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TV One Cancels Roland Martin’s Daily “NewsOne Now”

The four-year-old show goes the way of “BET Tonight” and other aborted efforts to bring blacks more than entertainment and sports.

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BET long ago gave up on a news show. Bounce TV, at best, brings the occasional news magazine hosted by the venerable Ed Gordon. Now TV One, a unit of Urban One Inc., has cancelled Roland Martin’s daily “NewsOne Now” show – the only national daily news program on television aimed at black audiences. After what managing editor and host Roland Martin calls “a remarkable four years,” the network cited the obvious in its official statement.  “’NewsOne Now’ did not gain traction with advertisers and viewers.”

“Despite the best efforts of the many talented people who work on this amazing show day to day, ‘NewsOne Now’ struggled to attract a wide audience,” said Michelle Rice, TV One’s interim general manager. “Like any other network, we had to make a difficult choice.” In an email message to all Urban One employees, she had added that executives concluded that “a daily news program is not sustainable in this current financial climate.”

Martin, who was named Journalist of the Year by the National Association of Black Journalists in 2013, delivered the news  on his show on Thursday, Dec. 7.

According to Martin, the show was “the brainchild” of Urban One’s CEO Alfred Liggins, the son of the media giant’s founder, Cathy Hughes.  “We know there is a void in mainstream media, and we plan to continue to be an outlet for black news,” Liggins said in an effort to assuage disappointed followers of the show.

Black-focused television channels – BET (1980), TV One (2004), Bounce (2011), OWN (2011), Aspire (2012) and Revolt (2012) – bring viewers a steady diet of entertainment. The sole sustained exception has been “NewsOne Now.”

The National Association of Black Journalists has urged TV One to reconsider its decision, noting the importance of “NewsOne Now” as “one of the most credible news sources, especially for black and disenfranchised communities” and as an incubator for black journalists and commentators. Martin also used the show to raise awareness about historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and to urge alumni to support those institutions. The NABJ statement continued: “’NewsOne Now’ brought us scholars, activists, health and financial literacy gurus and other thought agents that helped viewers grow mentally, physically, socially and financially.”

Added Dorothy Tucker, NABJ’s vice president for broadcast,  “When anything is happening that impacts African Americans, you can turn to TV One for perspectives you won’t see on other programs. The demise of Roland’s show leaves a huge void that we simply can’t afford now.”

What Lies Ahead

As for what’s now in store at TV One, in her email message, Rice offered this: “Our plan is to take a moment to regroup and restructure ‘NewsOne Now’ in 2018 under a new format that will serve the needs of our diverse audience and business.” That sounds like a move towards something that attracts the millennials Urban One is already trying to attract through its digital lifestyle platform, Cassius. Martin, for his part, intends to “holler” from other platforms, while maintaining his ties with Urban One. “My voice will not be silenced,” he said. “That voice will always be there speaking to our issues. Whether I’m being booked on somebody else’s show, whether making comments on line, the most important thing is for us to understand that we move forward in terms of speaking to our issues and our concerns.”

In the meantime, an interracial consortium of entrepreneurs is proceeding with a decade-long plan to launch a 24/7 black news channel that would be affiliated with Florida A &M University in Tallahassee. J.C. Watts, a lobbyist who formerly represented Oklahoma in Congress as a Republican, is the most well-known member of the group behind the Black Television News Channel. According to John Marks, another principal in BTNC, they hope to finally get the channel up and running by the summer of 2018 – during the midterm election cycle. “The November elections are going to be extremely newsworthy,” Marks told MGJR. “We want to be a part of that.”

J. C. Watts (center, in blue tie) and others involved in starting up the Black Television News Channel (Courtesy of FAMU)

He said the BTNC team is not discouraged by the difficulties TV One has had in sustaining a news program in a lineup otherwise built around sitcoms, movies and the documentary series, “Unsung.”

“That’s a different model from ours,” Marks said. “We’re a 24  hours, 7 days-a-week worldwide news, information and education model. We’re more CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, Telemundo, Al Jazeera type news with an African American perspective.” Job seekers may send resumes and reels to him at [email protected].

 

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TV One Cancels Roland Martin’s Daily “NewsOne Now”