Unity ’08: BET finally seeing the light?

Black Entertainment Television (BET) hosted a “lunch ‘n’ learn” session today at the Unity Convention. So here is the joke: the discussion for the session was about the media’s role in violence in communities of color.

Talk about calling the kettle black…

Okay, so you all know how I feel about BET, as you might have read my many posts, including my most recent post. But just to sum up, BET supports criminal behavior through its programming, namely music videos.

Apparently, according to BET CEO Debra Lee, the network was invited by Chicago Mayor Richard M Daley, in light of recent street violence in that city as well as around the country.

Debra Lee is in denial.

“BET is committed to the anti-violence movement,” Lee said during the lunch.

BET host Jeff Johnson (who is conveniently hosting a new show on BET next month) moderated a panel of community activists and journalists, who all seem to somehow discuss how the media influences youth of color without even addressing the elephant in the room.

Finally, when the discussion was opened up to the audience, one brave, young woman got up and put BET in their place. She too noticed the idiocy of BET hosting such a discussion. Thankfully, she got rousing applauds from the audience.

Jeff Johnson’s response:

“As a network we are shifting our programming, but we are also trying to change our programming by doing more of these discussions… We are also working with the [National Association of Black Journalists] on this issue.”

Johnson also indicated that it is up to the audience to view the new programming, as ratings determine what programming will stay on.

He is right that the media is driven by advertising dollars, but at what cost? I should say that I didn’t stay for the whole lunch, as I had to run to another workshop, so I don’t know if there was further discussion on BET’s role. When the lunch was announced by Unity, I actually wrote an email to Unity, asking if some of the panelists were going to at least put BET on the hot seat.

I never got a response…

We will see if there are any changes at the network in the near future, but I wouldn’t hold my breath…

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