Black News Channel is shutting down

The operation had several dozen employees in Atlanta including former CBS46 anchor Sharon Reed
BNC host Aisha Mills (from left), host Del Walters, BNC President and Chief Executive Princell Hair and “BNC Prime” host Charles Blow. BNC

Credit: BNC

Credit: BNC

BNC host Aisha Mills (from left), host Del Walters, BNC President and Chief Executive Princell Hair and “BNC Prime” host Charles Blow. BNC

The Black News Channel will shut down today at 5 p.m.

The Los Angeles Times broke the news the day after an email was sent to employees that they would not be getting their payroll checks on Friday. Majority stakeholder and Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan had invested about $50 million into BNC, but audience and revenues failed to meet the company’s hefty cost structure. He decided he couldn’t keep throwing more money at the operation, which has 230 employees, mostly people of color, the Times story said.

CEO and former CNN executive Princell Hair, who joined the operation last year, sent an email to staff mid-day Friday which noted that, “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. 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.”

He added: “Please know that I am very thankful for all of your hard work and deep commitment to our mission. We have differentiated ourselves, and your achievements over these last two years should be an immense source of pride that you will carry throughout the rest of your careers.”

Biggest names on the channel included Mike Hill and former CBS46 anchor Sharon Reed during the morning, and an evening lineup that featured academic Marc Lamont Hill, New York Times columnist Charles Blow and former Fox News anchor Kelly Wright. Reed was based in Atlanta. It has been airing 17 hours of live coverage every day.

The network has been based in Tallahassee, Florida, but hired dozens of employees in Atlanta, where Hair had ambitious plans to eventually move its headquarters.

In August 2021, Hair told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “If the business continues to grow as it is, we probably can make that transition in the next couple of years.”

Eric Deggans, full-time TV critic for National Public Radio, said he was saddened to see BNC’s demise. “I was really hoping they would pull it off,” he said in a text. “But the realities of the news business were aligned against them in so many ways. They achieved quite a lot. I wish it had been enough.”

Journalist Roland Martin posted the news today about the payroll issues. He predicted earlier Friday that BNC was doomed, especially after about half the staff was laid off in December.

“I knew even the job cuts weren’t enough,” Martin said in an interview with the AJC. “The cash outflow was too large combined with a lack of ratings. It’s highly unfortunate. You have a lot of Black journalists committed to this concept but at the end of the day, business is business.”

BNC focused on a linear cable network in a day and age where streaming, YouTube, podcasts and social media are ascendant. Martin said it would have been smarter if they had started as a digital channel and invested in a handful of big names instead of running news throughout the day. The model they chose was simply too expensive, he said. And the average audience at any given time was fewer than 10,000 viewers, according to Nielsen.

Even in the best of times in the 1980s and 1990s, it typically took several years and hundreds of millions of dollars to create a viable cable network, Martin added.

BNC was also saddled with a class-action discrimination lawsuit filed by former and current female employees.

The short life of Black News Channel

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