BET forgets MLK

The “quality” in Black Entertainment Television’s programming continues to deteriorate.

Not only has BET canceled “BET Tonight with Ed Gordon,” “Lead Story” and “Teen Summit,” but the network somehow forgot to air any programming to commemorate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, birthday.

Some people argue that BET’s purpose has always been to entertain- not to provide news and public affairs programming.

Somewhere along the way, BET certainly saw itself as a source of news and took pleasure in that fact. The network describes itself as “the nation’s leading 24-hour television network providing quality entertainment, news, and public affairs programming for the African-American audience.”

Perhaps it’s only fitting that the network would overlook Dr. King – the premier black leader. After all, BET is a subsidiary of Viacom. Viacom owns CBS, MTV, VH-1 and UPN. Those networks didn’t make a big fuss over Dr. King’s birthday either.

Unlike those networks, however, BET has a monopoly in the black television market. It is the only national network geared towards African-Americans and it reaches more than 70 million households.

BET was the only network black Americans could watch to get public affairs programming and news from the black perspective. Black people are not going to get that from MTV or even CBS. BET has a responsibility to provide its audience with much more than music videos and Stepin Fetchit comedy.

Last week Radio One, the nation’s largest black-owned media company, and Comcast, the nation’s biggest cable television operator, announced they plan to launch a national network targeting the black community.

The Washington Post reports Debra L. Lee, chief operating officer of BET, reacted, “One such venture recently shut down its operations, while another is still trying to survive.”

Hopefully the Radio One/Comcast network survives to provide the type of programming BET lacks.

Augustine Rho for The Famuan