Black Television News Channel plans launch for 2018
By Ashia Glover
A groundbreaking deal that was signed three years ago has moved one step closer to changing the face of cable television news.
FAMU’s interim president Larry Robinson and investors in the Black Television News Channel announced that BTNC, which will feature a Black perspective on the news, will launch next February. The disclosure was made this past Friday during a ribbon–cutting ceremony at FAMU’s School of Journalism & Graphic Communication, where BTNC will operate.
“This is unprecedented,” said Robinson. “It’s not detrimental; it’s not a few percent. This is an order of magnitude change and in the world of science when you can see something 10 times better, do something 10 times quicker or predict something 10 times faster. Those are the kinds of things that are chronicled.”
The partnership between FAMU and BTNC was announced in January, following an agreement between BTNC and Charter Spectrum, the second largest cable provider. About three years prior to the announcement, Robinson signed an 11-year deal that requires BTNC to pay the university up to $500,000 through for the first three years. After that, FAMU will receive $1 million through the 10th year.
The agreement also calls for the network to build the production studios and a training center for students. BTNC also plans to create 100 jobs.
“I believe that this partnership will be among those that are chronicled in history of partnerships when it comes to educational institutions period,” Robinson said. “Certainly within the HBCU community.”
BTNC will be operating, using Sony’s new 4K Ultra HD production equipment, according to Bob Brillante, chairman of its board. The other investors are former Oklahoma Congressman and business owner J.C. Watts and former Tallahassee mayor John Marks.
BTNC is expected to eventually reach 33 million households, according to the investors. Programming will be carried on, DISH Network, Comcast and Direct TV.
Marks became emotional while talking about the early stages of the project.
“I can recall the day somewhat vividly, as the mayor of the city of Tallahassee, when some gentlemen came to my office and they said they had this idea of a Black television news channel,” said Marks.
“At first when you think about that, you say ‘wow; that is wonderful,’ ” Marks added. “We talked about it and they told me the vision, the dream, what could be and I listened carefully. I could see the potential.”
Charter will carry BTNC in 14 markets from as far west in Los Angeles to New York in the east and New Orleans in the south.
“Those cities and inners cities — Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Orlando and other places —for the first time we can go to the National Black Network and watch what is happening in America and give them another dimension and another story to the way things happen,” said Congressman Al Lawson, who attended Friday’s ceremonies.
From day one, Marks said he was on board with the partnership, citing that it could create an economic boost beyond Tallahassee.
“The Black Television News Channel’s core mission is to produce original television content designed to inform, educate, inspire, and empower our African American communities,” Marks said. “This concept is admirable and significant. Moreover this project has the propensity to be a major economic and social benefit to Tallahassee, Florida and abroad.”