I have a serious issue with BET Networks and until BET Networks changes how it does business specific to the demographic of which I am a member, Africans in the diaspora, I intend to continue to voice my opinions about this. Once again, as in the 2010 BET Awards, the 2010 BET Hip-hop Awards, the 2011 BET Awards and the just completed 2011 BET Hip-hop Awards, Africans are consistently omitted by BET when it comes to airing them on the aforementioned award events. I fail to understand why BET solicits or patronizes these African stars yet refuses to air them at its award events, given they represent a very relevant and important demographic here in the USA? I have heard nothing short of the silliest excuses for why this is. One key excuse has been Africans solicited and/or nominated on BET Awards or those that are part of the BET Hip-hop Cypher are confined to only BET Networks’ BET International subsidiary and should be content because they were never intended to be marketed to the USA to begin with. Really?
Let me get this straight. BET goes into Africa (with over 800million people) and establishes its subsidiaries with the obvious goal of making profit from Africans. Yet, within the USA, it cannot dedicate even one minute of air time in its actual award shows for the very Africans it solicits and makes monies off of? If you will not air African artists at your BET Awards or BET Hip-hop Awards show, why patronize these acts? You are already in Africa so what exactly is the point of a nomination on a BET Awards show or making our artists go through a BET Hip-hop Awards Cypher presentation and yet BET Networks does nothing with it?
I appeal to my entertainment lawyer colleague turned BET C.E.O, Debra Lee, to really give Africans a meaningful opportunity on your USA network because the evidence is there to show that we do have a high purchasing power, our youths (both in the USA and abroad) make up part of the demographic that watches and continues to watch BET programming and ignoring Africans will, in the long run, simply not be good for business. With BET’s re-branding efforts and market re-positioning, BET can no longer afford to keep ignoring Africans.
It is painful and extremely insulting that our artists are relegated to just a snippet on 106 & Park when they fly thousands of miles on their own tab to show up for an Awards show BET nominated them for. An entire African diaspora is waiting for BET to put the “Black” in Black Entertainment Television. An entire continent actually stays up to see if BET has the courage to take the bold step to put the “Black” in Black Entertainment Television here in the USA.
Further, if there was a crisis in Africa i.e. famine, war etc. depending on how much buzz mainstream media creates, BET would dedicate at least a minute to remember the Africa the West is used to seeing. If BET will invest in our markets to earn profits and exploit us, if BET will solicit Africans in the USA and use our talents to further amplify its brand, then Ms. Lee and all executives and senior management reading this, your status quo as it relates to African professionals, African artists and Africa as a whole is no longer acceptable.
Ghanaian American Lilian Blankson, first profiled in an exclusive on Ladybrillemag.com, in the BET International department, appears to be the only voice, internally, pushing the African agenda. But frankly, one woman’s efforts is not going to cut it. We need more Africans in the diaspora and abroad demanding the respect we deserve as we also continue to build our own platforms to tell our own stories.
I will be more than offended as I am sure other Africans here in America and the continent will be if our artists are, again, nominated for BET Awards and again relegated to 1min on 106 & Park; and completely eliminated on BET Awards/ BET Cypher shows.
Finally, on the statistical end, a few things that might be helpful. In 2006, I wrote in one of my many published works that,
“the U.S. Census Bureau 2000 and the American Community Survey 2002 show that Africans in the USA are the most educated groups within the country, even surpassing Asians.
Further, they are urban and earn high incomes. As of 2004, the Bureau, among others, report(ed) that Africans in the USA sent over $1billion to Africa, surpassing America’s current aid to Africa. Africans in the USA are young [60.8% are 20-49years of age] and majority live in metropolitan areas making them easily accessible for fashion creators to market their products and services.
In 2010 as part of my brand, Ladybrille’s, sponsorship of the inaugural Africa Fashion Week New York, I reported in a feature that 44% of New York’s population, according to the US Census Bureau, constituted the African diaspora. Africans are not asking for regular programming on BET, although if that is the direction BET wants to take, that is fine. We are saying when our stars are solicited and engaged by BET for its BET Awards Shows and BET Hip-Hop Awards Cypher Shows, BET Networks ought to accord respect to its invited guests and air these stars, some of whom are music legends in their own right, on its BET USA platforms.
No one is asking for handouts or charity. We are asking for respect. We are also asking to forge a relationship and bridge the divide between Africans and African Americans perpetuated by all media over the years. Beyond the economic advantage for BET as a network, what other platforms should lead in this direction?
I’ll stop for now but, again, this is not the last word from me so long as this continues.
***(Update) Ms. Uduak Oduok is an Attorney and Partner at Ebitu Law Group, P.C, ebitulawgrp.com. An industry insider as well as a Publisher & Journalist, her practice areas include Business Litigation and Fashion & Entertainment Law. For more information about her or the law topics she discusses on AML, visit her at Ebitu Law Group, P.C. Otherwise, to solicit her for speaking engagements, business consulting offers, press interviews and/or radio/television legal commentary, email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
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