January 19th, 2006 After celebrating the 25th anniversary of the founding of BET, Black Entertainment Television, Robert L. Johnson has handed over the responsibilities of President and CEO to Debra L. Lee, reports The New York Times in a fawning piece in Tuesday’s Arts section. Viacom, parent company of BET, is very pleased with the network’s success. With a solid business plan, revenue growth of 20 % annually, and increased viewership of 17 % in just the last year, BET is a rare success story in the ever-fragmenting cable business-world. Many cable television viewers will no-doubt recognize BET as the channel they hastily pass on the way to more enlightening fare. Undulating female posteriors, pointing gangsta thugs, violence, and angry racist imagery appear to be the chief entertainment elements of BET programming. One can readily enjoy it here in central Pennsylvania on channel 38 just past the Weather Channel. In uniquely Times-ian fashion, the reporter acknowledges that the, “network has long faced criticism for its heavy reliance on often violent and misogynistic music videos,” before, of course, extolling the virtues of the network, its founder, its new CEO, and its newly installed president of entertainment. Responding to the occasional denunciation of BET’s programming choices, management of the thriving network dismisses criticism of the lyrics, images, and hip-hop videos as, “supercilious intellectual posturing.” “We’re not PBS,” the new CEO says proudly, “and we will never be PBS.” “I don’t like everything that is on now,” admits the concerned mother of two, “but it’s all about how young people express themselves.” Perhaps referring to the simulated gang rapes, drug orgies, or shooting sprees, as young blacks “express themselves” in video after video. Nevertheless, the article reports, “the channel will (now) aim to reach its base with more breadth and creativity.” And how will they do this? One of the fine new programs on the schedule is “L’il Kim: Countdown to Lockdown, a six-episode reality series about the last two weeks in the life of the raunchy female rapper before she began a one-year prison sentence in September for perjury linked to a shooting between rival hip-hop camps.” This, coupled with the cancellation of the nightly newscast and creation of magazine-style specials such as the recent profile of Stanley Tookie Williams, indicates the cultural depths BET is willing to plumb in attracting a diverse viewership, while not abandoning their core audience of 18-34 males. Celebrate that diversity! Describing her new duties, Ms.Lee, chief of BET, remarks, “The founder visionary left, but there is a new visionary, and we’ve got to take it to the next level.” Enough. Putting aside the racism involved in the very idea of a “black” television network, the celebrated “founder,” who netted a tidy $3 billion in selling to Viacom in 2000, chose to devote his enterprise to portraying black culture as saturated with crime, sexual animality, ignorance, and nihilism. So squalid and immoral is the depiction of black life on BET that it would surely receive the imprimatur of the most devout Klansman. But the Times can only tiptoe around the truth, ever vigilant to avoid appearing in any way anti-African-American. Instead, it appears utterly patronizing. And so the poison is allowed to continuously flow, unrebuked by the purported vanguard of liberalism and civil rights. Is their no positive cultural influence in the black community for BET to extol? Do Condi Rice, Colin Powell and Clarence Thomas exist in the world of BET? For every profile of “Tookie” and “L’il Kim” can they find time for Kenneth Chenault, or Thomas Sowell or Bill Cosby, or Jackie Robinson, or George Foreman? Alas, in the entertainment cesspool where Snoop Dog rules perhaps there really is no room for the likes of Duke Ellington, Paul Robeson, Stevie Wonder, and the Spinners either. The “vast wasteland” of modern entertainment contains many examples of the steady, and rapid, decline in taste, quality, and substance, and the BET network is but one example. But this abominable example goes unremarked by the champions of diversity, sensitivity, and culture. They are afraid. It is something that can never be said. But it can be said here.