When I was younger, I wanted my older cousin to be like Denise Huxtable. I wanted to talk to her about boys and clothes and go to the mall with her. However, she was a bit more like Daria Morgendorffer, the snarky, sarcastic loner on MTV’s animated ’90s series Daria and Beavis and Butt-head. When I realized that truth, it lifted my disappointment and I learned to accept my relative for who she is.
It seems, however, that some faithful BET fans have had a hard time accepting that the network isn’t going to meet all their expectations—even though its name, Black Entertainment Television, might suggest otherwise.
The 35-year-old cable channel, presumably for black people, recently came under fire once again for failing to cover Saturday’s rally in Washington, D.C., “Justice or Else,” which took place 20 years after the Million Man March. Black Twitter blasted BET for airing reruns of Martin when such a historic event was taking place just blocks away from the network’s D.C. headquarters.
For some strange reason, some TV viewers seemingly expect the network responsible for bringing back Punk’d and comedies like Real Husbands of Hollywood to mimic CNN—the Cable News Network—when it comes to matters important to the black community. BET currently has no regular news programming, so that expectation is a bit unrealistic. Surprised? Why? The “entertainment” in its name is a strong indication that news isn’t a priority.
Those instances of national news coverage on the channel are the exception, not the rule.
Although boycotting the network’s awards shows might send a message, it’s unlikely to change much. Would a Change.org petition be a better bet? That would be equivalent to requesting that Popeyes add more green vegetables to its menu. It would be nice and it would offer some balance, but is that really what chicken lovers go to Popeyes restaurants for? Add more roughage if you like, but it’s those imitated, but never duplicated, 11 herbs and spices that are the draw. They likely won’t have the same effect on a pea that they have on some poultry. That would be as strange as news reported by Ludacris, which is pretty much what a BET news show would have to look like to succeed on the network.
A bigger move for BET’s critics would be to ask cable providers to drop the station from their lineups, but that wouldn’t really solve the problem, either. The issue is that there is no black news network to cover stories and offer perspectives that are important to the community. Trying to force BET to fit into that niche is like attempting to turn that proverbial “loose woman” into a housewife.
There’s no harm in letting the network know when it needs to do better and when its programming choices have disappointed, but there’s also no harm—and probably some good—in accepting that BET is not the black CNN. It never has been and likely never will be.
Maybe the network should consider changing its name to clarify that it is not representing the majority of black people or their interests. In the meantime, it probably makes more sense for fans to know that for themselves and to lower their expectations.