News spread Friday afternoon of the demise of the Black News Channel. The outlet shut down effective Friday afternoon after news reports of the network not paying workers their most recent paycheck.
Activist and commentator Marc Lamont Hill, who hosted the BNC show “Black News Tonight,” tweeted that the billionaire owner was refusing to pay the Black and Brown staffers for completed work. Hill also noted staffers had previously taken a pay cut.
Backed by Billionaire Shahid Khan, the network leadership previously promised to lead a work environment committed to respect and integrity. Worth an estimated $9 billion, Khan also owns the NFL team, the Jacksonville Jaguars.
While not Black-owned, the network spotlighted issues impacting Black communities from a Black perspective. The company’s abrupt closure comes after BNC hit its highest viewership since launching in 2020. The network hosted coverage of the confirmation hearing for Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson with commentary featuring leading Black legal scholars and political analysts.
Dorothy Tucker, president of the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ), tweeted the organization was working to find ways to assist members impacted by the closing. NABJ noted that there was some discussion of developing a solution to compensate employees for their last three weeks of pay.
Trouble at the network had been brewing for a few months with news of layoffs and harassment this past winter. A month ago, NABJ representatives met with the network’s leadership to address reports of gender and racial discrimination. BNC employees alleged issues with pay inequity, hostile interactions with BNC management and a culture of harassment.
NABJ also made recommendations for how the network could move forward.
“NABJ is disturbed by the allegations and calls on BNC to execute a plan to remedy the problems immediately,” Tucker said previously. “The reported behavior is unacceptable.
Previous iterations of news programs produced by Black news outlets provided vital commentary and coverage at a time when Black representation in mainstream outlets was lacking. Even as Black analysts and hosts on MSNBC and CNN have provided necessary analysis and coverage, having an entire network that caters to Black viewers is priceless.
The Hollywood Reported noted BNC reached an estimated 52 million households. According to The Wrap, an estimated 30 million households had access to OAN, significantly less than BNC. BNC is now off the air, but networks like Newsmax and OAN continue to spread distortions of fact to appease a smaller audience than major cable news outlets. OAN wouldn’t even exist by all accounts, but for AT&T and DirectTV floating it all these years.
The question remains why should a Black outlet providing well-sourced content be forced to “sustain itself” when an outlet like OAN had a sweetheart deal with DirecTV before advocacy groups called for an end to the distribution relationship. Imagine if Black outlets and talent were invested at the same rate as white-led networks steeped in falsehoods and disinformation.