“At a time when jobs are shrinking and there is change in the multimedia market, the Black Television News Network is a job creator. This partnership is an educational administrator’s dream,” said Interim President Larry Robinson. “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 SJGC building by co-founding partners: former U.S. Congressman J.C. Watts; Robert “Bob” Brillante, a 30-year cable TV veteran and founder of Florida’s News Channel; Frank Watson, a 30-year broadcast industry veteran; former U.S. House of Representatives Budget Director Steve Pruitt and Evan Leo, one of Washington D.C.’s premier telecommunications and regulatory attorneys.
Watts said FAMU was a premiere choice for collaboration as they planned the project.
The mission of the Black Television News Channel (BTNC) 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 a 24-hour, multi-platform news network. Several elected officials, students and alumni gathered to witness the auspicious occasion, including Mayor John Marks, Leon County Commissioner Nick Maddox, Rep. Alan Williams, Rep. Bobby Powell, Rep. Shevrin Jones and former Congressman Kendrick Meek.
Over the last two decades 18 black-owned and operated full-power television networks that 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.
Through the partnership BTNC will return up to $500,000 annually to FAMU for the first three years of the network’s operation and $1million 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 a total price tag of $10 million.
SJGC Dean Ann W. Kimbrough said the contract positions FAMU to be on the cutting-edge in training future multimedia professionals. BTNC will serve as an independent manager of the school’s course of study in network broadcasting and operations. FAMU students will hone their crafts through first-hand while utilizing the latest digital broadcasting technology and systems. Career counseling, internship opportunities and job placement are also components of the agreement.
“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 the university's ability to attract high-quality journalism students from around the globe.