When the Black News Channel did a festive launch party during the Essence Festival in 2019, there were high hopes for the network dedicated to amplifying Black voices and issues of importance to the Black community. Those hopes were dashed on Friday, March 25, when BNC announced it was shutting down after just two years on the air.
The Black News Channel’s fate was confirmed by CEO Princell Hair in a memo to staff obtained by the Los Angeles Times, the outlet reported.
“During the past few months, we have endured very painful workforce reductions at all levels of the network as we worked to achieve our financial goal of a break-even business,” Hair’s memo said.
“This has forced all of you to do more with less, and your contributions have been remarkable. Unfortunately, due to challenging market conditions and global financial pressures, we have been unable to meet our financial goals, and the timeline afforded to us has run out.”
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Based in Tallahassee, Florida, BNC was majority-owned by Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan. The company is filing for bankruptcy and leaves more than 230 staffers – most of whom are Black and other people of color – out of work with no notice or severance.
BNC officially began airing in 2020 and boasted on-air talent such as New York Times columnist Charles Blow, author and commentator Marc Lamont Hill, and former Atlanta news anchor Sharon Reed, among others.
According to reports, Khan no longer wanted to invest in the Black News Channel after it failed to attract a large enough audience. It averaged an audience of 10,000, according to Nielsen stats.
Some of the former employees have taken to Twitter to state their frustrations with not yet being paid.
“The real exclusive is that he’s refusing to give people their paychecks today,” Hill tweeted the day the network folded. “Hundreds of employees, many of whom already took significant pay cuts, are now being denied money they’ve already worked for. Khan, a BILLIONAIRE, simply says he doesn’t want to pay it.”
“The Black News Channel (where I work) is shutting down and failed to make payroll yesterday,” Rebecca Kavanaugh tweeted.
In a follow-up tweet on Monday, March 28, Kavanaugh wrote, “UPDATE: Not sure about other employees, I just got a *partial* payment of my Black News Channel @BNCNews salary owed to me direct deposited into my bank account. Not good enough.”
Veteran journalist Roland Martin, who launched the Black Star Network in 2021, said he was “inundated” with communications from people about the channel shutting down.
“BREAKING NEWS: Black News Channel @BNCNews staffers are angry and demanding answers after getting an email yesterday that their paychecks are being delayed. I have been inundated with phone calls, texts and emails from staffers on this issue,” Martin tweeted.
In an update, Martin tweeted, “I am told that Black News Channel @BNCNews majority owner, Shahid Khan – the Pakistani-American billionaire who also owns the @NFL@Jaguars – is refusing to pay his mostly Black and Brown staffers for the last two weeks of work.”
Here are some other reactions on Twitter about the Black News Channel closing:
PHOTO: Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan on the field before an NFL football game against the Miami Dolphins at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, Sunday, Oct. 17, 2021. The Jaguars defeated The Dolphins 23-20. (AP Photo/Gary McCullough)