African-American targeted networks BET and TV One for the first time will join mainstream cable-news networks in offering full coverage of next month's presidential inauguration.
While final programming lineups were still being finalized at press time, executives from both networks say they're planning unprecedented, around-the-clock coverage of the day-long festivities surrounding the Jan. 20 swearing in of Barack Obama as the nation's 44th and first African-American president.
Washington D.C.-based BET will air a live, four-hour block of ceremonies coverage beginning at noon, according to senior vice president of news and public affairs Keith Brown. In addition, the network will offer primetime, post-inauguration coverage, as well as an inauguration special as part of its popular music-video show 106 & Park.
BET will cover the ceremony from four different locations in D.C. — the Capitol building, a rooftop location on Pennsylvania Avenue overlooking the parade route, a position on the ground close to the festivities and a fourth strategic location within a local D.C. neighborhood.
“We're going to offer unprecedented coverage because of what it means to our country and to our community,” Brown said.
Bethesda, Md.-based TV One will also provide extensive coverage of the inauguration, according to TV One CEO Johnathan Rodgers. The network will bring back its Democratic National Convention anchor team, featuring television-news veteran Arthur Fennell and radio talk-show personality Joe Madison, to host its inaugural coverage, which will air from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Civil-rights activist the Rev. Al Sharpton and radio personality Tom Joyner will also serve as special guests, according to Rodgers.
“We plan to have our anchor locations at the Comcast production facilities which overlook the Mall, so it's a great location for us,” Rodgers said. “We'll also have different locations for covering the parade.”
During the evening, TV One will cover the ball and recap the day's coverage beginning at an as yet undetermined time.
Rodgers said that TV One's news coverage of Obama won't end after the inauguration festivities. The network is also considering an increase in its news operations to cover ongoing developments in the Obama administration, he said.
“Clearly, we will keep an eye on the White House and do features, interviews and documentaries — but we have not made a decision as to whether we'll do any regularly-scheduled news coverage,” he said.
Brown also said BET will continue to cover the Obama administration, but doesn't plan to launch another dedicated, daily news show similar to its BET Nightly News, which it cancelled several years ago due to poor ratings.
“We're in a really critical time right now and our neighborhoods and communities will be feeling the effect [of the struggling economy] really hard, so we'll be watching what happens in Washington and also how things unfold in our neighborhoods,” Brown said. “But we will not resurrect a traditional nightly newscast — we're looking how to provide news on a daily, weekly and monthly basis with the new realities of how our viewers consume news and information.”