By Claretta Bellamy, NBC News
Media and entertainment mogul Byron Allen believes the news and media industry needs more inclusion, an issue he will address now that he is the owner of the Black News Channel (BNC).
In July, Allen was approved by a Florida bankruptcy court to buyBNC for $11 million from the network’s former owner Shahid Khan. BNC is now part of Allen Media Group’s company portfolio of 12 television networks, including the Weather Channel. The acquisition also brought a change to the network’s name: it now goes by TheGrio, the West African term for storyteller.
In a recent interview with CNN, Allen said that he wants the channel to be more inclusive, and that he doesn’t think there’s a need for a “Black news channel,” but rather a “good news channel.” He added that TheGrio will be “more focused on lifestyle, entertainment, news and sports.”
Black News Channel was first launched in February 2020 by J.C. Watts with the mission to produce digital content by and for Black people. Khan, who is owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars, first invested into the company in 2019, before its launch date was pushed back to 2020. Reports first circulated of the network shutting down in March 2021, with the company laying off a majority of its approximately 300 employees in late 2021.
The fate of the Black News Channel soured, according to Allen, because the network failed to get subscriber feeds. The advertising dollars were also inadequate, allowing him to purchase the company out of bankruptcy.
“Allen Media Group will deliver a best-in-class network to serve the underserved African American community and the advertisers who want to reach this extremely valuable audience,” Allen said last month. “Also, we appreciate the opportunity to provide cable operators, satellite companies, telcos, and digital platforms diversity of ownership, voices, and viewpoints on their programming line-ups by having a 100% African American-owned network.”
Allen explained BNC will expand its programming through a deal with Historically Black colleges and universities, which will license over 2,000 of their sporting events to air on the network — helping to amplify Black sporting events while investing into education at the schools. He also said corporate America needs to support diversity in ownership and in providing it a clear, resounding voice.
“We need to own our networks, control the narrative, control how we’re produced and depicted and seen around the world — and until all of our voices are heard, then we don’t really have a true democracy,” Allen told CNN.