Black News Channel files for bankruptcy with up to $50 million in debt

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Black News Channel – which shut down operations on Friday, just two years after making a splash – filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in Florida.

In its Monday filing, the Tallahassee-based network listed liabilities of $10 million to $50 million and estimates that between 200 and 999 creditors owe money.

“They filed for bankruptcy faster than they paid their employees the money they were owed,” a former employee told TheWrap on Tuesday. “I received partial payment this morning for two weeks of work. They owe me another week.

This former staff member was one of about 230 who were fired last Friday when the channel ceased operations; the network plans to air repeats for the rest of this month.

The channel, known to viewers as BNC, was founded by former GOP Congressman JC Watts and veteran broadcasting executive Bob Brillante with a mission to provide information to underserved communities. Just months after launching in February 2020, Brillante was ousted and Princell Hair joined BNC as CEO in the fall of 2020. Hair added several hours of daily live programming, eventually launched a streaming channel short-lived and hired hundreds of employees.

The hiring spree came when Shad Khan, billionaire owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars, pumped $50 million into the network and became the top investor. Despite the cash injection, insiders told TheWrap little money was used for marketing. Instead, the BNC leadership team turned to the media to spread the word, including the Tallahassee Democrat, who in September 2021 posted a profile of Hair with the caption: “Black News Channel thrives under new President and CEO Princell Hair.”

Twelve weeks later – in December 2021 – the network began laying off dozens of employees.

BNC has also been the subject of a class action lawsuit brought by 13 former and current employees alleging discrimination and a “sexist” workplace (executives have denied the charges).

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An analysis of Nielsen ratings compiled by TheWrap found that out 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 No. 1 with an average of 2.361 million prime-time viewers each night.

Last Thursday, the network’s human resources department sent an email stating that employees would not be paid as scheduled the next day. “The March 25 payroll deposit will be delayed. We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this may cause,” the memo from Vice President of Human Resources Nicole Collins said. “We are actively working to resolve this issue quickly and will notify you as soon as possible with an update.”

On March 25, BNC staff members learned that the channel had reached the end of its journey. While employees were told by phone that the chain was going out of business, Hair sent a note to staff members saying he was “saddened and disappointed”.

“Over the past few months, we have endured some very painful headcount reductions across all levels of the network as we work towards our financial goal of breaking even. This has forced you all to do more with less. , and your contributions have been outstanding,” Hair said in the memo obtained by TheWrap. “Unfortunately, due to challenging market conditions and global financial pressures, we were unable to meet our financial and the time allotted to us has expired.”

Pamela Chelin contributed to this report.

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