Way back in 2008, former Oklahoma Representative J.C. Watts announced his intentions to create a 24-hour, black-owned cable television news channel dubbed the “Black Television News Channel,” or BTNC. Today, thanks to a signing ceremony on the Florida A&M University campus, it’s officially happening, and Philly is on the short list of cities to which Comcast will supply the channel.
Set to be headquartered on the FAMU campus thanks to a donation from Sony that will provide the school a full-blown network operations center and attached newsroom, BTNC will reportedly provide full- and part-time jobs for as many as 50 journalists. Plans have been in the works since 2008, but according to a report from FAMU’s Journal-isms blog, financing slowed to a stop in 2010 with the economic recession that crippled pretty much everyone.
BTNC, however, is not the first attempt at a news channel targeted at a black audience, with Florida’s News Channel having served that same purpose from 1998 to 2003. However, FNC founder Robert Brilliante doesn’t appear to be phased by any past failures:
“Robert "Bob" Brillante, a cable TV veteran, founder of Florida's News Channel and one of the cofounding partners, told Journal-isms by telephone that Comcast had committed to carrying the channel in seven of the 10 top African-American markets: Miami, Detroit, Chicago, Baltimore, Washington, Atlanta and Philadelphia. The proposed merger of Comcast and Time Warner Cable will broaden the potential audience, he said.”
Founders hope that BTNC will fill the gap left by the 18 black-owned networks that have shut down over the past 20 years—and, not for nothing, but that merger sure would help along those lines with Comcast as the carrier. So, maybe call it a silver lining.
That is, if BTNC can generate the $500,000 annually they’ve promised. Otherwise, we might just be bumping that number to 19.