TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida A&M University (FAMU) celebrated the official signing of documents to create a partnership with the Black Television News Channel (BTNC) and the FAMU School of Journalism & Graphic Communication (SJGC), making the university home to the nation’s only black-owned cable news network.
“At a time when jobs are shrinking and there is change in the multimedia market, the Black Television News Channel is a job creator. This partnership is an educational administrator’s dream,” said Larry Robinson, FAMU’s interim president. “It positively impacts our students by allowing them to enhance and apply the knowledge gained in the classroom, thus better positioning them for the world of work from their exposure to cutting-edge technology.”
The network will be operated and managed at the journalism building by BTNC, whose co-founding partners include: former U.S. Congressman J.C. Watts; former U.S. House of Representatives Budget Director Steve Pruitt; Evan Leo, a Washington, D.C.-based telecommunications and regulatory attorney; Robert “Bob” Brillante, a 30-year cable TV veteran and founder of Florida’s News Channel; and Frank Watson, a 30-year broadcast industry veteran.
Watts said FAMU was a premiere choice for collaboration as they planned the project.
“We’re excited to be among the energy of the youth on this campus. Thank you to the FAMU family for embracing us and the idea of a 24-hour news channel that is culturally specific,” said Watts. “The world only gets a sliver of who the black community is today. We look forward to telling that story.”
BTNC’s mission is to produce programming that is informative, educational, entertaining, inspiring and empowering to the black viewing audience. FAMU’s School of Journalism & Graphic Communication received approval from the FAMU Board of Trustees to enter into an 11-year contractual partnership that will position FAMU to be the home of the 24-hour, multi-platform news network.
Local and state elected officials, students and alumni gathered to witness the auspicious occasion, including Tallahassee Mayor John Marks, Leon County Commissioner Nick Maddox, former U.S. Congressman Kendrick Meek, and Fla. Reps. Alan Williams, Bobby Powell and Shevrin Jones.
“This is an historic day, not only for HBCU’s, but for all schools of journalism across the nation,” said FAMU alumnus Williams. “FAMU is prepared and ready to take on such a role through its knowledgeable staff and its dynamic student body, who will become the next generation of leaders and media moguls.”
Over the last two decades, 18 black-owned and operated, full-power television networks have ceased to exist. BTNC aims to fill that void as the only cable television network in the U.S. fully-dedicated to broadcasting news that will be culturally specific to the African-American community.
The new agreement stipulates that BTNC will provide up to $500,000 annually to FAMU for the first three years of the network’s operation and $1 million for each of the seven years remaining in the contract. The first year of the partnership will be dedicated to renovating, upgrading and installing equipment in the SJGC building, with an estimated investment of approximately $12.5 million.
SJGC Dean Dr. Ann W. Kimbrough said the contract positions FAMU to be on the cutting-edge in training future multimedia professionals. BTNC will serve as the independent site for the school’s course of study in network broadcasting and operations. FAMU students will hone their crafts through first-hand experience while utilizing the latest digital broadcasting technology and systems.
Career counseling, internship opportunities and job placement are also components of the agreement. BTNC will hire a professional team of more than 200 journalists, sales personnel, operations staff and other administrative positions. BTNC will also have an estimated $34 million economic impact to the Tallahassee region, according to the Florida State University Center for Economic Forecasting.
“We are excited about this visionary opportunity that connects our mission with that of the Black Television News Channel’s goals,” said Kimbrough. “This is not a singular opportunity. We see it as a multidisciplinary opportunity for our students, alumni and faculty.”
Kimbrough noted that the BTNC partnership would elevate the technical expertise of the school’s faculty and will enhance the university’s ability to attract high-quality journalism students from around the globe.