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The Tallahassee-based Black News Channel shuts down laying off hundreds of minority journalists

Evan Agostini
2019 Invision/AP file photo

The Black News Channel, financed heavily by Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan, is shutting down, at least for now.

Facing lagging revenue and rising costs, the independent cable channel based in Tallahassee announced Friday that it would lay off "substantially all" of its 230 employees and suspended operations immediately.

"The Board of Directors is now considering all available options, including potential restructuring," the board said in a statement Friday night.

BNC released the statement after the Los Angeles Times reported that the network had failed to meet payroll Friday and would close. The vast majority of the laid-off employees are people of color, the Times said.

Khan was unwilling to invest further in the operation, the Times reported, quoting "people briefed on the matter."

The Jaguars referred questions to Khan's personal representative, who distributed the board's statement but provided no comment from Khan.

BNC was founded in 2019, committed to covering Black and Brown communities.

The Atlanta Journal-Journal Constitution reported that Khan, the operation's majority stakeholder, invested about $50 million into BNC. But the audience and revenues failed to meet the company's expectations.

Industry observers noted that BNC focused on cable news in an age when people increasingly rely on streaming, podcasts and social media for news.

"Black News Channel’s management over the last several months has worked to find new sources of financing to continue the network’s mission," the board of directors said. "We learned this morning that those efforts have proven unsuccessful. Black News Channel today finds itself at a difficult crossroad."

The statement said BNC was suspending operations "to conserve resources, preserve any possible core assets, and deal appropriately with all relevant stakeholders."

Employees will receive all unpaid money they have earned, the statement said.

The channel had been led by former CNN executive Princell Hair, with the channel signing a deal with CBS Media Ventures to partner on advertising sales.

BNC last year signed high-profile talent like New York Times veteran Charles M. Blow and cable news regular Marc Lamont Hill.

Copyright 2022 WJCT News 89.9. To see more, visit WJCT News 89.9.

Randy Roguski
Claire Heddles