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Sheila Johnson Blasts BET Programming, Says It’s Damaging African-American Community
For the second time in recent memory, former BET Co-Owner and Co-Founder Sheila Johnson has slammed the cable network, saying she’s ashamed of what the network has become. Sheila Johnson and her former husband, Bob Johnson, started the cable network decades ago to be the “Ebony magazine of television” before selling it to Viacom in 2000 for $1.3 billion.
Now Sheila Johnson is blasting the company saying that it’s not fulfilling the mission she had for it to “promote dialogue in Black America” and focusing instead on music videos that present negative images of black people. In the past she’s cited shows like Teen Summit that she says the network produced during her tenure that provided positive portrayals and healthy dialogue around issues affecting African-Americans.
While Sheila’s critiques certainly are in line with the stereotypes that have plagued the network for more than a decade now, it is hard not to question the mogul’s motives in slamming their programming now that she’s no longer affiliated with the company. The kinds of hip hop videos she says are a bad influence on young black kids did not suddenly appear once she sold the network. They were in heavy rotation way back when she still owned BET.
Recently, the cable network has gone to great lengths to rehab their image and reputation. They’ve added a whole cadre of original programs to their roster and have gone to great strides to bolster their news programming. The network provided special news programming during Obama’s run for the presidency and just recently announced that news veteran Ed Gordon will be rejoining the network to do news specials and host a news show currently in development.
BET received kudos from fans of the popular black sitcom, The Game, when the network announced that they would be reviving the half hour sitcom that had been previously cancelled by the CW.
We reached out to a BET spokeswoman, who declined to comment on Sheila’s statements.
We want to know your thoughts? How do YOU think BET is doing?
Here’s what Sheila Johnson said to The Root:
You were quoted recently saying you were ashamed of BET and don’t watch it. Talk about that.
SJ: BET was our first mission. We wanted to put the voice of black America on the screen. We were going to be the Ebony magazine of television. This network was going to promote dialogue in black America. I wanted news programming in there. I wanted to talk about the issues. I didn’t want the fluff pieces or just this superficial stuff. That’s where I was going with BET. It hasn’t gone as well as I wanted, to say the least. Back then, people didn’t really know me. I did that on purpose. I was trying to help the ex-husband. When that fell apart, I said I’m going to craft my own way. I’m going to start doing what I believe in.
And the videos?
SJ: BET is the biggest perpetrator. It doesn’t cost anything to put videos on. You don’t even have to think about it. It’s the easy way out. But you can see the damage that’s being done to the African-American community. We’ve got kids watching videos, day in and day out. They have no idea who they really are. They are thinking that they should go out and live like these people on the videos. I get ribbed on this, but I tell you, that is not the way the videos started out. I have been a very loud voice on this from day one.
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