By: Mariel Carbone
June 13, 2017
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV)-- Months after Florida A&M University held a ribbon cutting ceremony for a 24 hour news network, word has spread that the network will no longer be housed at the university.
"I honestly don't know how to feel. February we were happy. We were going to have the first black television news network. Now we don't know what's going on," said senior broadcast student Markeith Cromartie.
Some students are calling it a lost opportunity.
"It was a great opportunity for us to be able to just have easy access. Anytime we wanted to we could go in there and watch and get hands on experience with everything. And we kind of don't have that anymore," said Aleya Bradley, a senior broadcast student.
The channel was a partnership with the Black Television News Channel and offered students a chance to get hands on experience, right on campus. It was expected to air in more than a dozen cities
nationwide and reach an audience of 33 million people. The official launch date was February 2018.
Former Mayor John Marks, who is a partner with BTNC, said the channel's goals and objectives are all completely the same, with all the information mentioned above, still standing. The only difference, will be the location.
"What we committed to do was to have the students side by side with the production people that we're going to hire. So they can learn directly how to do production, how to do facilities, how to work with television networks. They will work in conjunction with us," he said.
Marks calls the change a "mutual decision." And said it will benefit all involved. He said the determining factor was an issue of space.
"They needed the space. They wanted the space. Or that space would not be available to us until the end of this year," he said. "And that would not fit with our time frame for launch."
That space, which was to house the main studio, was showcased to media back in February. But, Marks said it is needed by the University for classrooms and administrative offices.
Interim President Larry Robinson said it all comes down to the University's priorities.
"The top priority of FAMU and the School of Journalism and Graphic Communication is to ensure that our students have the resources and facilities need to promote academic success," he said in a statement to Eyewitness News.
He went on to say:
"We have been more than willing to support the Black Television News Channel with the goal of assisting students with practical experiences, and we have kept our doors and hearts open to that opportunity.
There is a process established by the Florida A&M University Board of Trustees and Florida Board of Governors that must be followed when it comes to major renovations to state funded facilities. We have continued to ensure that there is an opportunity for the Black Television News Channel and its principals to provide the information that we need to move this matter forward. We understand they have a timeline and obligations to their investors, and similarly, we have a responsibility to meet the procedures and processes required by the FAMU Board of Trustees and Florida Board of Governors."
Still, some students said the decision, and recent reassignment of their dean, has them questioning the future of the journalism school.
"J school creates people. It actually gives you heart to grind out and do whatever you want to do," said Cromartie. "I just want the culture to stay the same."
Marks said the new building will be branded with the name BTNC-FAMU. A new location is secured, however it has not been made public yet.
BTNC aims to serve African Americans and offer information, education and entertainment for an African American audience. BTNC is expected to generate more than 100 jobs in Tallahassee and more than $30 million annually in economic stimulus for the region.