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?

  • 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.

  • 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

  • Gina

    Girl, yes!!!! I have not watched BET in years, but I watch the Daily Show every night. Once in awhile I will catch BET at my mommas house and it is ALWAYS some rachet-assed show. BET needs better writers, and way more open-minded execs and producers, preferably under the age of 65 and not from the deep south and the church! I am a black atheist and I am surely not on their entertainment radar. But I will be tuning into Scandal on another network. Also, can’t black shows have black actors just being people? Not every show has to be hardcore black-centric with the leads rolling and popping wearing kente-cloth and preaching. I would love to see a black version of the office. Even throw in some white actors for some sidekick characters. Their biggest problem is that they have programmed themselves into a corner and now everyone knows BET as a slum of programming. They would almost have to start a whole new network with a high-brow focus to get me to watch again. BIT – Black Intelligent Television.

  • 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!!!

More in BET, debra lee