The black community has always faced opposition. Nothing was ever handed to the black race out of kindness. However, through political and social movements they established a voice to be heard. Twenty-five years ago Robert Johnson wanted to create a voice and through television his voice was BET.
Twenty-five years later, BET has grown from a few hours of programming on weekends to 24-hour programming, reaching more than 79 million homes in the US, Canada, and Caribbean. BET’s first telecast was entitled “A Visit to a Chief’s Son.” BET has now evolved into providing music, news, comedy, drama, public affairs, movies, sports and concert specials.
In 2000 BET was sold to media conglomerate Viacom for $3 billion. Since the selling BET’s programming has had a slight change of programming. Lead Story and BET Tonight with Ed Gordon were two of BET’s three news programs. Since cutting these two programs BET was left with one news program entitled BET Nightly News, which airs every night at 11:00 pm, which has received tough criticism from some members of the black community.
Some can make the argument that some of BET’s programming is similar to MTV. Among these shows with similarity are 106 & Park and TRL and College Hill with similarities to the Real World.
Junae Slayton, junior biology major disagrees with the way the network’s content portrays women. “I feel the videos degrade women and portray black females negatively.”
Although BET is not involved in the making of videos, some say they should be held partly responsible because they disseminate them to their audience.
The consensus among black college students seems to be that BET needs to broaden their content. A typical scheduling layout is as follows:
6:00 a.m.-9:00 a.m.: Morning Worship
9:00 am up until 3:00 pm: music video programs.
4:00 pm up until 8:00 pm: music video programs.
So in reality from 9:00 am – 9:00 pm there is 9.5 hours worth of music video programs. There has to be more to offer the viewing audience during this 12 hour time frame.
This fall, BET plans to televise a 25th Anniversary special, similar to that of the BET Award show. Debra Lee, BET President and Chief Operating Officer stated, “This will be a major celebration of our success with new original programming, vignettes, entertainment specials, contests and other surprises.”
Johnson’s dream that started 25 years ago will come to an end this year. Johnson signed a five-year employment agreement after selling BET. Johnson will reportedly step down to devote more time to his other business ventures. With new ownership, one can only hope that BET can reconcile the positive voice of the black community, in which it strived to accomplish 25 years ago.