$50M Investment and Ratings Boost Couldn’t Save Black News Channel Founded By Conservative Former Congressman J.C. Watts

Despite a recent boost in viewership, the Black News Channel has shut down after just two years. The news came after BNC failed to meet payroll and lost the backing of its largest investor.

BNC founder former GOP congressman J.C. Watts

On March 25, BNC president and CEO Princell Hair, its president and CEO, informed its 230 employees in a memo that the news network was ceasing live production and would file for bankruptcy. Employee benefits will last through March 31, and there will be no severance, a source told The Los Angeles Times.

The Tallahassee, Florida-based channel will air repeats for the rest of the month.

Founded in 2020 by former GOP congressman J.C. Watts, BNC was offered in some 50 million homes with cable and satellite.

Intending to provide Black audiences with stories that give a broader perspective about their community than mainstream news networks, BNC went live in February 2020, U.S. News & World Report reported.

BNC host Aisha Mills, left, host Del Walters, BNC President and Chief Executive Princell Hair and “BNC Prime” host Charles Blow.(Black News Channel)

In 2021, BNC boosted its staff, hiring more than 250 Black journalists and production personnel, and had a relaunch after receiving an investment by Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shahid Kahn. Kahn became ​​the majority shareholder. Former CNN executive Hair was brought in to run the network. And they hired high-profile contributors like New York Times columnist Charles Blow and commentator Marc Lamont Hill. 

Despite Kahn’s $50 million cash infusion, BNC saw two rounds of layoffs this year. Then came news that Kahn would stop investing, USA Today reported.

The network was also dealing with a class-action discrimination lawsuit filed by former and current female employees who alleged women were being paid less than their male counterparts and that managers complained that they were “insufficiently feminine.” 

However, BNC went out on higher ratings as it recorded its biggest audience ever with its live coverage of the Judiciary Committee hearing for the U.S. Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson.

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