BET Networks has endured an onslaught of criticism about the nature of its programming. Shows like “BET’s Uncut” and even “Hip Hop Awards,” with the violence that accompanies it, have undermined the network’s alleged mission to portray African-Americans in a positive light. Co-founder Sheila Johnson spoke recently about her disapproval of the programming on the channel, focusing attention on positive shows she worked on like “Teen Summit” and conveniently ignoring “BET’s Uncut” which also aired under her leadership. Johnson joins a long list of critics who have been vocal about their dissatisfaction with the network.

The current CEO, Debra Lee, seemed to address that criticism at a screening of the network’s documentary on President Barack Obama, “Second Coming? Will Black America Decide the 2012 Election” which airs tonight at 9P/8C. She said:

“Over the 28 years I’ve been at BET, we’ve tried different shows, series and nightly news, and it’s always a matter of what are people going to show up to watch. We started a new show last week called Don’t Sleep! With T.J. Holmes, which is supposed to address these kinds of issues. It’s designed to be a mix of entertainment and news and commentary. We hoped it would have been a Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert-type show […]. To be honest, the ratings haven’t been great in the past two weeks (referring to Holmes’ show). Our audience always says they want this kind of programming, but they don’t show up.”

It’s interesting that Debra Lee would place some degree of responsibility on the audience for the type of content that appears on BET. Surely, the network should hold more accountability for the messages that they send to viewers.

At the same time, the TV audience does hold considerable power. It’s clear that the best way to fight negative stereotypes of black women on shows like VH1’s “Basketball Wives” and “Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta,” for example, is to simply stop tuning into those programs. If more people watched positive programming on BET, would the network embrace it more? What are your thoughts on Debra Lee’s statement, Clutchettes?

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  • Karenga

    I think when you have a WHITE OWNED & BLACK MANAGED TV NETWORK like BET this is what happens to the IMAGES that are PORTRAYED!!!! BOB JOHNSON used his REPUBLICAN PARTY AFFILIATION contacts to start BET…. He made BILLIONS selling BLACK FILTH to BLACK YOUTH….. while his WHITE ADVERTISERS made a FINANCIAL KILLING off of BLACK CONSUMERS with him!!!! but guess what???? I BLAME US!!!!!!! if we DONT WATCH….. the ADVERTISERS dont pay BET AD DOLLARS…… DEMAND DEMAND DEMAND BETTER PROGRAMMING OR BOYCOTT by not watching that crap!!!! THEY DONT RESPECT US AS CONSUMERS!!!!! WE NEED MORE INDEPENDENT ELECTRONIC BLACK OWNED MEDIA to cover NEWS/BIZ not only here in America but Africa TOO!!!! its 2012 FOLKS!!!!! No more
    N!GGA SH!T portrayals!!!! BET & TVONE need to STEP IT UP!!!! ps…. OPRAH dont even want to PROGRAM her TV NETWORK to BLACKS in America & Africa & THATS WHY her RATINGS are SO POOR!!!! The REAL TRUTH is that SOME WEALTHY EDUCATED BLACKS in POSITIONS of POWER are AFRAID of THE WHITES that BACK THEM to put POSITIVE programming on TV…. Tatooed azz CHRIS BROWN & THE GAME with NO TALENT rapping about how THEY ARE PIMPING COLLEGE EDUCATED females for their MONEY in a VIDEO is POSITIVE???? CMON!!!! & it insults EDUCATED BLACK FEMALES….. the ones I KNOW would tell THE GAME & CHRIS BROWM to KISS their azz!!!! they are using THE HOOD RATS to PORTRAY a FAKE AZZ REALITY as PROPOGANDA & BET is A PART OF THE BULLSH!T!!!!
    I HATE THAT SH!T!!!!! Tell Summer Redstone The WHITEMAN who OWNS BET to TAKE THAT SH!T off THE AIR!!!!

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    • Sarah

      The reason Oprah has her OWN network is to be targeted to the people who watched her talk show for 25 years, and its programs are not filled with coonery buffoonery unlike BET. I watch OWN and I’m 22 and I don’t support BET and Debra Lee’s lying sell out ass. I want programming that I can relate to, and that my future kids can have show that are positive, Unless they change their content, I will not be watching BET or any other wack ass “reality” that showcases black people in a negative light.

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    • C U

      I forget which year it was when I stopped watching BET. But
      it happened to be one of the award shows when Lil Wayne
      Rick Ross Drake and some other clown came out in their buffoon outfits I said F BET

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  • LeonieUK

    Debra Lee has no support overseas. BET in the UK is worse than the delivery you get in the USA. Most of the shows are rerun and all are music based, yes all. Watching the channel with my Asian friend the other day, and she said ” This is embarrassing on so many levels”, and I had to agree. Yes I overstand its a free channel in the UK, it would have to be it’s pure rubbish anyway.
    Personally I believe BET is the demise of Black people, it needs a overhaul of all that stands with the decision making. Such a shame that something which was so good is beyond repair and needs something like a tsunami to rebuild again.

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  • paul

    TV is an electronic device that baby sits poor, uneducated and not very bright people. If you watch a lot of tv you’re inadvertently telling people a lot about yourself.

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  • Gina

    Also, try some Sci-fi programming. I have been waiting for years for someone to put one of Octavia Butler’s books onto the screen. Now of course, BET would likely ruin it….but at least try!!!

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