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The Black Information Network hit the air in 15 local markets and as a national digital station Tuesday at noon, offering a fast-paced, highly produced all-news product from a Black perspective. More than just hard news peppered with actualities, the new iHeartMedia network covers a range of beats, offering short form features on entertainment, politics, culture, health and other topics, from an array of reporters and correspondents.

“BIN: Black Information Network is one of the most important initiatives this company has ever undertaken, at a critical moment in history when it is needed more than ever,” Chairman/CEO Bob Pittman and COO/CFO Rich Bressler wrote in an email to employees.

A series of slogans reinforce its position as a trusted source of fulltime news with a Black voice and perspective. Among those heard Tuesday: “When you need to know, this is where Black news comes first.” “Black news impacting your town, this is your news, your voice.” “Black news all day, every day.” “The only news that hears you.” “Because truth matters.”

Tony Coles, President of BIN, said its reporters and writers will bring their unique perspectives to the network. “While most stations write for a broad audience, we are able to tell the stories of the Black community,”he told Inside Radio.

Headline Style News

On launch day, BIN offered quick-hitting headline style news reports anchored by Vanessa Tyler and Mike Stevens. Among top stories were the pretrial hearing for the four former police officers accused in the death of George Floyd; the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on abortion; Netflix investing $100 million in Black-owned banks; and police reform efforts.

Beyond hard news, BIN’s first day coverage included numerous short-form features covering financial news (“Your Money Minute”), politics (“The Road To The White House,” voiced by Washington-based correspondent Morgan Wood) and health (“Your Health Matters,” hosted by Director of News Operations Tanita Myers), along with sports and entertainment reports.  Correspondent Bill Andrew Quinn did a brief segment on an essential Black film and DJ Scream interviewed Paul Howard, the Fulton County District Attorney who charged two white Atlanta police officers in the fatal shooting of Rayshard Brooks.

“Like any all-news station, we will focus on the biggest national and local news stories of the day. Additionally, you’ll hear traffic, weather, sports, entertainment, and financial news every hour,” said Coles. “All of our stories are written with Black listeners in mind and are prioritized by the overall impact and importance to the Black community.”

Finding synergy with other iHeart businesses, a “Podcast You Should Know” segment directed listeners to the iHeart Podcast Network to hear more.

Sponsorship Business Model

Commercials were few and far between and that’s by design. “Instead of being supported by traditional advertising, BIN will be enabled by a group of major and well-known brands as Founding Partners who will provide long-term support to allow BIN to focus solely on its mission of building this important new platform for Black journalism and trusted news that will also foster communication, accountability and deeper understanding throughout our communities across America,” Pittman and Rich Bressler said in their email. Among them are Bank of America, CVS Health, GEICO, Lowe’s, McDonald’s USA, Sony, 23andMe and Verizon.

While opening day included a general market Verizon ad, spots for McDonald’s were aligned with the network’s core mission. “We’re not just in the community we’re of the community” said one.

On flagship station “BIN 640” WGST Atlanta, one of 15 local affiliates that signed on yesterday, the national feed was augmented with local traffic and weather forecasts. 

BIN also provides breaking news, continuing coverage of major stories and daily content for the company’s 91 Hip-Hop, R&B and Gospel stations across the country. A new daily 10-20 minute BIN podcast will launch shortly, consisting of news and culture analysis for the Black community.

In an email to staffers Tuesday, Coles said the network is “groundbreaking” in several ways. “In addition to providing an objective, accurate and trusted source of national and local news coverage with a Black voice and perspective, it’s a new approach to a format, offers new opportunities for talent and establishes an innovative sales model for our partners. Never before has a major audio company devoted the time, resources and assets to create a standalone business dedicated to a full-time news service by and for the Black community,” added Coles, who also serves as Division President of the iHeartMedia Markets Group and remains based in Chicago.

Launch Paused By Pandemic

The network has been in the works since late 2019. But the events of the last few weeks made the market opportunity more pressing. “We were actually planning to launch earlier this year, but the pandemic caused us to hit the pause button. The tragic and senseless killing of George Floyd caused us to realize that we could not wait any longer,”Coles said.

In addition to Coles and Myers, other key players in the launch are Executive VP of Programming Thea Mitchem, Executive VP of Hip Hop and R&B Strategy Doc Wynter and Chris Berry, who heads the company’s 24/7 News Network.

Functioning as a standalone business unit within iHeartMedia, BIN relies on journalists already working for the company’s stations with plans to recruit additional employees for the venture. “We are building out our team and will be searching for both new talent and experienced reporters,” says Coles, adding that the number of employees will be based on the number of affiliates the network ultimately serves.