Robert L. Johnson, the visionary behind the nation’s first black-oriented cable TV network, Black Entertainment Television (BET).
- This network was launched January 25, 1980
- In 1991, the network became the first black-controlled company on the New York Stock Exchange.
- In 2003, the network was no longer a black owned business when it was bought by media conglomerate Viacom for $3 billion.
- In 2005, Johnson retired from the network and the network was taken over by Debra Lee, former Vice President.
- March 31, 2011 According to the Nielsen Company, BET finished the quarter with an average of 546,000 total viewers and posted year-over-year gains, making it the highest performing quarter among viewers in network history.
- Viewed in 90 million homes worldwide and an estimated annual revenue of 17.3 Billion dollars
- Target Audience African-Americans ages 18-49
A lot of viewers feel that network is actually hurting the black community instead helping it. The negative images being displayed on the network are perpetuating negative stereotypes of both men and women of color. The network has been really criticized for displaying derogatory images of minorities, especially African-American women. The images of women in revealing clothing on the Network are negatively affecting the young women of color who watch the programming. Young women and girls now want to emulate the dress they see in the in the videos. Aside from these programs being a negative influence on the black community it is also providing viewers with false images of African-Americans.
The viewers are not the only one who has something to say about current state of the BET Network. Creator of the Aaron McGruder the creator of Boondocks said in the introduction on a DVD series, that he went after BET in one of his episodes on Boondocks “because network executives, in his view, failed to elevate the network’s standards” something that BET president of Entertainment Reginald Hudlin had pointedly promised to do when joining the network in 2005 after Johnson retired.
In a 2010 interview, BET co-founder Shelia Johnson said she was “ashamed” of what the network has become. Johnson said that she even told her children not to watch the network . She said “When we started BET, it was going to be the Ebony magazine on television. We had public affairs programming. We had news”. The critics today say that BET portrayed African Americans in the worst possible way and I really agree. The network currently does not have a good balance of programming of shows. They have more music videos that degrade women and African Americans as whole than that of positive programming. Most of the programming is centered around music. In these music videos
Follow Up Questions/ Concerns: I am interested to see what strides the BET network is making towards changing network? I am also interested in exploring positive programming, if any that BET might still currently have on their network. I want to also look deeper at the images that are available of African Americans on BET and how Africans Americans are represented.