BNC’s programming lineup includes a weekly news show with 60 Minutes alum Byron Pitts, sports shows focused on basketball and combat sports, and a weekly focus on historically black colleges and universities.
It’s monumental that for the first time in history, a cable news channel has launched solely focused on reaching Black people. Regardless of your personal beliefs or politics, it is trivial and remedial to think that Black Americans are monolithic, but a network seemingly focused on telling our stories, speaking to our experience and channeling Black energy has never been more needed. After following the news of the network launching for the last several months, seemingly in tandem with the launch of our own (non-affiliated) network, I decided to take a deeper look into the launch and who was behind it.
On the surface, the Black News Channel (BNC) looks to be a welcome addition and needed change to the cable news landscape, which was initially spearheaded by Ted Turner in 1980 with the creation of CNN. Today, Fox News leads the industry with viewership that topples any competitor. While opinion journalists have become the face of the Fox News Network, it’s often criticized for it’s right-leaning rhetoric and alternative facts presented as factual news by it’s hosts. Until 2017, the network even used the motto ‘Fair and Balanced’, which was likely dropped due to the staunch support of Donald Trump. Noting the statistics, reach and success of Fox News is important, because culturally, it’s never connected with Black viewers. Enter Black News Channel.
The founder of BNC, J.C. Watts, is a former Canadian Football League player and Republican Congressman. Fox News reports that Watts has been working on the channel for over a decade and has even attempted two other false starts (Nov 15th 2019 and January 6th 2020). In an interview with Fox News, Watts said “I have traveled around the country participating in interviews, serving on panel discussions, and sharing BNC’s mission and commitment to telling a more complete story of the African American community. There is growing interest and anticipation about the Black News Channel, as well as a palpable level of excitement about our launch.” I believe this is true. The BNC website says, ‘Black News Channel will offer original programming “created by people of color for people of color.”‘ Initially, the channel will be available to nearly 100 million homes through Spectrum, Xfnity X1 and Dish, with plans to add Sling, Vizio Smart TVS, Xumo and Roku. Comcast and Dish describe their offering of BNC as a “subscription video-on-demand service.” Sounds exhilarating.
Digging a little deeper, there were a few things that raised my left eyebrow-then, my right one. Who else is leading this network? Is this the answer we’ve been looking for, after BET, the ‘premiere’ network for Black people has been hijacked by “Martin” repeats and every “Madea” movie known to man? Where has our collective voice been in the newsphere? I’ve had this conversation many times within my circle and hoped that I’d find solace with BNC. I’m not so sure.
While I have no issues with white men in senior or key leadership positions, mostly because it’s been the norm since the inception of this nation, I have serious questions about launching anything Black in the honorable year of our Lord 2020 with white people in the most senior roles. While there are sprinkles of Black male faces in the senior leadership team, who wouldn’t question a Black republican co-founder and two white males at the helm of a new network poised and positioned to tell the “true Black story?” Bob Brillante, CEO and co-founder, is a media veteran from Florida who partnered with Watts to create this venture. The Chief Operating Officer, Jim Zerwekh, is also a media veteran with over 25 years of industry experience.
I am a realist. When launching a new venture of this magnitude, I imagine you’d be looking for the best, regardless of skin color or political affiliation. In that same vein of realism, in such a divided time, when creating a venture targeted at a specific group of people, that have not only been marginalized by a nation but often disparaged and disrespected in media coverage, how important are optics? I’ve shared news of this network many times, prior to it’s launch, with my circles, both personal and professional. Each time, I watched eyes illuminate with hope and excitement, until I subsequently shared the leadership team.
Have we been had? Was no one else available? Where are the Black people and why are we seemingly invisible?
“The launch of Black News Channel will be not only historic, but also transformational,” CEO and co-founder Bob Brillante said. “We will shed more light on the stories that demonstrate our commonality, rather than those that highlight our differences.”
It’s fair to say that I am not even on the fence about my feelings. I know that after peeling back just the first layer, I don’t trust this. I could also be wrong. There is an abundance of Black talent and skill within the Black community that could’ve aided this venture, if the point of it was to truly inform and uplift. Any wise Black advisor would’ve made it clear to the board or leadership that optics matter. Being Black and proud is not divisive, it’s necessary. It is in fact, very white, to focus on our ‘commonality’ while so many blatant inequalities have plagued our people for centuries. Time will tell what this truly is…
WNBA Players Wear Shirts Supporting Kelly Loeffler’s Opponent
Several WNBA teams wore “Vote Warnock” shirts ahead of their Tuesday night games. Reverend Raphael Warnock is Georgia Senator Kelly Loeffler’s opponent in the upcoming November Election.
What we know:
- The “Vote Warnock” shirts were sported by several teams, including the Atlanta Dream, which Loeffler co-owns. Loeffler recently came under fire for calling on the WNBA to end their support of Black Lives Matter. The WNBA continues their support of the movement with warm-up shirts, signs on the court, and displays during the national anthem. The WNBA Players Association has demanded Loeffler step down from her role as Atlanta Dream co-owner.
Don't boo…VOTE 🗳
— Chicago Sky (@chicagosky) August 4, 2020
- Loeffler responded to the shirts with a statement: “This is just more proof that the out of control cancel culture wants to shut out anyone who disagrees with them.” She added, “It’s clear that the league is more concerned with playing politics than basketball.” The players have received support from fans and politicians, including Stacey Abrams and Warnock himself. According to the New York Times, Abrams is an advisor to the WNBA Players Association and was consulted on the idea for the shirts. Warnock said that he was “proud to stand” with the players and that they showed “courage and resolve.”
- Loeffler was appointed to the Senate by Governor Brian Kemp after former Senator Johnny Isakson resigned. Before the backlash for opposing Black Lives Matter, Loeffler was investigated for insider trading after making mysterious stock trades before the coronavirus became a pandemic in the U.S. After she denounced Black Lives Matter, corporate donors Sony and Target have disagreed with her and said that they would reconsider their support of her campaign.
Elizabeth Williams, center for the Atlanta Dream, posted a picture of herself wearing the “Vote Warnock” shirt, calling for her followers to kick out Loeffler and embrace the spirit and vision of the late John Lewis.
We are @wnba players, but like the late, great John Lewis said, we are also ordinary people with extraordinary vision. @ReverendWarnock has spent his life fighting for the people and we need him in Washington. Join the movement for a better Georgia at https://t.co/hC8iF9urak pic.twitter.com/mvN5e9m4oO
— Elizabeth Williams (@E_Williams_1) August 4, 2020
MLB Hires Exec Michele Meyer-Shipp as Chief People & Culture Officer
What We Know:
- Meyer-Shipp, who joins the organization from accounting firm KPMG LLP, where she served as chief diversity and inclusion officer, will oversee all of MLB’s human resources activities. This includes all talent processes and programs, activities focused on workplace culture, and diversity and inclusion within the organization. She will also lead all off-field office operations.
- Meyer-Shipp shared she decided to leave her role at KPMG after two years in a move to continue to grow and develop her career, sharing she is excited to take on this new position and all of its potential challenges. “I will have the opportunity to use all of the skillsets that I have developed over my 25-year career to lead not only Diversity & Inclusion, but also all human resources, culture, and operations activities at the League.”
- While at KPMG, Meyer-Shipp led all firm programs and initiatives relating to diversity and inclusion in the workforce, workplace, and marketplace as well as consulting with clients on building diverse and inclusive workplaces. Previously, she had held diversity roles at Prudential Financial and for the law firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP. She also served on industry and association task forces and committees. These include Twitter’s Diversity Advisory Council, Working Mother Media’s Multicultural Advisory Board, National Organization on Disability, and Rutgers University’s Student Affairs Executive Advisory Council, in which she is an alumna.
- Meyer-Shipp was recently recognized by Diversity MBA as one of the “Top 100 Women of Influence.” She has also been recognized throughout her career as a “Top Executive in Corporate Diversity” by BLACK ENTERPRISE.
- MLB Commissioner Robert D. Manfred Jr. said he is excited about the addition to the organization. “I am very pleased that Michele is joining us to fill this vital role for Major League Baseball,” Manfred shared. “Michele’s outstanding record of accomplishment will be a valuable addition to our senior leadership team, the hiring and development of our employees, and industry initiatives.”
- The league has a poor record of diversity. In April, The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES) at the University of Central Florida, released its annual Major League Baseball Racial and Gender Report Card in which the MLB overall scored poorly. While there was a slight uptick in racial diversity hiring, there was a decline in the hiring of women. Similarly, in a sport that in 1991 had 18% of the players on the field being African American, that number today has drastically dropped to 8%. The TIDES report also noted that the MLB Central Office currently has the lowest gender diversity among all the major sports leagues.
- Meyer-Shipp shared her goal for her time at MLB is to build “a best-in-class human resources department in which diversity and inclusion are embedded into all processes and functions.” She also shared plans to create a culture “wherein every employee can bring their full selves and together, with the power of our diversity, advance the league’s vision and mission.”
Meyer-Shipp is expected to begin her new role as Chief People & Culture Officer with the MLB this October.
NBA Pledges $300M to Economic Empowerment in Black Community
The NBA’s Board of Governors will dedicate $300 million to its new NBA Foundation focused on “creating greater economic empowerment in the Black community.”
What we know:
- The NBA owners will spread the $300 million commitment over ten years, donating $30 million a year to the NBA Foundation. The foundation will support high school, college, and career-ready Black men and women. Their focus will be on three employment transition points: getting the first job, securing a job after high school or college, and long-term career advancement. The foundation will also partner with organizations that “provide skills training, mentorship, coaching and pipeline development in NBA markets and communities.”
- “The creation of this foundation is an important step in developing more opportunities for the Black community,” said Players Association President Chris Paul. LeBron James also reacted to the foundation by saying, “I think it’s pretty great. Three hundred million over the next ten years. The NBA and NBPA have always supported the black community. It means a lot.”
- NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said that this would be a one-of-a-kind program for the league. “We, of course, had NBA Cares and many fantastic programs, but this would be an independent organization, and details to come, but working directly with the players on how the board would be formed, how their voices would be heard, how potentially maybe some independent voices from outside the league that would help drive change with us.”
The NBA Foundation will also partner with HBCUs and invest in internships, apprenticeships, and “development pathways outside of traditional higher education.”
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