With African Americans making more headlines than ever, an ex-congressman pushes for a new network to balance mainstream coverage
|Former U.S. Rep. J.C. Watts, an Oklahoma Republican, addresses the Christian Coalition’s “Road to Victory ’98” conference in Washington, D.C., on Friday, Sept. 18, 1998. Now retired from Congress, Watts has been working on forming a black news channel for several years. The proposed channel already has agreements with Dishnet and Comcast, and Watts hopes to get it up and running by late next year. (AP photo/Roberto Borea)|
OKLAHOMA CITY — J.C. Watts, the last black Republican to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives, says the uproar over statements by Barack Obama’s one-time pastor illustrates the need for the national black television news channel the former congressman plans to create.
Watts, who hopes to get his Black Television News Channel running by late next year, said in an interview last week with The Associated Press that the voice of blacks is often missing from national political debates, including the one over the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.
“We hope to be the single destination for reliable, credible, informational resources for the African American community,” Watts said. “The critical thing is to allow the community to create a platform to be involved in the economic, social and political debates taking place across the country.”
Too often, Watts said, the only image viewers get of blacks in today’s society is through television stories about drug busts and other crimes.
The proposed channel has agreements with Dishnet and Comcast, the country’s leading provider of cable, entertainment and communications products and services.
Watts objects to some of the criticism that Obama has received for his long association with Wright, who accused the government of creating AIDS and shouted “God damn America” in a speech posted on YouTube.
“I’ve not seen anything in [Obama’s] writings, in his speeches, in his books, [or] in his public appearances that would encourage me to believe that he views the world through the Rev. Wright’s prism,” Watts said. “I’m a Republican. Barack Obama is a Democrat. I am not taking a position in the presidential race, but I can tell you this: If people vote against Barack Obama because of what the Rev. Wright said, it would be unfortunate.
“I don’t agree with what the Rev. Wright said, but I’ve said to some of my Republican friends: ‘Guys, it’s a whole big world out there and I guarantee you, before all is said and done, there will be associations that a Republican has. You are going to be on a slippery slope.’”
Watts, a former star football quarterback at the University of Oklahoma, said his proposed nonpartisan news channel would show the diversity of opinion among blacks on the Wright matter and other issues.(p2)
"As we look toward the future, we must ensure that all voices in our diverse nation have the opportunity to be heard," wrote Sens. John F. Kerry and Barack Obama in this Banner op-ed. "One important way to do this is to expand the ownership stake of women-owned, minority-owned and small businesses in our media outlets." More »
With broadcast outlets dwindling, local musicians and fans look to revive Boston’s gospel scene. More »
In its new Egleston Square home, BNN plans to increase programming and training for youth and nonprofit organizations throughout the city. More »