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J.C. Watts Launches the Black News Channel, but how Black is it?

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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.

SOURCE: blacknewschannel.com Founders and Management Page

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…

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.

Black News Alerts is solely owned and operated by UnmutedCo. and has no affiliation with the Black News Channel.

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Alex Haynes is Editor-At-Large/NYC Editor at Urban Newsroom, Executive Editor at UNR's Black News Alerts and the host of Unmuted Nation on BossFM. Alex joined Urban Newsroom in 2010 and contributes regular op-ed and editorial pieces while advising the columnist and contributing staff.

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The European Commission Will Begin Antitrust Probe into Google’s Advertising Unit

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The European Commission believes Google favors its own display ad technology services. If the European Commission’s claims are true, this means Google breached antitrust rules.

What We Know:

  • The Commission’s Executive Vice President Margrethe Vestager announced her intentions in a tweet. The probe will investigate Google’s restrictions on accessing data about user identity and behavior; usually, Google places these limitations on advertisers, publishers, and other third parties.

  • The Commission will also investigate complaints on Google not allowing competitors to broker ad buys on YouTube. Furthermore, Officials will examine if the corporation blocks user-tracking technologies on their platforms.
  • Google quickly responded to the claims via email. A spokesperson for Google wrote that thousands of European businesses use Google’s advertising products daily for their competitiveness and effectiveness. In addition, the spokesperson declared the tech company would “engage constructively” with the European Commission to answer their questions.
  • This is Google’s second investigation in one month. On June 7, CNBC reported that the French completion authority fined the tech giant €220 million, or $268 million, for abusing its market power in the ad industry. Google chose to pay the fine and also revealed it would give publishers more choice and better results when using its platforms.
  • Additionally, the European Commission already found Google guilty of breaching antitrust rules in 2019. Officials determined that Google imposed restrive clauses in contracts with third-party websites. The limiting sections prevented Google’s competitors from placing search ads on these pages. As a result, the Commission made Google pay €1.49 billion, or $1.77 billion.
  • The Commission does not know when it will finish its investigation on the tech titan.

Alongside Google, the European Commission also placed fines and punished other corporations such as Facebook for violating antitrust laws over the years.

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The Supreme Court Unanimously Rules the NCAA Cannot Bar Education-Related Benefits, Says It Violates Federal Antitrust Laws

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The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) specifically ruled that the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) cannot enforce limits on Division I basketball and football players’ college-offered educational benefits.

What We Know:

  • Current NCAA rules state that colleges cannot pay student-athletes. In addition, institutions must cap scholarship amounts to the cost of attendance. The association implemented these rules because officials felt that if they paid athletes, fans would begin to criticize the players’ amateur statuses. This, in turn, would result in fewer admirers.
  • However, SCOTUS rejected their claims; the Justices unanimously ruled that the NCAA cannot restrict relatively modest payments to their players based on amateurism. Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote the court’s opinion, citing that doing so violates antitrust laws.

“The NCAA is not above the law,” wrote Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

  • This case has been around for a while now. Last year, former players, including West Virginia football player Shawne Alston, sued the NCAA for their unfair laws. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco determined the collegiate association could not limit educational benefits. This decision permitted payments for things such as musical instruments, scientific equipment, postgraduate scholarships, tutoring, study abroad, academic awards, and internships.
  • Despite this, the appeals court did not allow the NCAA to provide athletes with a salary. Therefore, Alston and others took the case to SCOTUS.
  • The unanimous ruling did not directly imply if institutions can now compensate their players. Instead, Monday’s verdict permits those playing Division I men’s or women’s basketball or Bowl Subdivision football to receive cash/cash-equivalent awards based on their academics or graduation. Universities can now offer scholarships for students to complete undergraduate or graduate degrees. Students may also partake in paid internships once they complete their collegiate sports eligibility.
  • SCOTUS will not require schools to provide the benefits. Alongside this, conferences can impose prohibitions on the benefits if the member school chooses to. However, a conference cannot limit or prevent said assets.
  • With the new, multi-level, victory, the athletes feel ready to challenge other aspects of these rules. One lawyer, Steve Berman, already opened another case against the NCAA related to this one. He will ask for the courts to prevent the NCAA from maintaining rules that restrict the amount of name, image, and likeness (NIL) payments available to athletes.

Berman will also seek “unspecified damages” based on the share of television-rights money and social media earnings plaintiffs could have received if NIL compensation limits did not exist.

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Olympians Must ‘Avoid Unnecessary Forms of Contact’ During Games

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Athletes participating in the 2021 Tokyo Olympics must avoid anything that may provoke another COVID-19 wave across Japan, including engaging in sexual activities.

What We Know:

  • The International Olympic Committee (IOC) continuously emphasized last week that Olympic village citizens must observe social distancing guidelines. If someone does not obey the rules, they may face fines, disqualification, or deportation. After the information’s release, Japanese organizers began wondering if this meant they cannot distribute their 160,000 condoms throughout the village.
  • The issuing out of contraception became a tradition in the 1988 Seoul Olympics. Officials wanted to motivate Olympians in the village to practice safe sex. Oftentimes, athletes tend to sleep with each other, or with natives.
  • Several companies and people expressed their concern over the new rules. Mountaineer Ken Noguchi said he “could not comprehend” why organizers can’t just hand out the condoms and ask the owners to “keep them under wraps”. Alongside this, four Japanese condom manufacturers expected to market their “specialty, ultra-thin” prophylactics; the contraceptives, made of polyurethane, are meant to heighten the pleasure of sex.
  • In light of the IOC’s declaration, Tokyo Olympics organizers stated they do not intend on passing out condoms for use inside the village. Rather, they want athletes to take the contraceptives home as a souvenir. Organizers claim that athletes can return to their nations and raise awareness on HIV and AIDS with the condoms.
  • The IOC’s warning stands despite the fact that 80% of Olympic and Paralympic athletes will be fully vaccinated by the time the games start on July 23. Additionally, officials placed extreme measures on athletes’ interactions outside of competitions. For example, although organizers intended on providing meals in “vast dining halls,” participants must now eat and sleep alone.

The IOC and Japan intend on minimizing any possible damage to the host country. Recently, Japan curbed its coronavirus rate and dropped restrictions. Japanese officials also ensured they will take precautions if numbers jump during the Olympics; this includes putting their state of emergency back into effect in the middle of the Games.

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