FAMU to launch first African-American news network

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By: Julie Montanaro
February 24, 2017

FAMU's journalism school will soon be home to a new 24 hour news network.

Its creators joined students for a ribbon cutting on campus Friday.

The network based right here 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%, but guess what the employment rate is about 85%. 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 us 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 on line 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.

By: WCTV Eyewitness News; FAMU Public Relations
January 27, 2017

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- Florida A&M University has announced plans that will move the university towards serving as the national headquarters for the nation’s only African-American news network.

In 2014, FAMU entered into an 11-year agreement with the Black Television News Channel (BTNC) to house its 24-hour, multi-platform news network in the School of Journalism & Graphic Communication.

This week, BTNC announced a multi-year agreement with Charter Communications to premiere the news network in 14 of the digital cable television service’s top African American markets in the country, including New York, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Dallas, Detroit, Boston, Tampa, Orlando, Cleveland, Charlotte, Birmingham, Norfolk, Raleigh-Durham, and New Orleans.

On February 24, FAMU, BTNC, and Charter will hold a groundbreaking ceremony on FAMU’s campus to announce the African-American news network’s official launch date.

FAMU’s Interim President Larry Robinson, Ph.D., said in a press release, "As we get closer to the launch date of this groundbreaking network, the University remains excited about the opportunity to play a key role in bolstering the nation’s African-American news offerings, reporting the cultural achievements of the African-American community, and developing the next generation of minority journalists."

According to a study by the Florida State University Center for Economic Forecasting and Analysis, the BTNC will generate more than 100 jobs in Tallahassee and more than $30 million annually in economic stimulus for the region.

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