University to launch first African-American news network

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- The journalism school at Florida A&M University will soon be home to a new 24-hour news network.

Its creators joined students for a ribbon cutting on campus last Friday. The network based in Tallahassee is promising a new perspective.

The Black Television News Channel will air in more than a dozen cities. Its goal? To offer information, education and entertainment for an African American audience.

The Black Television News Channel plans to be on the air in February 2018.

One of the partners, former Tallahassee Mayor John Marks, was literally brought to tears at Friday's ribbon cutting.

"This has been a long time coming," Marks said as he wiped his eyes.
"I really feel so proud to be a part of what I know is going to be revolutionary as well as evolutionary."

BTNC Co-manager and former Congressman J.C. Watts says they estimate an audience of 33 million people at launch.

"We think we can be educational and informative, not just to the African American community, but to the nation," Watts said. "There's a whole lot of different ways to report the news, a lot of different perspectives, and I think the perspective of the African American community hasn't been told."

BTNC aims to serve African Americans much like Univision and Telemundo serve the Hispanic community. Among its goals? To dispel negativity and stereotypes, and as Marks put it, tell "the rest of the story."

"You're talking about the unemployment rate for African American males being like 15 percent, but guess what? The employment rate is about 85 percent. You don't hear from that perspective," Marks said.

"The anchor desk and things will be that way," FAMU Journalism Dean Ann Kimbrough said as she gave a tour of what will soon be BTNC's studios.

Kimbrough was elbow-to-elbow with BTNC's co-managers, former Congressman J.C. Watts and Bob Brillante.

"Our 30 minute and hourly news wheels, we'll produce out of this set," Brillante said.

He says bureaus in New York, Washington, Chicago and Los Angeles will all come online at the same time as the Tallahassee network operations center.

"We really don't have the luxury of phasing in, because if on day one, we're not every bit as good as a CNN and a FOX News, then viewers will tune you out," Brillante said.

All this will be headquartered at the FAMU School of Journalism and Graphic Design where students will have a chance to work side-by-side with professionals.

"For it to be owned by African Americans and then cater to African Americans, that's just big for me alone," FAMU student Nathan Vinson said. "We will speak and you will hear us. It's definitely something major for the African American community as a whole."

BTNC estimates it will employ 100 people and could be the first network to broadcast in high resolution 4K.

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