Black News Channel launches from Tallahassee

From the Tallahassee Democrat

The Black News Channel, a 24-hour national cable news channel targeting black viewers launched at 6 a.m. Monday with its first newscast from Florida’s capital city.

But access to the channel was limited as it was not carried by Comcast Xfinity as promoted as recently as last week. The network also wasn’t carried by Dish Network, leaving only viewers of Charter Spectrum cable allowed to see the programming.

But that didn’t halt a noon ribbon cutting at the Tallahassee location off Killearn Center Boulevard.

Former U.S. Rep. J.C. Watts, who serves as chairman of Black News Channel, Tallahassee veteran television manager Bob Brillante, CEO, and former Tallahassee Mayor John Marks greeted about 100 local elected officials and business and civic leaders.

“We are tickled to be in Tallahassee,” Watts said. “Thanks for the hospitality.”

Leon County Commission chairman Bryan Desloge and Tallahassee Mayor pro tem Dianne Williams Cox read a joint resolution welcoming the network to Tallahassee.

“Nobody is a more tireless advocate for our community than what I like to call ‘my mayor’, Mister Mayor John Marks,” Desloge said before his formal remarks. “Nobody continues to promote the city like John.”

Watts and Brillante announced the launch in November 2018 and spent the better part of last year shoring up a management team, leasing space, hiring studio designers and on-air talent, and pouring millions of dollars into renovating and outfitting the northeast Tallahassee location.

And while the ambitious vision has been greeted in the past with some skepticism — and remains relatively unknown in Tallahassee — it got its biggest boost last October.

Jacksonville Jaguars owner and billionaire businessman Shahid “Shad” Khan announced he’s the majority investor in the network, which promises to capture an audience hungry for news and information targeting black viewers.

Khan was expected to arrive later Monday afternoon to meet with employees and tour the facility.

BNC has hired about 65 employees at its network operations in Tallahassee.

Besides the live news, weather, sports and feature programs planned from Tallahassee, BNC also has news studios in Atlanta and Washington, D.C., staffed by its journalists.

Smaller bureaus will be located throughout the top 20 African-American TV markets in partnership with the National Newspaper Publishers Association, Brillante said.

The network’s management also has plans to work with several historically black colleges and universities’ journalism schools to offer students hands-on training opportunities.

Among those at the network Monday was Joan Pendergrass, wife of the late superstar singer Teddy Pendergrass.

She flew in to discuss overcoming issues in her life such as abandonment, rape, domestic violence, all before her marriage in 2006 to Pendergrass, who died in 2010.

She appeared on the mid-morning “Being a Woman” news feature, co-hosted by Lauren McCoy and Rarione Maniece.

Her documentary, “Victim, No More’ was broadcast Monday afternoon on BNC.

Also on hand was former CBS journalist and popular television news personality Mark McEwen.

McEwen, who lives in Orlando, is host of an afternoon program addressing issues concerning black men.

Brillante said the channel should be reaching broader audiences soon. He pointed to transmission issues with Comcast Xfinity and said they hoped to have the problem resolved later Monday.

“It is impacting a number of markets that are key to our viewership in the system, so we’re hoping it gets resolved today,” he said.

Mindy Kramer, vice president of public relations for Comcast Florida Region, did not have a specific timeframe but said the company is working closely with channel officials.

“We are looking forward to offering this content to our customers,” said Kramer.

Brillante said there had been no access issues for Charter Spectrum customers. He also said the network should be available to Roku customers and those with Vizio smart TVs on Feb. 25.

“We’ll have our own apps completed later this month,” he said.