Black Entertainment Television (commonly referred to by its acronym B.E.T.) is an American cable network based in Washington, D.C. targeted toward young black and urban audiences in the United States. Robert L. Johnson founded the network in 1980. Most programming of the network comprises of rap and R&B music videos and urban-oriented movies and series.
Among its urban music programming includes 106 & Park, a show taped before a live audience counting down the top videos requested by viewers and inviting rap and R&B artists to promote their music. Rap City is BET's flagship program for rap music, and the network also regularly shows a block of R&B videos under the banner BET Now. For broadcasting videos that are accused of promoting immorality, BET has been the target of criticism and protests. Additionally, the channel shows syndicated television series, original programs, and some public affairs programs. On Sunday mornings, BET broadcasts a lineup of network-produced Christian programming; other, non-affiliated Christian programs are also shown during the early morning hours daily.
After stepping down as a lobbyist for the cable industry, Robert L. Johnson
decided to launch his own cable television
network. Johnson would soon acquire a loan for $15,000, and earned a $500,000 investment from John Malone
to start the network. With the fundings, Johnson needed a niche audience to build ratings, so he chose the African-American
audience and named his channel Black Entertainment Television. The BET network began broadcasting on January 25, 1980.
Initially, the network lineup consisted of music videos and reruns of popular black sitcoms. BET was mostly controlled by Johnson, who held 90%, while John Malone held the remaining 10%. Due to recently starting, and low rating, at the time, BET was losing money, but in 1985-1986, things turned around for the young channel. Network president Reginald Huldin resigned on September 11, 2008.
On weekdays and Saturday, BET focuses mainly on urban music programming with shows like 106 & Park
and Rap City
.The network also shows much syndicated programming, with sitcoms
such as A Different World
, Diff'rent Strokes
, The Parkers
, The Steve Harvey Show
, and Thea
such as Soul Food
and The Wire
. On weeknights, Saturday nights, and Sunday afternoons, the network shows various films with black actors in lead roles under the series "BlackBuster Movies". Original programming of the network includes reality programs like Baldwin Hills
, College Hill
, and Hell Date
. On Saturday mornings, BET shows re-runs of Just Jordan
, children's shows from sister network Nickelodeon
On Sundays, BET carries gospel music and other religious programming for the majority of the day such as The Bobby Jones Gospel Hour, Video Gospel, and Lift Every Voice. Other externally-produced religious programming also airs daily in the early morning hours and overnight Sundays.
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. Upon the election of African-American Barack Obama
presidential candidate in the 2008 US presidential election
, the network began showing Obama-related specials during 2008. Sheila C. Johnson, BET co-founder and wife of Robert Johnson, has endorsed Obama.
BET airs a number of specials, including awards shows, fashion shows, and music specials. The BET Awards
honors black entertainers, athletes and actors. It is usually BET's highest rated show of the year. The BET Hip Hop Awards
is BET's largest music awards show, recognizing hip hop performers, producers and music video directors. Celebration of Gospel is an annual show featuring performances by the brightest stars in gospel and R&B, and television’s #1 religious/gospel telecast. Rip The Runway
, a collision of hip hop and fashion is the network's annual fashion show. Spring Bling airs during spring break each year; a show dedicated to the goings on of spring breakers. In 2008, BET launched a new awards show, The BET Honors
, which recognizes the lives and accomplishments of distinguished members of the Black American Community.
rapper Chuck D
, journalist George Curry, writer Keith Boykin
, comic book creator Christopher Priest
, filmmaker Spike Lee
and cartoonist Aaron McGruder
(who, in addition to numerous critical references throughout his series, The Boondocks
, made a particular episode
criticizing the channel), all have protested BET's programming and actions. As a result, BET heavily censors suggestive content from the videos that it airs, often with entire verses removed from certain rap videos.
The channel also censors some of the programming it shows. Censoring profane words like bitch
. "Enough is Enough" is a group led by the Reverend Delman Coates that has devoted much time to protesting BET under the grounds that much of BET's hip-hop videos are degrading. It backed an April 2008 report titled The Rap on Rap
by the Parents Television Council
that claimed that BET hip-hop programming, which they believed contained gratuitously sexual, violent, and profane content, was targeting children and teens.
The spin off channel BET J
, originally called BET Jazz, is available in 28 million homes on DirecTV, Verizon FiOS
TV as well as other digital cable
providers. Programs include My Two Cents
with Keith Boykin
, Bryonn Bain
, Crystal McCreary Anthony
and Staceyann Chin
, The Best Shorts
hosted by Abiola Abrams
, Living the Life of Marley
about Ky-Mani Marley
, My Model is Better Than Your Model
with Eva Pigford
and The Turn On
hosted by Charlotte Burley
. This channel is meant to appeal to an older, more sophisticated viewership, and aims to be the answer to the BET criticism with positive, adult programming.
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)
and Black Family Channel
(formerly MBC) had little success, others like TV One
have thrived and succeeded, mostly by eschewing BET's music-based programming for more family-oriented fare. However these networks are mostly watched by older African-Americans and BET continues to be mostly watched by the youth. A possible new arrival to Internet TV and broadcasting, The African American Channel, is making an attempt to enter the picture. Broadcasting and Cable
magazine pointed out that The African American Channel could become a competitor of BET and others such as Black Family Channel and TV One in the not-so-distant future.. In 2008, rapper Master P
, who claims to have a "great relationship with BET", announced the launch of Better Black Television
, which he intended to meet "consumer demand for family friendly hip-hop content".
BET International Inc was given a license to broadcast in the United Kingdom
in May 2007 by Ofcom
. BET UK
will is the first international version of the channel. BET is available on Sky Digital Channel 209 after launching on Wednesday 27th February 2008 and on Freesat
Channel 140 after launching on August 8. BET UK
shows a mix of content from the main BET channel and locally produced shows.
BET became available in Canada
in October 1997 on most cable and satellite carriers. The Canadian feed is the same as the American feed with the only exceptions being sitcoms. Most sitcoms and movies are replaced with music videos in a similar format to the daytime show BET Now
with the exception being that there are limited commercial breaks and the BET bug
doesn't appear in the bottom right corner. The majority of music videos being aired in place of movies and sitcoms are ones that were released during the summer of 2006.
Original BET shows