Black News Channel suddenly goes bankrupt, leaving many employees feeling ‘betrayed’ and wanting answers

(Video Credit: 11Alive)

The Black News Channel unexpectedly shut down in March, a little more than two years after it was founded, shuttering its doors and failing to pay many employees who expressed feeling “annoyed and betrayed” and claiming they had no idea the company was spiraling into bankruptcy.

The Black News Channel was the first 24-hour news network for black audiences. It featured political commentary and investigative reporting of interest to the black community. Now, it is simply gone and it did not take long for it to disappear.

The network reportedly had a reach of 50 million households in America and offered a streaming platform called BNC Go. But that did not keep it from going under. The network never seemed to find its legs despite a ton of funding, its massive reach, and lots of talent.

BNC stopped airing new content on March 25 and then proceeded to file for bankruptcy in federal court on April 19. At that point, the company was allowed to borrow money from majority investor Shad Khan.

“Black CNN was the model,” one on-air employee remarked to Mediaite. “Every show was constantly compared to CNN.”

Former Republican Congressman J.C. Watts and TV executive Bob Brillante founded the network. Shad Khan, who is a Pakistani entrepreneur who also owns the professional All-Elite Wrestling league and the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars, reportedly bought in as a majority stakeholder with $50 million.

The network started having troubles immediately after launching in February 2020. Brillante departed the network after only three months. A number of the on-air talent jumped ship as well. A former CNN executive named Princell Hair was named CEO in June 2020.

After its first year, BNC launched a new 18-hour lineup featuring commentary shows hosted by Marc Lamont Hill, Charles Blow, Mike Hill, and Sharon Reed.

Anchors and staff were said to have been paid large six-figure salaries.

“Even amongst the most seasoned correspondents and reporters, we knew this place was overextending itself to match up to other, much better-funded networks,” an on-air contributor told Mediaite.

There were allegations of harassment and a hostile work environment at the network, including inappropriate remarks that morphed into lawsuits.

The woke network was accused of gender discrimination in August 2021. That led to another lawsuit.

Signs of the company coming undone were seen in the fall of 2021 as the operational staff at BNC began to slowly dwindle, according to Mediate. There were resignations and those positions were never filled once they were vacant. In October and November, a number of full-time positions were cut. In December, an undisclosed number of employees were laid off the week before Christmas. The Wrap reported that the number could have been as high as 80.

At the end of 2021, staff levels fell to somewhere around 230. The company was courting additional investors and executives had no idea how bad a position the company was in, according to Mediaite.

“Once the Nielsen ratings came out, the writing was on the wall,” one contributor stated.

On the morning of March 24, things officially came undone for the network.

Staffers did not receive their paychecks by direct deposit as scheduled. People could not contact human resources.

“The March 25th payroll deposit will be delayed,” Vice President of Human Resources Nicole Collins wrote in a company-wide email making the disastrous announcement, “We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.”

Despite assurances that payroll would be met, albeit late, many of the staff and at least one host decided that was it for them.

Senior VP of Content Vickie Burns didn’t even address the issue in a morning production meeting. “Vickie went ahead as business-as-usual,” one source commented, and “didn’t even address the payroll issues without being asked” by a co-worker.

A tele-meeting between the network’s leadership, correspondents, and reporters blew up following that incident.

The Los Angeles Times then ran a headline breaking the news, “Shad Khan’s Black News Channel is shutting down.” A memo was sent out and the network ended live programming less than an hour later.

“A lot of people have assumed that we knew this was going to happen, and that we didn’t do anything,” one executive told Mediaite. “And I need it to be clear: we had no idea. We were floored when this happened. None of us knew.”

“I haven’t been paid either,” the executive claimed, asserting that nearly “all of us were told we were being let go.”

“I just feel annoyed and betrayed,” the person bitterly stated. “We all do.”

An email, that was signed by Chief Legal Officer Alison Gordon and VP of Finance Maureen Brown, informed former employees that BNC was filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, which would keep the network from spending money on just about anything, “including the remaining earned but unpaid wages to all of you.”

While it was the “intention” of BNC to pay most of its staff, “several credible parties expressed their interest in purchasing BNC so in the name of exploring these inquiries, our restructuring strategy shifted,” the email reportedly stated.

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