What Happened to VH1?

The network that was once known for high-quality programming has sold its soul to the devil for ratings.

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I know that ratings are paramount to a network's success, but does quality have to go completely out the window?

Viewers of color pined for more people of color on television for decades. We now have more people of color on television than ever before, and most are acting like damned fools. Who needs Jezebel when you've got Evelyn Lozada, coons when you have Flavor Flav, tragic mulattos when you have Emily Bustamante and Kimbella, and black bucks when you've got Chad Ochocinco? How did a network that launched on New Year's Day of 1985 with the video of Marvin Gaye's legendary rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner" fall so far from grace?

I know the answer: a shifting demographic, competition from new-media programming, more robust programming on other cable networks and trying to maintain an identity within a major conglomerate (Viacom) that oversees many networks that are doing well (MTV, Comedy Central, BET, Spike and Nick at Nite) -- but does the quality of the bulk of the programming have to be so low?

Not all of the programming on VH1 is bad, but a lot of it is really bad, and that's a problem. Thank goodness for Styled by June, which is refreshingly sane, or VH1's reality programming would be a complete wash. And that is truly a shame. 

Nsenga K. Burton, Ph.D., is editor-at-large for The Root. Follow her on Twitter.

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Nsenga K. Burton, Ph.D., is founder and editor-in-chief of the Burton Wire. A media scholar and critic who is an expert on the intersection of race, class, gender and sexuality with film, television and new media, Burton is associate professor of communication and media studies at Goucher College in Baltimore. Follow her on Twitter.

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