*J.C. Watts, the former congressman and businessman, plans on delivering a non-entertainment television network, Black News Channel, geared towards African Americans before the end of the year. Specifically, he’s planning to launch on November 15.
Watts told Lee Bailey in a recent phone interview that the network, airing on Comcast, Charter Communications/Spectrum and Dish Network, has been 10 years in the making.
“We’ve been working on this for some time,” said Watts, chairman and co-founder of the network. “We had carriage (cable companies that agreed to carry the channel) and lost our funding due to the downturn in 2008 and lost an investor, who was killed. One thing led to another. Finally, we kept chopping away at it and carriage and funding reconciled and we’re going to launch November 15th of this year.”
Having black news is not a new concept. While BET and TV One have news specials on their networks, both have tried daily news programs without much success. Watts said there’s a huge difference between his channel, based in Tallahassee, Florida, and the other black channels.
“Their model is not news,” said Watts. “Their business model is entertainment. TV One had about an hour-long news show and BET had a news segment at one time. Several times. But their business model is black entertainment television.”
He continued, “We will be hard news from six in the morning to nine at night and we’ll have some shows scattered throughout that will be current affairs. On weekends, shows will have a magazine format. But our business model is news.”
While polls consistently show that African Americans are over ninety percent Democrat, some may question Watts’ sincerity because he served as a Republican congressman from 1995 to 2003.
Some may even do a double take with conservative radio talk show host/syndicated columnist and Trump supporter Larry Elder listed as a show host/commentator on the Black News Channel’s website. However, Watts said he plans to keep partisan politics off his network.
“I remember when we first started this, we had a conservative group kicking us on the shin, wondering why we need a black news channel,” said Watts. “What is blacks news? We’re not starting a news channel to be Republican or Democrat.”
He continued, “One of the concerns I have, and I majored in journalism, those news stations that are left-leaning or right-leaning, you notice who they talk to. They have Democrats talking to left-leaning analysts and the right-leaning talk to right-leaning analysts. But they are usually journalists. Obviously, we’ll be talking to some journalists, but I want to talk to the people in the trenches. I want to talk to the newsmakers”
The Black News Channel will start off with news bureaus in Atlanta, D.C., and New York. The channel is expected to launch with 33 million African American households, including New York, Los Angeles and Atlanta. The network also intends to have a digital format soon.