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Report: Black Family Channel Closing

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Monday, April 23, 2007

Network Said to Be in Deal With Gospel Outlet

Black Family Channel, the network started eight years ago by lawyer Willie Gary, celebrities Marlon Jackson, Evander Holyfield and others, is shutting down operations on April 30, R. Thomas Umstead reported Tuesday in Multichannel News, citing unnamed sources.

 

 

"Despite its star power and its unique positioning — along with BET and TV One — as a national network targeting African-American audiences, the network was unable to secure significant cable and satellite distribution to remain in business, according to sources," Umstead reported.

Actor and producer Robert Townsend oversaw the programming as Black Family Channel's president for production.

The network claimed 16 million subscribers. "Gospel Music Channel is negotiating with BFC to take over its carriage deals," or agreements to carry the network, "with cable operators, according to sources close to both networks," Umstead's story said.

Black Family Channel positioned itself as a family-friendly alternative to Black Entertainment Television. In 2003, when it was still the Major Broadcasting Cable Network, best known for airing the football and basketball games of black colleges, it announced a black-oriented all-news and public-affairs companion network, "MBC News: The Urban Voice." It was based in Tallahassee, Fla., and hired former CNN anchor Gordon Graham.

"MBC News will be a 'voice for the voiceless,' said Gary, MBC's CEO and chairman, reported Electronic Media. "In addition to covering crime, it will cover minority honor-roll students, he said, adding that the new network will 'focus on the kind of news that will enhance the images of African Americans.'" Jesse Jackson was among those flanking Gary.

But a news operation proved to be too expensive for the network. Veteran broadcast journalist Greg Morrison left last fall, telling Journal-isms, "I'm just tired. It is time to move on and take my life back, and relax a bit and figure out what I want to be when I grow up." News "can be all-consuming," he said. He had a grandchild on the way and said he wanted to spend time being a granddad.

Morrison said he had produced a newscast for 20 months with "no staff reporters or editors, no producers," using freelancers and calling upon "our NABJ friends," referring to the National Association of Black Journalists. On his watch, the station produced documentaries on the 2004 elections, the 1955 Emmett Till murder case, the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and the phenomenon of the late entertainer Ray Charles.

Ray Metoyer remained as executive producer, news. In August, on the first anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, the network aired a year-long work by Metoyer and Morrison, "Katrina, After the Storm," looking at what had and had not happened over the year.

Like BET and TV One, Black Family Channel failed to broadcast the funeral of civil rights legend Rosa Parks in November 2005, but Morrison said that was only because he did not know a feed was available free of charge. When Coretta Scott King died three months later, Black Family Channel and TV One did go live. Townsend said, "We had to carry it. We think that is really responsible television."

Gary and spokesmen for Black Family Channel did not return telephone calls from Journal-isms on Monday or Tuesday.

Richard Prince's Journal-isms originates from Washington and is published Monday, Wednesday and Friday. It began in print before most of us knew what the Internet was, and it would like to be referred to as a "column." For newcomers: The words in blue (on most computers) are links leading to more information. The Web site BugMeNot.com provides passwords and user names to some registration-only news sites, but use may be illegal in some states. Any views expressed in the column are those of the person or organization quoted and not those of any other entity.

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