Black News Channel, the TV news service launched in early 2020 to be a voice for people of color, is ceasing operations Friday afternoon.
A memo to employees from BNC’s chief executive, Princell Hair, confirmed The Times’ earlier report of the closure plans. The company is filing for bankruptcy, and live programming will end at 2 p.m. PDT/5 p.m. EDT. The channel will air repeats for the rest of the month.
The Tallahassee, Fla.-based outlet, whose majority stakeholder is Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan, failed to meet payroll on Friday, a day after telling employees that paychecks would be delayed.
The announcement means BNC’s staff of 230 — a vast majority of whom are people of color — are out of work. They have been told benefits will last through next week and there will be no severance, according to one person briefed on the plans.
Khan was no longer willing to invest further, according to people briefed on the matter. The channel has been shopped to a number of media companies, including Byron Allen’s Entertainment Studios, but there were no takers. The company endured several rounds of layoffs in recent months.
Black News Channel was conceived by a group headed up by former U.S. Rep. J.C. Watts (R-Okla.) and media executive Bob Brillante. The channel launched after Khan made a $50-million investment in 2019, making him the majority shareholder.
The channel reached more than 50 million cable and satellite households, but was unable to generate a significant audience.
The average audience for BNC was fewer than 10,000 viewers, according to Nielsen data, though it had been growing in recent months.
The failure to meet payroll and the expected announcement of a shutdown stunned and angered employees at the channel. Many of the staffers came to BNC from larger, established news organizations because they believed in the mission of a TV service that provided news and information for a diverse audience.