Among the BNC's cast of on-air personalities are former Fox News anchor and reporter Kelly Wright, former CNN and TBS host Fred Hickman, libertarian radio host Larry Elder, former Fox 44 anchor Lauren McCoy, and former Central Florida TV journalist Laverne McGee. The Black News Channel is the first and only African-American-led news network in the country.
Photo: Black News Channel
Photo: Black News Channel

Black News Channel debuts as an option to CNN, Fox News, MSNBC

The Black News Channel, an around-the-clock national news network with nearly exclusive African American anchors and executive leadership, began broadcasting Monday in select markets across the United States.

TV viewers now have an option to CNN, Fox News and MSNBC.

BNC is the first 24-hour news network “by black people, for black people, dedicated to the unique perspective of African American communities,” according to a statement on the company’s website. 

BNC, co-founded by former Republican Congressman J.C. Watts of Oklahoma, is initially only expected to reach 33 million households in markets with sizable African American populations such as New York, Los Angeles and Atlanta, according to The Hill. 

The channel is available on Charter/Spectrum, Xfinity X-1 and Dish networks, and will later be added to Sling and Roku, reports said. 

The company’s goal, though, is to ultimately reach 100 million households. 

J.C. Watts is leading the Black News Channel.
Photo: Associated Press/File

“Today, information is so targeted to groups,” Watts said in an interview with National Public Radio, according to reports. “Every demographic out there has a venue that they can access for news information, culture, wellness, etc. Except for the African American community.” 

The channel's programs will include traditional morning and prime-time news shows plus additional programming focused on issues that impact African Americans, including health, women, culture, history and weather, according to Bob Brillante, a veteran television manager who serves as BNC’s chief executive officer. 

Watts and Brillante announced the launch in November 2018 after more than a decade of planning, hiring and securing a headquarters for the network in Tallahassee, Florida. 

“I think there needs to be a more comprehensive story told about the African American community, and we’ll have a venue to do that,” Watts said to NPR. “We’re not looking to be liberal or conservative. We want to provide a venue for African Americans to have a voice, to be a part of the dialogue that’s going on in the country, be it incarceration reform or impeachment.” 

BNC will gather its news through a partnership with the National Newspaper Publishers Association, which comprises more than 200 African American-owned community newspapers across the country that will serve as local-level bureaus for the network. 

The network also plans to work with several historically black colleges and journalism schools to offer students hands-on training. 

Among the channel’s cast of on-air personalities are former Fox News anchor and reporter Kelly Wright, former CNN and TBS host Fred Hickman, libertarian radio host Larry Elder, former Fox 44 anchor Lauren McCoy and former Central Florida TV journalist Laverne McGee. 

McCoy and Rarione Maniece are the morning co-anchors from 6 to 9 a.m. McGee and Hickman are the network’s prime-time anchors from 7 to 10 p.m. 

Watts said BNC will seek to target the “image gap” and black stereotypes depicted in the media.

“MSNBC, Fox News, CNN, they may have African American faces on their news shows, but they are not necessarily covering the community from a cultural perspective,” he said.

Reports say the network plans to bring bureaus to Atlanta, Washington and New York.

The company has about 65 employees.

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