As the pioneer of the first all black television station, Robert Johnson, founder of Black Entertainment Television announced his resignation as CEO to develop his NBA team, the Charlotte Bobcats.
The resignation served as no surprise to BET given that Johnson sold his company five years ago to white-owned company Viacom . As a part of his five-year contract he would remain chairman and CEO and become the first black billionaire.
When Johnson sold BET to Viacom, Johnson received extreme criticism from many in the black community. Many saw his actions as an example of another black business “selling-out” to a white company. Johnson has tried to make it clear that BET has always has had white shareholders who have also helped with the black establishment.
Many of those same critics insist there is a change in the direction of BET since its way under Viacom. Cutting programs such as “Teen Summit,” “BET Tonight” and “Lead Story” and replacing them with more music videos, it is evident that there has been some drastic changes in the network.
But Bob Johnson insisted in a 2004 article in the Wharton School of Publishing that Viacom has the networks best wishes. "The content is the same. The editorial direction is the same. That’s the way Viacom wanted it. When Viacom acquired BET, it paid more for an African-American business than had been paid by anyone in the world. Viacom had no desire to shake up that model."
D’Andre Allen, sophomore public relations major at Howard university and BET.com intern says she sees a change in the network. “I do believe that the channel is going through a change. I hope and believe that it will get back to the positive programming it once had in its early years. Regardless, Johnson still needs to be credited for being the first”.
Bob Johnson believes he has helped the black community and BET will change. "Once [executives] do business with one black company they can say, ‘I’ve done my black thing. I’ve got one black director, that’s it. I’ve got one black senior executive, that’s it.’ You have to keep that door open and make sure there are opportunities for people who are coming up."
The current president and chief operating officer, Debra Lee will replace Johnson by the end of the year.