CNN changed the game in 1980 when it launched as the first 24-hour news channel. The world is about to change again with the launch of the Black News Channel (BNC). Launching on February 20, BNC will be the only television news network with news programming gathered, written, and produced “by Black people for Black people.” BNC is the brainchild of former Congressman and entrepreneur, JC Watts; Watts cofounded the network with Bob Brillante.
Black people don’t go to the same barbershops or beauty salons as Arabs, Asians or whites; the needs of Black hair require Black specialists. The same logic should be applied to news and information. The opportunities for and threats to Black communities are not identical to those of other communities and as such, Black people require specialists to bring information salient to the Black condition. Without news outlets properly informing Black people about Black concerns, entire communities stumble about, having only a partial view of the world.
Broadcast and cable news networks carefully select news stories and events that appeal to the broadest audience possible. BNC, however, states that it will cater their coverage to the interests of a Black audience. BNC will also work to train the next generation of journalists, through its partnership with HBCUs and the development of a state-of-the-art news headquarters and media training center. The possibilities of a Black news network are boundless and its significance for Black people, undeniable.
The launch of BNC is exciting and yet that excitement is tempered by painful memories. In the past there was a lively Black press; publications like the Chicago Defender, Pittsburgh Courier, Philadelphia Tribune, Atlanta Daily World and many others delivered essential content to Black communities. Without Black support, however, they diminished. BNC will, apparently, depend on corporate support and does feature non Black people in its upper management; it remains to be seen how those factors will impact the platform. Without a vibrant Black press, however, Black people will never fully enjoy freedom. This point has been made frequently by Black journalists and notably, by Roland Martin. Martin began hosting his own daily digital show, Roland Martin Unfiltered, for that very reason. Roland Martin Unfiltered launched in 2018 and is still going strong.
If informative, empowering and independent news outlets by and for Black people are important, Black people must tune in and write checks. Roland Martin Unfiltered is but one prominent example of a Black owned news platform that could be wholly sustained by Black people but there are others, especially in the local context. BNC can be a powerful platform and if viewership and sponsorship came from the Black community, all the more strong. Black news matters. Support independent Black news outlets and continue to push for more Black owned and managed platforms to inform Black America.