Wasted Opportunity: BET Co-Founder Sheila Johnson Disappointed With Network

October 17, 2012  |  

Over the years many people have complained about Black Entertainment Television (BET). Among the complaints: too much focus on entertainment, not enough news, too much low-brow entertainment, to many explicit music videos. Complaints really peaked when BET failed to cover live the 1992 L.A. Riots following the beating of Rodney King by LAPD. During all of this, BET co-founder Robert Johnson would always answer his critics that BET was entertainment TV—not news TV.

Now Johnson’s former wife and BET co-founder, Sheila Johnson, is lamenting the history of BET, which was sold to Viacom in 2001 for $3 billion.

Johnson recently spoke at  the “Conversations and Encounters” program at the Carmel Art and Film Festival in Monterey County, CA where, according to EUR, she said she thought BET is a “squandered opportunity.”  She added, “I think we squandered a really important cable network, when it really could have been the voice of Black America. We’re losing our voice as a race as a result. I’m really worried about what our young people are watching. There are so many young people who are using the television as a babysitter. We have parents who are not being parents and not monitoring what their children are watching.”

News only recently returned to BET with Don’t Sleep with TJ Holmes. Prior to that, former BET journalist Ed Gordon’s news segments always struggled to find a solid place on the network, which played more video than news. And even the videos have come under attack, with calls for BET to censor some of the explicit videos and critics claims that BET promotes African-Amerian stereotypes.

Regardless, BET, which launched in 1980, remains the most prominent TV network targeting  African Americans. It currently reaches more than 90 million households.

Are you watching Don’t Sleep? Do you think they should air more news content?

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