Black News Channel Begins ‘Brutal’ Layoffs Days Before Christmas

Black News Channel (BNC) announced layoffs on Friday, Dec. 18, 2021. (Credit: BNC)

Like a Scrooge determined to ruin Christmas, Black News Channel (BNC) announced layoffs a week before the holiday.

The startup network, which targets Black audiences, has struggled to draw viewers or generate buzz since it launched in February 2020.

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In an internal memo obtained by Urban Hollywood 411, BNC CEO Princell Hair notified employees on Friday that cuts were imminent.

“I am reaching out to you today with some very unfortunate news about a reduction in our workforce,” Hair wrote in the memo. “As you know, throughout the course of this year, we have been expanding at a rapid rate. At the same time, the U.S. economy is facing some tough challenges, several of which are heavily impacting the media industry and the revenue streams that fuel our emerging enterprise.”

He continued by calling the decision to lay off staffers “painful.”

“Your work has been outstanding, but we have reached a point where a considerable adjustment is needed in order to protect the health of our business and keep BNC moving forward,” he added. “This is a very difficult day, and a reminder that stages of our journey will be arduous and painful.”

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Insiders told Urban Hollywood 411 the BNC cuts were “brutal” and included all levels of staff from producers to the vice president of network production. We’re told “dozens” of employees around the nation received phone calls Friday saying their services were no longer needed.  The layoffs are effective immediately, with medical insurance ending Dec. 31. One insider warned the cuts may not be over.

A Nielsen ratings analysis compiled by TheWrap found of 124 cable news channels in 2021, BNC came in 123rd with an average of 4,000 viewers on any given show. Fox News was #1 with an average 2.361 million primetime viewers each evening.

Based in Tallahassee, Florida, BNC was founded by former GOP congressman J.C. Watts and broadcast executive Bob Brillante. Shad Khan, the billionaire owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars, is the principal investor.

An insider said Khan visited the network’s Tallahassee offices on Tuesday and met with Hair. Days later, the layoffs began.

A Nov. 18 article in the Los Angeles Times said Khan had invested $50 million in the network. The article noted that BNC started with 55 employees, and Hair built the staff up to 350 people (via Khan’s investment).

One insider told Urban Hollywood 411, it’s unfortunate BNC is not Black owned. “When it’s not Black owned, it’s just a business.”

BNC’s on-camera talent includes Sharon Reed, Mike Hill, Marc Lamont Hill, Charles Blow, Yodit Tewolde, and longtime Washington, D.C. news anchor Del Walters.

[L-R Charles Blow, Yodit Tewolde, Princell Hair, Marc Lamont Hill are shown in the image above]