Black Entertainment Television
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Black Entertainment Television is an American cable network targeted toward African-American audiences in the United States. BET shows many of the latest music videos as well. The network, commonly referred to as BET, is essentially the urban equivalent of corporate sibling MTV, as most of its programming comprises of hip-hop and R&B music videos as well as religious programming, public affairs programs, and urban-oriented movies and series.
BET was founded by Robert L. Johnson, a former cable industry lobbyist, on January 25, 1980 after getting a $500,000 investment from then-TCI president John Malone. The network was initially a weekly, two-hour Friday night block airing on the USA Network from 11 p.m. to 1 a.m. (EST). The programming was mostly older movies and music videos, creating an outlet for an untapped market in the then-young cable industry, African-Americans. In May of that year, BET invested $1 million for the production of Black collegiate sporting events and expanded an hour. In November 1980, BET added two half-hour shows, Black Showcase and The Bobby Jones Gospel Show (the latter is still on the air today). On June 26, 1983, BET premiered Video Soul, a music video series hosted by popular D.C. DJ Donnie Simpson, one of the first marquee series on the network.
Throughout the decades, BET has grown in viewership and expanded beyond television. In October 1989, BET entered the publishing business by launching their first magazine Emerge, aimed toward African-American news consumers. A little under a year later, BET launched YSB (Young Sisters and Brothers), a lifestyle magazine aimed toward African-American teenagers followed by the purchase of Arabesque Books, a publisher of African-American-oriented romance novels, and Heart and Soul magazine. BET also launched spinoff networks in the 1990s, including BET on Jazz: The Jazz Channel (now named BET J), a pay-per-view network called BET Action, and, along with John Malone's Liberty Media, BET STARZ!, which became Black STARZ! after the Viacom takeover and renamed Starz InBlack in 2005. BET also offers two other music channels, BET Hip-Hop, and BET Gospel, both of which are offered on digital cable platforms across the nation.
BET also airs African-American interest specials and introduced public service campaigns. The Rap It Up campaign is dedicated to preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS in the African-American community. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, BET aired SOS: Saving Our Selves, a hurricane relief telethon concert on September 9, 2005, to raise funds for those affected by Katrina. More than $11 million was raised for Katrina victims.
On weekdays and Saturdays, BET focuses mainly on urban music programming with shows like 106 & Park and Rap City, while also airing sitcoms such as The Wayans Bros., The Jamie Foxx Show, Girlfriends and The Parkers. The drama like Soul Food airs Sunday nights and the stand-up comedy program called Comic View airs throughout the week. BET has recently introduced reality programs like College Hill, collegiate sporting events, and various movies and specials. BET also created a short-lived animated comedy series called Hey Monie, after partnering up with The Oxygen Network.
On Sundays, BET carries gospel music and other religious programming for the greater part of the day such as The Bobby Jones Gospel Hour, Video Gospel, and3 Lift Every Voice. Religious programming also airs in the early morning hours every day from 4 a.m. to 9 a.m. EST.
BET also airs the BET each year. The show honors African American entertainers, athletes and actors. It is usually BET's highest rated show of the year.
BET Tonight was relaunched as a daily newscast, BET Nightly News with Jacque Reid, which began in 1999 as an extension of its news coverage. BET's news coverage became a part of the network in October 1986. After the nightly newscast was removed from the lineup in the summer of 2005, it returned in October 2005 delivering news updates on BET throughout the day and, in 2006, as a Sunday afternoon news hour.
Many prominent media critics, including Public Enemy rapper Chuck D , journalist George Curry, Howard University , writer Keith Boykin , comic book writer/artist/editor Christopher Priest , filmmaker Spike Lee  and writer/cartoonist Aaron McGruder of The Boondocks, have protested BET's programming and actions. One of the most commonly-heard complaints is the fact that BET's programming is mostly music entertainment, particularly Hip-hop and rap music, and does not focus on the public affairs of the black community. This criticism expanded in the light of Viacom's cutbacks of BET's public affairs department, which resulted in the firing of BET Tonight talk show host and social commentator Tavis Smiley in March 2001  , and the cancelations of the youth panel forum Teen Summit and morning news broadcast Lead Story in 2002.
Eminem was one of the first artists to have one of his videos banned on BET after protests from Michael Jackson, Steve Harvey and others after the release of "Just Lose It", a video that parodied and mocked Michael Jackson's numerous alleged plastic surgeries and sleepovers with children. The response backfired after critics stated that Eminem's video parody is far tamer than Nelly's "Tipdrill", a video that makes derogatory references as well as degrading images of women, although this video airs after-hours on BET Uncut along with more provocative videos. In 2005, BET banned Little Brother's video "Lovin' It" from the album The Minstrel Show. BET's program director commented that this was because the video was "too intelligent" for their target audience. However on the music section of their website BET decided to show the video as part of the group being a new and upcoming group.<ref>Chery, Carl. "Little Brother's "Too Intelligent" Says BET, Network Responds To Allegation", SOHH.com, 2005-09-08. Retrieved on 2006-07-14. (in English)</ref>
The channel has been scrutinized by members of the Black community who feel that the channel perpetuates harmful Black stereotypes by primarily airing hip-hop videos that often have misogynistic, materialistic, and/or violent themes. As a result, BET heavily censors suggestive content from the videos that it airs, often with entire verses removed from certain rap videos. Detractors are also quick to point out the irony they see in the network's choice to also show strong religious programming once a week, although they fail to realize that religious programming actually airs Monday through Saturday on the network from 4 a.m. to 9 a.m. (EST) in addition to the Sunday programming. Not long ago people began referring to acronym BET standing for "Black Exploitation Television".
A 2004 incident on Fox News Channel noted BET only aired an increasing number of raunchy music videos played during a continuous time period on Saturdays, where more viewers of the younger generation are known to watch, and forced host Bill O'Reilly to discuss the issue with a host, who had been let go by MTV in its takeover of BET, in a debate with BET staff members.
BET has been criticized by some Christian evangelicals not for music videos, but for its morning religious lineup. Each morning, BET broadcasts evangelical TV shows, and hosts include Robert Tilton, Don Stewart, and Peter Popoff, who have been criticized for their money-brings-miracles theology and who have had spats with the law (Popoff's ministry's tax-exempt status was recently revoked in Canada).
In 2005, BET allegedly released to employees a list of banned music videos and artists deemed "too intelligent" and not relevant to its intended audience of young black teenagers. This list included Hip-Hop acts such as Dead Prez, Little Brother, Talib Kweli, and others.
BET's success, and the controversy over its content, has spawned a few smaller competitors aiming toward the African-American market. Although some like NUE TV (New Urban Entertainment Television) had little success, others like TV One and Black Family Channel (formerly MBC) have thrived and succeeded, mostly by eschewing BET's music-based programming for more family-oriented fare. Although they are mostly watched by older African-Americans while BET is mostly watched by the youth.
 Popular original BET shows
- Video Soul
- Bobby Jones Gospel
- Lift Every Voice
- 106 & Park
- Rap City
- Video Vibrations
- Caribbean Rhythms
- Video LP
- Lead Story
- College Hill
- Lil Kim: Countdown to Lockdown
- Keyshia Cole: The Way It Is
- DMX: Soul Of A Man
- The Basement
- BET's Top 25
- BET's Black Buster Movies
- BET's Comic View
- BET: Uncut
- BET.com Countdown
- BET Style
- Hits From The Street
- Cita's World
- BET Tonight with Tavis Smiley
- BET Tonight with Ed Gordon
- Midnight Love
- Season of the Tiger
- The Black Carpet
- Planet Groove
 See Also
 External links
- Official Site
- BET's Corporate Home (includes historical timeline)