During a recent speaking engagement at the Carmel Art and Film Festival in Monterey County California, Sheila Johnson, the co-founder of BET, had a few choice words about the current state of the network. In reminiscing about the network, she did praise Teen Summit as being one of her greatest accomplishments, “All those young people on the show became so successful because they had a voice. And we were talking about issues out there and they became leaders in life”.
Years ago, Sheila Johnson and her ex-husband saw a way to make even more money from BET by selling it to Viacom. How could anyone forget that move?
In 2000, Johnson sold the network to Viacom for a reported $3 billion and he then became the first Black billionaire. As people still try to figure out who benefited from this sell, besides the Johnsons and Viacom, BET’s purpose has been questioned for quite some time. Is she happy with the current direction of BET? Apparently not. She said the network “reinforces negative stereotypes of young people, African-Americans in particular.” She also went on to say, “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”.
To BET’s credit, over the past two years, their programming has improved vastly. With a new lineup of shows this fall, like TJ Holmes’ Don’t Sleep, Being Mary Jane, The Mathis Project, The Real Husbands of Hollywood and Apollo Live, it seems as though there is a huge attempt to move the network into a different direction.
Do you think Sheila Johnson has any room to complain about the current state of BET, when under the Johnson helm, some people say its programming was already losing value?