lead CNN’s U.S. operations. He joined the company in July 2020, replacing Brillante as CEO.

The channel, which started with 55 employees, postponed launch several times. Volos has increased its workforce to 350 and has developed more personality-oriented programs that tend to attract the largest audience on cable news networks.

While the BNC protects black people and their affairs, Hare said he has no intention of creating a guerrilla political channel.

“Mainstream networks have always looked at black audiences as monolithic audiences,” Volos said. “Most black Americans go to church every Sunday. Many of them hold very conservative values. Our goal is to cast as many votes as possible and allow the public to make a decision. “

BNC ran into some problems. The company faces a sex discrimination lawsuit filed in August by a group of female employees who claim they are paid less than their male counterparts and work in a “hostile work environment” where they were told they were “not feminine enough “.

A BNC spokesman said the claims were investigated by a third-party law firm and the company considers them to be unfounded.

Hair has added to BNC’s talent roster by signing veteran top-talent such as Sharon Reed, a local news anchor in Atlanta; and Mike Hill from Los Angeles, who has joined Fox Sports to spearhead “Start Your Day,” a fun but meaningful morning show.

Hair also hit prime time as host, author and New York Times columnist Charles Blow and Mark Lamont Hill, a Temple University professor who studied television while being a liberal opponent of conservative staunch Bill O’Reilly on Fox News.

In September, Hair attracted Aisha Mills, a Democratic political strategist whose rebuff to conservative commentator Eric Bolling on the BBC last year sent him out of his cell.

Prominent news broadcasters have made efforts to improve diversity, especially after the 2020 police assassination of George Floyd heightened discussion of longstanding issues in the black community, such as social justice, law enforcement, and racism. But that doesn’t mean that the problems faced by the black community are always being addressed.

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“This is cheating because there are a lot of African Americans on the air,” said media strategist and political columnist Lauren Victoria Burke. “The problem is, there isn’t a lot of conversation going on at a deeper level on BNC and ‘#RolandMartinUnfiltered’.”

The BNC has also created new opportunities for experts such as Nayera Hack, a former national security adviser to the Obama administration, who joined the BNC as chief foreign affairs correspondent and co-host of The World Tonight with Kelly Wright. An American from Pakistan, Haq recalls asking a producer on a network where she was often invited as a guest why she was never invited to the morning program.

“The producer said, ‘Yeah, probably because you don’t look like a national security expert,” Hack said. “And so that it should be said so casually, as if everyone understood. I said, “Hmm, I noticed.” Asian women and women of color know we have to deal with this. ”

When the BNC was first announced in 2019, progressive members of the black community were skeptical about the involvement of Watts, one of the country’s most prominent black conservatives. Watts initially announced plans to host a talk show on the channel with right-wing radio host Larry Elder, who this year became the GOP nominee for California governor.

The Elder program never came to fruition, and Watts was not involved in editorial work, said Hare, who oversees news content.

“People were raising eyebrows about how this is going to develop because JC Watts was involved,” Mills said. “But I have never seen this person. Nothing is heard from him.

The most famous BNC hosts are conscientious and progressive. When they criticize President Biden, it is almost always because of a failure to keep his campaign promises to the black community.

Hair wants the network to highlight the accomplishments as well as the challenges facing BNC’s target audience. “We show black and brown people doing things in their community that you don’t necessarily see on mainstream networks,” he said.

In a recent interview, the Pakistani-born Khan said he generally found cable news to be too polarizing. He also said that he did not want to become a media mogul. But as the first non-white owner of the NFL franchise, he believes in the BNC concept.

“This is something important and really needs to be done,” said Khan, who is looking for a strategic partner to help finance the expansion of the channel while preserving its identity.

“We have to maintain a certain level of independence,” Khair said. “The most important currency for a black audience is authenticity.”

BNC is slow to start in rankings: Nielsen data shows an average audience of 3,000 viewers in prime time last month. Young Channel has just launched its first advertising campaign.

Martin, who has run several black-owned newspapers and hosted a weekly news program on cable TV One, said BNC is facing hurdles as traditional television viewing shrinks.

That’s why he chose the digital path when he launched his daily live news program, “#RolandMartinUnfiltered,” which he says has made a profit after its first year. Martin will add eight more programs to his current daily show on his Black Star Network streaming channel. in 2022

“We are much more flexible and can contain costs,” Martin said. “In the digital space, you can grow much faster. In linear space, you are compared to any other cable network. ”

BNC executives say they are mindful of the digital transformation. There is already a free BNC GO streaming channel on the network. He has also led journalism outreach programs at historically black colleges and universities, offering internships and raising awareness of BNC among young consumers who tend to watch online.

Martin also said that black media ownership is important to his audience. “I was always afraid that 50 years from now, African Americans would ask someone to tell their stories,” he said.

While BNC is not owned by Black, Hair believes the network’s commitment to the Black community will be apparent to viewers.

“Ownership matters and Shad Khan is a person of color who understands the experiences and challenges faced by minorities in the US and around the world,” Khair said. “His faith in our mission and support has enabled us to recruit over 250 black journalists and production personnel over the past year, which I’m sure is a record high for any network.”

Nation World News Desk
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