NEW YORK — Roland Martin will anchor a new Sunday public affairs show aimed at a black audience that will debut in September on the TV One network.
The "Washington Watch" program aims to tap into a new interest in politics and government due to the election of President Barack Obama, said Johnathan Rodgers, TV One's president and CEO. It debuts Sept. 27 at 11 a.m. EDT, and the show will be repeated each week at 5 p.m.
Martin, who is also a CNN commentator, will interview newsmakers and members of the Congressional Black Caucus. April Ryan, White House correspondent for the American Urban Radio Networks, and Robert Traynham, Philadelphia Tribune columnist and Comcast host, will be regular panel members. TV One is in about 48 million homes, a little less than half of the nation's TV homes.
Rodgers said it dawned on him when TV One covered last year's Democratic convention and he saw many Black Caucus members trudge up to the network's temporary rooftop studio for interviews: These politicians have few outlets to talk about their issues and people have few places to hear them.
"I hope to get smart, intelligent, entertaining conversation," Rodgers said, "but I put this under the public affairs arena. It doesn't have to be a ratings success."
Despite the election of the nation's first black president, many of TV One's older viewers _ the network tends to get an older audience than competitor BET _ wonder whether his administration will actively push a civil rights agenda and other issues that interest them, he said.
"Barack Obama is truly the American president," Rodgers said. "He is not the white American president or the black American president. He is our president. A number of our viewers might have had a different expectation."
Martin said he hoped the show would reflect the state of black America every week.
While the show is Washington-based, he said the concerns of people across the country would be reflected. He said he hopes to have viewers participate in the shows by suggesting questions and topics.
"We want to be bottom up," he said. "The problems I see right now from so many of these shows is that they are top down _ these are the things that we think are important."
Rodgers said he initially wanted the show to first air in the late afternoon or evening, to distinguish it from the crowded field of Sunday morning public affairs shows. But he was advised that premiering "Washington Watch" at that hour during football season would be suicidal.