Television and Media - Black Entertainment Television

Television and Media - Black Entertainment Television

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The Road of Black Entertainment Television

The media is all around us, influencing most of our thoughts and
buying habits. Most of the media bases its shows towards many diverse
demographics as to bring in the most viewers to watch commercials between the
show content. But some of the channels are demographic specific advertising
directly to a single group in hopes of banking the entire future of a network on
that single group. One channel has been extremely successful in this risky
business venture, BET.

BET stands for "Black Entertainment Television". If not all, then
at least 75% of all commercials are made up of an all black cast. Many of these
commercials follow the same exact script as others with an all white or mixed
cast. Companies are doing a very smart thing in doing this duel advertising for
all other networks and channels and BET. Historically and culturally, the
majority of blacks support black businesses. The slight perception that a
company is black friendly will earn that company several millions of dollars
more in profits.

Denny's long had the national perception to blacks across the nation
as being racist when it came to being seated, the time to get an order placed
after being seated, and the time to get the order after it was placed. Several
civil rights leaders urged all blacks to boycott Denny's. After Denny's
claimed that it was never and had never practiced racist tactics, Denny's
produced a new commercial, one that featured an all black cast and it was run on
BET. There haven't been any more complaints since. BET had probably played a
large part of dissuading the racist views that were perceived during the time
before the commercial had aired.

BET also markets some shows directly to the black audience,
especially their main target, the black male middle-middle class to the
low-middle class. "Comic View" is a nightly stand-up comedy show that features
black comics. Sometimes there is another minority on stage (Asian, Hispanic,
etc.) but the majority of the time there are black comics on stage.

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Some of
those comics' main material is about their families, usually because most blacks
like to talk about their families, such as how this son did this and how their
niece did that. Cultural traits is something that BET does extremely well in
using to its advantage when it creates its program lineup.

Most of the midday programming is music videos, grouped in shows (shows meaning
a particular genre of music) such as "Black Power", "Rap City: The Bassment",
and "106th and Park", BET's version of MTV's popular "Total Request Live". On
all of those shows, the music and the music videos are geared straight towards
young black people 13-25. The music videos really are the main attractor with a
party atmosphere in nearly every video and young, physically attractive women in
bikini tops and men in wife-beaters or no shirt on at all. The performers are
usually with a large group of people dancing with them. These large groups
represent the groups of people that the typical black person hangs out with in
social situations; groups of sometimes more than five, but not necessarily as
boisterous as the groups depicted on television. BET does it's marketing right:
when they go after one specific demographic base, they do it in the right way.
But does it really depict how the typical middle class black male lives?
In the main staple of the programming schedule of BET, music videos, the
performers are seen with extravagant surroundings with large amounts of jewelry
on their person and also in their mouth (called a grill). There are very
expensive cars such as Hummers, Jaguars, PT Cruisers, Mercedes, etc. shown, as
well as expensive cell phones and old "throwback" athletic jerseys. Normally
these are things that the normal black person that BET specifically targets
cannot afford, especially the cars. It would be most discouraging to see some
status symbol of high living almost all day every weekday knowing that it would
be very hard work for a person in that demographic to achieve such a goal. BET
could do a very good job of this if the performers didn't look as though they
live and dress in a fashion similar to the target audience instead of a higher
demographic. These people are virtually stuck in a never-ending cycle of
trying to achieve a thing which they cannot.

Moving forward is something that is rarely even seen on BET. A show shown on
BET that was fairly recent was the comedy "Sparks", a show about a father and
sons lawyer team whose firm also had a female associate. Even though it was a
comedy show, there was very little if any "real lawyering" shown on that show,
mostly it was one of the sons trying to scheme himself into a better position or
going through exaggerated means of putting a case together. If this was the
best method of portraying a black in a professional setting, it didn't do a very
good job of it.

An excellent show of a black person in a high professional setting was the
network television show, "ER" with Dr. Benton portrayed by Eriq La Salle. Here
was a successful doctor who was on one of the top rated shows in network
television history that a young black person in a low income household could
look up to. But the chances of that are extremely low.

Because BET puts on comedy shows and other dramatic material that would intrigue
a young black person, the chances are high that that person wouldn't be able to
see "ER" because the person would have their attention on BET instead of the
network. For all the talking that civil rights leaders do about there not being
any strong black men for young people to look to as role models, they do have a
point. There aren't many outlets for middle class black men to watch a
professional living and working. And even then, when a show with a strong young
professional black man like "ER" has been on long enough it could go into
syndication, the chances of it seeing BET were and are virtually zero. Dr.
Benson may a very successful black man, but he is the only black man that was a
regular character and BET is for black entertainment. Having only one black
person on the show would go against the main thing that BET promotes.
BET does what media companies want to do and make money, but it fails to deliver
in something that culturally the blacks hold very close and that is to help each
other in their struggles in life. By being a major media company BET can very
easily accomplish such a thing. When the network first started that was
something that probably happened with regularity. Now with the dollar ruling
all, they lost that vision. Only time will tell if BET will return to its
roots.

BET does what media companies want to do and make money, but it fails to deliver
in something that culturally the blacks hold very close and that is to help each
other in their struggles in life. By being a major media company BET can very
easily accomplish such a thing. When the network first started that happened
with regularity. Now with the dollar ruling all, they lost that vision. Only
time will tell if BET will return to its roots.
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