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Change the Channel

TV network targets Southern black cities but lacks presence in Memphis.

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Excitement filled local author Marcus Matthews when he learned Soul of the South Network (SSN) wanted to broadcast his documentary, I Am Not The Father, to viewers across the country. But that excitement was somewhat derailed after he realized people in his native city would be unable to watch it.

"It's bittersweet," Matthews said. "I'm excited that my work is going to be shown around the country, but my mama wants to see it, and she won't be able to tune in and watch it on TV."

In 2010, Matthews wrote and published the book I Am Not the Father: Narratives of Men Falsely Accused of Paternity, which shares his story along with four other men's accounts. The documentary is an adaptation of the book and also discloses the legal ramifications of not pursuing a DNA test.

SSN is a network that targets cities with large African-American populations and features a variety of community-oriented programming highlighting news, entertainment, and black culture, specifically in the South. The network, which is based in Little Rock, presently airs in the Louisiana cities of Alexandria, Lafayette, and Baton Rouge; and Jackson, Mississippi; Raleigh, North Carolina; Dallas, Texas; and Tallahassee, Florida, as well as several other areas throughout the country.

But the network doesn't air in Memphis, which has a population that's more than 60 percent black and is only 140 miles away from Little Rock.

Matthew Mixon, director of affiliate relations and distribution for SSN, said the network has made several attempts to secure an affiliate channel in Memphis, but the efforts have been unsuccessful.

"This process has been going on for some time," Mixon said. "I traveled to Memphis early last year, and then some other people from my company have been talking to different stations in Memphis over time. We're confident that we have a pretty good story to tell. We're the only black network that is addressing entertainment, news, information, and black culture all in one spot."

For SSN to be aired in Memphis, a local TV station has to have available space for the network to be featured and has to also agree to become an affiliate of SSN. The network is provided on basic cable.

"I think Memphis is missing out on a great opportunity to support its local talent by not having an affiliation with SSN," Matthews said. "SSN is directly attempting to cater to African-American audiences. Memphis is one of the largest predominantly African-American cities in the country, and it doesn't make sense to not support the network. Hopefully, that changes and we have an affiliate station that has a vision to work with SSN and cater to viewers here in Memphis."

Matthews is holding a private Memphis screening for the documentary Saturday, April 26th, at A-Game Restaurant and Sports Bar (6642 Winchester) at 5 p.m. The film is also scheduled to air on SSN that day at 7 p.m.

"Paternity fraud is an area that families really need to discuss," Matthews said. "Parents need to talk to their kids about their paternity, women need to be honest with their children about who their father is, and potential fathers need to get DNA tests to know if they're the biological father or not. This documentary really brings home the severity of how far things can go."

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