Soul of the South network on air in BR, eyes cable

Soul of the South Television has hit the airwaves.

Geared toward the African-American community, the station so far is only available with an antenna on Baker station WLFT’s 30.4 slot, although WLFT is in talks with Cox Communications and AT&T U-verse to carry its signal.

The station offers a mix of programming from the network, based in Little Rock, Ark., and local programming.

WLFT general manager Lucas Fry is excited about the possibilities for such a network in the area.

“This network actually is competing with the other major networks,” Fry says. “They have a two-hour news block in the morning, and then they have a ‘Capitol Eye’ report every day from Washington, D.C., with their own bureau, and they have a two-hour newscast in the evening, the network news. With that, we’re producing local shows.”

Local programming will begin airing the week of Sept. 2, with a brief local newscast during the morning and evening news blocks.

“We’re working with Southern University to put together a little newscast,” Fry says. “I’m also working on some shows for (the network).

“‘Salon Wars’ is a reality show set in a black salon, and that will be a show that they’ll pick up and put on the network,” Fry says. “There’s also ‘Street Rapper,’ where three rappers, who only compete on the streets, not in clubs, etc., will compete to win $10,000 and a recording contract.”

These shows are planned to air next fall.

Also among the local shows is “Keepin it 100,” produced by the 100 Black Men of Baton Rouge organization.

“And we’re reaching out to a lot of the African-American community to have them produce their own public interest programs that we will intertwine with the network programs,” Fry says.

Appealing to African-American as well as Southern cultures, the network shows offer some “blasts from the past,” including the 1968 ground breaking sitcom “Julia,” one of the first weekly series to depict an African-American main character in a non-traditional role (Diahann Carroll as a nurse). Also on the schedule are “The Bill Cosby Show,” “Room 222,” “In the Heat of the Night” and documentary series “Southern Soul Stories,” among others in the court, religious, sports and music genres.

“Baton Rouge has a large African-American community and at Bethany, our membership is 70 percent African-American at least,” Fry says.

He pointed out that there are 37 Hispanic networks on the air nationally as compared to only two African-American networks besides Soul of the South — Bounce (airing locally over the air on Channel 9.2 and cable Channel 121) and BET (cable Channel 58).

“I think it’s good for Baton Rouge, and it’s definitely good for Bethany (World Prayer Center, which owns WLFT). It’s a natural,” Fry says.

Patricia Parks Thompson, public affairs manager for Cox Communications, agrees that much of the programming on Soul of the South is “local, relevant and reflective of our Baton Rouge customer base. We’ve just learned about this opportunity and are in discussions with the network.”

Meanwhile, AT&T U-verse is conducting an engineering study and plans to add the network in mid October, says Fry.