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FAMU president seeks FCC waiver

Deal will help ensure news for underserved areas

Miami Times staff report | 7/31/2014, 9 a.m.

Washington, D.C. – Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University President Elmira Mangum, Ph.D. traveled to the Capitol this week to help seek a waiver from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for the new Black Television News Channel, which will be housed in the School of Journalism & Graphic Communication (SJGC).

“Our partnership with the Black Television News Channel is an exciting opportunity to bring more diverse stories to our community,” said Mangum. “We’re seeking the help of Congress to support our start-up efforts by providing a waiver.”

The FCC regulates interstate and international communication by radio, television, wire, satellite and cable in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and U.S. territories. An independent U.S. government agency overseen by Congress, the commission is the United States’ primary authority for communications law, regulation and technological innovation. The FCC collects regulatory fees and processing fees. Congress authorizes its authority to impose and collect such fees.

Mangum met with Senators Mark Rubio (R-FL) and Bill Nelson (R-FL) to discuss the channel and the need for a waiver. Other members of the FAMU leadership, including Ann Wead Kimbrough, dean of the FAMU School of Journalism & Graphic Communication, also met with Rep. Steve Southerland (R-FL), FCC Commissioners and their staffs.

In May, BTNC asked the FCC for a temporary waiver of the commission’s requirement that programmers using its direct broadcast satellite (DBS) on the “noncommercial education” channel, be prohibited from selling advertising. BTNC plans to reduce by half its commercials and also include two minutes per hour to promote historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs). 

“The university’s collaboration with BTNC is integral to the sustained success of SJGC’s stellar record in providing relevant, state-of-the-art training to rising multimedia journalists and visual communicators,” said Kimbrough. “The BTNC initiative with FAMU will help to improve sorely needed information and educational programming to a targeted audience.”

The Center for Economic Forecasting and Analysis at Florida State University conducted an in-depth study on the economic impact that BTNC will have on FAMU’s campus and the Tallahassee community. The study determined that BTNC would generate $33.6 million annually in economic stimulus for the region.  BTNC will also create 109 new jobs in Tallahassee, paying 150 percent greater than the Capital cities’ average.

Over the last two decades 18 Black-owned and operated full-power television networks that have ceased to exist. BTNC aims to fill that void as the only cable television network in the U.S. fully-dedicated to broadcasting news that will be culturally specific to the Black community. The mission of BTNC is to produce programming that is informative, educational, entertaining, inspiring and empowering to the Black viewing audience.