Black News Channel Launches With a ‘Culturally Specific’ View

Black News Channel launched Feb. 10 in the midst of one of the busiest news cycles in recent memory. The only news service targeted to African-Americans, BNC has more than 50 million subscribers across distributors Comcast and Charter Communications, along with the Roku Channel. VP of news and programming Gary Wordlaw recently spoke with Multichannel News about the network’s launch and its plans to differentiate itself. Here’s an edited transcript.

MCN: BNC has been up and running for nearly two months. Are you satisfied with how the network has performed so far?

Gary Wordlaw

Gary Wordlaw

Gary Wordlaw: Absolutely. Launching a newscast on a local television station is difficult. Launching a 24/7 network is impossible. Yet a group of less than 60 people pulled together and got it done, and on Feb. 10, we launched this pretty much error-free.

MCN: There haven’t been any major technology hiccups since the launch?

GW: All the programs that were supposed to air and all the commercials that were supposed to air did, and the newscasts have gone on seamlessly. There were some hiccups from a technological standpoint: Getting up on Charter’s Spectrum [platform] was seamless; getting up on Comcast was a little more problematic. We’re up and running on both now and that’s good. We’re up on Roku as well, and we’re working on some other OTT platforms and some satellite platforms. Every day, the executive team is knocking on doors and making phone calls and trying to get deals.

MCN: What will people see when they tune in to BNC?

GW: They would see live newscasts from 6 until 9 a.m. And then at 9, there’s a live program, D.C. Today Live, which takes a look at all things Washington from a black perspective. Then we come back to Tallahassee to a studio show, Being a Woman, which discusses issues related to girls and women aged 13 to 40. In the early afternoon, we repeat the morning news and then from 2 to 4 in the afternoon we have a variety of programs. At 5 p.m., we go live again with a show called Ladies First, and that show speaks to women over 30 years of age. Then we have Kelly Wright, formerly of Fox News, who is doing his own show out of Washington. Then that’s followed by prime news from 7 until 10.

MCN: Is BNC providing a different perspective than the mainstream media?

GW: The reality is we hear a lot of the same kind of things from the other news networks: pundits yelling at pundits, politicians dealing with politicians. What we try to offer is understanding. We call it truth illuminated, where we give stories a chance to be told. We also find those stories out there that other people aren’t covering or, if they have covered it, we will expand on the coverage. For example, in February, with the 6-year-old girl who was arrested near Orlando, we took that story and talked with the mother and the grandmother and everybody else. We wanted to give the feel of, ‘If that were my child, what would I do?’ We try to tell the story down the middle and let the viewer decide. We don’t see a lot of people on the national news networks doing that.

MCN: How is BNC dealing with the constant flow of information regarding the coronavirus outbreak?

GW: We process the constant flow of information regarding the coronavirus outbreak the same as any other news network. We just report from a culturally specific perspective.

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.