Debra Lee on BET Not Being The Black PBS and Its Competition
by R. Asmerom
When asked by Marketplace’s Kai Ryssdal about BET’s competition, Debra Lee (Chairman and CEO of BET Networks) didn’t say TV One or Magic Johnson’s soon-to-be launched network Aspire. Rather, she said the network, which is available in over 90 million homes, is competing with every media entity for eyeballs. This is the case,she says, despite the fact that advertisers try to lump Black media under one umbrella.
“We’re not a monolithic audience. Sometimes advertisers treat us that way, or other networks treat us that way,” she told Marketplace. “So we try to have a well-rounded programming slate to be attractive to male, female, different income levels, different educational levels.”
Lee has been credited with directing BET to embrace more original programming. In the past two years, the network has unveiled to original programs including “The Game,” which it picked up after CW cancelled it, and “Reed Between The Lines.” Although she explains that BET is not striving to be the “PBS” for Black Americans, she does communicate that it does consider the challenges facing Black America and integrates realistic images in their programming.
Since taking the helm at BET seven years ago, the network has undergone a transformation of sorts and being hailed as a more well-rounded network than it was previously when it embraced round-the-clock music=related programming.
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