Black TV is experiencing a renaissance. Most mainstream television networks are giving opportunities to programs with not only black casts, but black creators, writers and showrunners as well. We’ve seen hit series like, Queen Sugar, on the OWN Network, HBO's Insecure, created by Issa Rae, ABC’s Black-ish and Grown-ish, both created by Kenya Barris, Donald Glover’s Atlanta, on FX, all the shows created by the illustrious Shonda Rhimes and even Netflix exclusives, like, She’s Gotta Have It, Luke Cage and Dear White People, have caught massive amounts of mainstream attention and acclaim.
If all these mostly white networks were able to make a splash with series centering on black narratives, why is Black Entertainment Television (BET) seemingly falling through the cracks? Even certain celebs have been absent from the BET Awards for the past few years, denoting a shift in the network's cultural influence.
After the 2018 BET Awards, Black Twitter did its thing, expressing disappointment in the networks inability to produce new content that captures the attention of the contemporary black community.
The answer can’t simply be more black people on screen. It is a matter of new leadership and direction. Black millennials have more than proven their ability to be cultural influencers both inside and outside the black community. If other networks and streaming services are willing to invest in young black creators, why not the network directed specifically towards the black experience? The programs that run on BET are not only outdated, but lack diverse black narratives. When it comes to hiring talent, they seem to be stuck in a bubble that doesn’t allow for investing in emerging black writers or producers.
BET should really be giving us Black “Say Yes to the Dress”, Black “HGTV” vibes, Black cartoons and kids shows, HBCU football games... but instead we get Baby Boy 838392 times with an hour and a half of commercials. Hire new leadership, writers, etc. PLS. https://t.co/DjUIzbsDRk— Ginger Foutley (@shes_rADIAnt) June 25, 2018
There is so much potential for BET to run a range of programming, from reality TV and sports, to movies and children’s shows. So, why aren’t they? BET was bought by Viacom back in 2001 and some think that the influence of the media conglomerate has stifled the creativity of BET programming. Perhaps the network is in need of a new image that appeals to a variety of black audiences. The answer could possibly be found in new leadership and more original content that is allowed to be bold and unapologetic in its blackness.