And Now, In Living Colours...

HEC is a bust, but the Black Entrepreneur Channel is poised for launch.

Tracy Jenkins sounds like she's fielding three calls at once. It happens when you're one of two people responsible for a new cable channel that was supposed to air last week but at the last minute has been delayed.

Though the Hispanic Entrepreneur Channel has fizzled out, the Black Entrepreneur Channel stayed its course. While equipment problems have forced the new station, which was to premiere last Friday on Channel 55, to postpone its debut by at least sixty days, general manager Jenkins says the new station is definitely a go.

It has been a long road. As with the HEC, Mile Hi Cablevision courted a company for years to bring the channel off. The black group was called Matrix, and it was able to make a deal way back in January 1982; litigation over timetables and progress ensued, and the agreement was scratched in July 1987.

Other players came to the table in the following years, including former TV newsman Jon Bowman and local talk-show host Crystal Cartier, but this new channel is largely the work of former city councilman Hiawatha Davis. Last year Davis put together a coalition of Denver's leading black nonprofit organizations -- including the Urban League, the NAACP, the Colorado Black Chamber of Commerce and the Black United Fund of Colorado -- to form a corporation called Black Star Communications, which will run the new channel, titled Colours.

With the help of advertising firm Karsh & Hagen, Black Star has put together a snappy five-minute promotional video highlighting new shows and the station's mission, to provide multicultural programming in Denver. (The tape even features Denver Mayor Wellington Webb, who says of the channel, "Not only is this a good community project, it's a smart business project.")

At first Colours will air six hours of programming every day out of the Five Points Media Center, including four original programs: "Primary Colours" is a kind of local "Meet the Press," focusing on issues in minority communities and featuring journalists of color as panelists; "The Scene" is a music and entertainment program; "It Takes a Village" will spotlight organizations and people in the community doing good deeds; and there will be a health show called "Being Well." The remaining hours will be filled with documentaries and films. Jenkins says these works are not yet lined up but expects the films to be more in the vein of independent features than typical Hollywood grub.

As for funding, Colours intends to follow the example of PBS and seek out corporate sponsors for specific shows. The station will also be filling much of its time with infomercials.

Though Colours's board of directors is made up of black nonprofits, Jenkins stresses that the programming will be multicultural. "We want to make it look integrated." When asked whether that philosophy is in place to make the channel more attractive to potential sponsors, Jenkins says it's a matter of being inclusive. "We want to make it a destination station. We want it to be an asset."

 
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