Black News Channel set to deliver 24-hour broadcast from Tallahassee

By St. Clair Murraine

Outlook staff writer

A little more than six hours after the Black News Channel went live on the air Monday, former Tallahassee Mayor John Marks was still brimming with excitement.

Finally the 24-hour channel that will focus primarily on telling stories from the Black perspective is live across the country.

Former Tallahassee Mayor John Marks introduced some of the behind-the-scene personnel at the Black News Channel during Monday’s ribbon cutting ceremony.

“They say it couldn’t be done, but it has been done,” said Marks, who has the title of Vice President for Government and Community Relations with the company.

An estimated crowd of 100 community leaders, city and county officials showed up at the stations location on Killearn Center Blvd. for a ribbon cutting ceremony to mark the launch. The event culminated years of negotiations that followed an initial meeting with Marks when he was mayor in 2005.

The investors endured a few setbacks, including having to push back launch dates. It got off with a staff of 65 who will operate from a new building with state-of-the-arts equipment.

Part of the early afternoon ceremony included City Commissioner Dianne Williams-Cox and County Commission chairman Bryan Desloge presenting a joint proclamation to the management.

However, the launch wasn’t without a hiccup that resulted from not all of the promised distributors being on line. The launched was carried by Charter Spectrum cable, while the company is still negotiating with Dish, Comcast and a few other distributors.

BNC is expected to be available on Sling, Vizio Smart TVs, Xumo and Roku Channel. It expects to reach more than 100 million homes and generate upwards of $33 million in economic benefits to the city.

Additionally, BNC will continue to build relationships with the National Newspaper Publishers Association and about 60 HBCUs to establish a network of correspondents around the country, said CEO Bob Brillante. 

City officials and business leaders joined Black News Channel co-founder J.C. Watts and CEO Bob Brillante (center) during Monday’s ribbon cutting to mark the launch from Tallahassee.
Photos by St. Clair Murraine

“Our philosophy is to interview the news makers,” said Brillante, who was the founder of the Florida News Channel. “Put the news makers on the air, understanding that our viewers are intelligent enough to decide if it’s good or bad.”

He added that BNC will focus on more than just hard news, featuring topics such as health and wealth from the Black perspective.

“My gut tells me that we are right on track and that this network has never been needed more than it is today with the environment of political poison that we see today,” he said. “We need to bring people back together.”

Uniting the country through its story telling was also a theme with co-founder J.C. Watts, a former congressman. Telling the untold side of the everyday story involving Blacks is also part of the BNC mission, Watts said.

“For every 17-year-old Black male that you show me being carted off in handcuffs to some jail, I can show you 100 17-year-old Black men who get up every day thinking about how I can make my mama proud of me,” Watts said. “More of those stories need to be told. 

“News for us have to be informational, educational, inspirational; anything that is culturally specific to us that will fit in those silos we will have an interest in,” Watts added. “The bottom line is telling a broader story about who is representing the African American community.”

Civil attorney Benjamin Crump is no stranger to the different spins that have been place on telling Black stories. He said the launching of BNC would give Black viewers the perspective that has been missing by most 24-hour news channels.

“It is so critical that we are able to tell our stories from our prospective without it ever being editorialized by people who look at our community from the outside,” Crump said. “It’s just like (the Capital Outlook); we’ll be able to tell the story of the people and by the people who it is actually affecting. The Black New Channel can tell a different perspective from CNN, MSNBC and Fox. They can tell a story from the Black community’s vantage point and that is the critical thing we have to have.”

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