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Dr. Boyce: BET, When It Comes to TJ Holmes, Either Grow Up or Give Up

by  Dr. Boyce Watkins

I’ve done a lot of work with various media outlets over the years, but it has left me relatively unsatisfied.   The reason for my concern is that, as a business school professor, I tend to notice ownership structure, incentives and the role that capitalist organizations have played in the oppression and control of black people.  Like infants being fed Vodka in their baby bottles, black people are consistently doused with an overwhelming amount of unhealthy propaganda, leading many of us to live our lives as the intellectual version of the walking dead.

There is no network that embodies this problematic disparity more than Black Entertainment Television (BET).  I love BET for what it could have been, but I hate the network for what it chooses to be.  BET has become a case study for all that can go wrong from a one-dimensional focus on corporate profitability with almost no concern for the externalities being created by destructive and irresponsible content.  Even worse is that BET is ultimately run and controlled by Viacom, a company headed by executives who don’t have to go home to gun violence, sagging pants, educational underachievement and all the other cultural deformities that come from consuming weaponized psychological poison for the entire day.

One ray of hope for BET was the new show, “Don’t Sleep!” hosted by TJ Holmes.  Almost no new show in the history of BET has generated as much buzz in the black community, at least among those with more than a 10th-grade reading level.  Like the drunk ass uncle who suddenly decides that he wants to take care of his kids, BET claimed that it was trying to turn over a new leaf and give us something that makes the black community better and not worse.

The problem for BET, similar to the uncle who suddenly decides to be a father, is the lack of trust.  The network has abused our brains with the kind of garbage that could serve as a How-to Guide for the Willie Lynch syndrome and produced its content with almost no degree of corporate accountability.  I even remember watching the rapper Wiz Khalifa perform a song (“On my Level”) where he bragged to an audience full of teenagers about “being sloppy drunk looking for the keys to my car.”  Most of us turned off BET years ago and can’t even find it on our cable guide.  Like the ex-girlfriend who slept with your best friend and stole your money, most of us feel that we escaped from the BET psychological plantation and can’t quite stomach the idea of coming back.

But TJ’s show seemed different and special.  Holmes took his powerful brand away from the lilly white safe havens of CNN and brought it back to his community.  Many of us hearing about the amazing guests and quality conversations on the show were saying, “I think I’m going to take a look.”  The trust was coming back, and people were ready to take notice.

But before you could say the words, “I heart coonery,” BET cut TJ’s show back from five half-hour days a week to just one day per week (extending the show to one hour), simultaneously attempting to argue that the change means that they are giving TJ more time on the air instead of less.  Sorry BET, but most of us know that five and a half hours per week is more than one.  This is something we learned when we chose to pick up a math book instead of watching 106 & Park

So, BET allows for a show that significantly changes the direction of the network, the host does a great job, the show has solid ratings in spite of mediocre lead-ins and they kill it in just a month?  The problem here is that the network should have at least given TJ three months on his original schedule to build an audience for the show instead of expecting him to overcome thirty years of misdirection in just a month.  If I didn’t know any better, I’d think that this show was actually set up for failure.

I respect BET President Debra Lee, but I have to be honest.   Rather than assuming responsibility for taking the show off the air, the network heads will likely lay the blame into the hands of black people themselves.  I can hear Debra saying, “See, we tried to offer you negroes something positive, but you refused to watch it.”  Such a statement would be made without regard to the fact that most of the quality audience left BET a long time ago, and it’s going to take some time and money to get them back.  But an exceedingly materialistic corporate model hell bent against the idea of delayed gratification is likely not going to make the kind of investment necessary to clean up a mess that began back when Michael Jackson was still a young sex symbol.

Sorry Debra, but you and I both know that you can’t blame black people for this one.  You never gave this show a chance, you never gave it adequate marketing and you never gave TJ the support that your network would gladly give to a baby killing gangster like Lil Wayne. You can’t feed a child cookies and grease every day for 20 years and then expect him to lose weight with one day of exercise.   Similarly, you can’t build a multi-billion dollar network on a perpetual dose of psychological poison and then expect your audience to suddenly become enlightened.

TJ Holmes is good for BET, and I hope that Debra Lee understands that.  But if the lives of Martin Luther King, Gandhi and even Jesus show us, you are usually going to be crucified for trying to do the right thing.  Anyone trying to save BET might just be wasting their time, for almost none of its leaders has the courage to push for something different.  In order to make progress, you must be willing to embrace the struggle necessary in order to move forward.  If you say you want something better, but aren’t fully prepared to make that investment, then your actions have told us everything we need to know.

Dr. Boyce Watkins is a Finance Professor at Syracuse University and author of the book, “Black American Money.” To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.

82 Responses to Dr. Boyce: BET, When It Comes to TJ Holmes, Either Grow Up or Give Up

  1. Keeon

    July 24, 2013 at 6:19 am

    I love watching TJ Holmes and he will be perfect candidate for a show on msNBC because of his substance, but BET is not for him. It’s never been a black-owned corporation, and they never think of the positives of the black community. They want to sell garbage, debauchery, and coonery on their network. They are too busying falling in love with their blackface lackeys (Lil’ Wayne, Soulja Boy, Chris Brown) to even put some enlightening substance shows and news shows on their network. Young black America needs to wake up because these people have aspirations for money and hookers. BET is one of those networks that culturally bankrupted young Black America.

  2. cheche

    November 19, 2012 at 10:13 am

    I love his show but it comes on at 11p and that is a tad late so I DRV it but other than that it is refreshing to watch programs that are insightful and uplifting. I’m tired of the same old movies over and over again!

  3. Al Jonson

    November 17, 2012 at 6:08 pm

    Willie Lynch alive and real.

  4. Osiris

    November 17, 2012 at 1:57 am

    Good article brother Boyce

    Speak the truth to power.
    Time for a tv show Boyce

    I know it flies in the face of what was just revealed in your article but why about t v one

    Or radical public television ..lol

    Just jokIng

    Good read

  5. Osiris

    November 17, 2012 at 1:57 am

    Good article brother Boyce

    Speak the truth to power.
    Time for a tv show Boyce

    I know it flies in the face of what was just revealed in your article but why about t v one

    Or radical public television ..lol

    Just jokIng

    Good read

  6. Herman Hawkins Jr.

    November 17, 2012 at 1:04 am

    BET stands for one of two things:1. Black Emasculatory Trash 2. Black Entertainment Terrorism, as Todd McGruder creator of “The Boondocks” calls it in his cartoon. Either or take your pick.

  7. sullyharth

    November 16, 2012 at 11:08 pm

    My remarks for BET that I left on their “Contact Form” on their website:

    (“All I want you all to do, or whomever is in charge or reading emails, or whomever responds to anything related to emails or whatever of this nature related to BET, to check out some of the comments on Dr. Boyce Watkin’s, “Your Black World” website, mainly take note and read those two particular comments that are posted by the commentator, “SullyHarth,” whom happens to be myself. And if you would, can we, as T.J. Holmes’s fans and supporters, get an explanation? Here are the direct links to Dr. Boyce Watkins’s website where you can view and read the comments pertaining to T.J.’s show. Because to be perfectly honest, I am outraged about the sudden conversion that has taken place regarding his show I am positively certain that there are others that are outraged as well:
    1.) http://www.yourblackworld.net/2012/11/black-news/dr-boyce-bet-its-time-to-grow-up-or-give-it-up-please-make-a-choice/#comment-173851

    another direct link:

    2.)
    http://www.yourblackworld.net/2012/11/black-news/t-j-holmes-bet-show-moving-up-or-moving-out/#comment-170179

    Be sure to forward those links to T.J. so that he can see that he has fans that truly supports him and his show and simply loves what he does. Moreover, kindly send any updates, remarks, comments, etc. relative to his show and of T.J.

    Thank you
    From A True Fan & Supporter of “Don’t Sleep” & Of T.J.)

    I aint playing about this and am seriously upset and outraged over the conversion of his show. I am awaiting their response though. They say, after you leave your comment or suggestion on their “contact form,” that they can’t get back to all emails, but they will try their best to. Rest to sure that I will be anticipating some reply. I mean my thing is this, is there a problem or is it too much like right that an educated black man, regardless of what the concept of his show is whether it’s educated or targeting a specific race or something purely extraordinary, have his own show, four or five days a week for one hour?

  8. sullyharth

    November 16, 2012 at 10:33 pm

    @SayWhat…’preciate that BET contact info. im on it, BEST BELIEVE, right now.

  9. Say What

    November 16, 2012 at 8:30 pm

    To Whom It May Concern: If you really want to show your support for TJ Holmes, BET needs to hear from you directly. Here’s BET’s direct link:

    http://www.bet.com/contact-us.html

    call, or write

    BET Networks
    1235 W Street, NE
    Washington, D.C. 20018-1211
    202-608-2000

    BET Interactive
    General Inquiries
    1235 W Street, NE
    Washington, D.C. 20018-1211
    202-608-2000 or 212-258-1000

    Concerning this matter — Do something. Say something (to BET), or (refer to DL Hughley’s latest book title.)

  10. DEBBIE

    November 16, 2012 at 6:41 pm

    I loved TJ HOLMES on CNN. He left a respectful job to report about his people/roots! It is sad that BET is not really a BLACK forum that VIACOM wants to express. Debbie needs to get with the REAL PROGRAM. BLACK ENTERTAINMENT TELEVISION. I DON’T THINK SO!!T J HOLMES SHOULD HAVE BEEN A HOUR SHOW IN THE BEGINNING. WHAT CAN HE REALLY DISCUSS IN ONE HALF HOUR.

  11. DEBBIE

    November 16, 2012 at 6:32 pm

    I very seldom agree with the doctor, but i totally agree with his arguments. TJ HOLMES show , I find very informative ,but one half of an hour is not enough time for the guest to reaLY ARGUE THEIR POINT. I LOVE TJ HOlMES’ SHOW AND ONE WEEK DEBRA IS BULL—T!!!

  12. sullyharth

    November 16, 2012 at 5:15 pm

    one other thing, i am highly tee’ed off by the fact that they have reduced him down to one day a week for one hour. that aint even right, and im almost certain it wasn’t even T.J.s choice and he didn’t even have a say in it. revert this positive brother back to four days a week and convert all of his day that he is on air to that hour, because he brings some significance most definitely at night time that needs to be addressed in the black community. get it together, BET; i can stress that enough. GET IT TOGETHER! (and i surely hope someone from that network, like back-end staff members, like seriously, read these comments on, take heed to ‘em, mainly take heed to what I’ve posted, and do my boy, T.J. right because this is indescribably ridiculous that y’all have done him like this.) can we, as his fans and supporters get an explanation on why he’s been reduced to only one day a week? I wanna know wholeheartedly.

  13. sullyharth

    November 16, 2012 at 5:07 pm

    i thought i was just the only one who had those lingering thoughts about that network(referencing from another commentator’s post from another article related to my boy, T.J.);the “when I think of B.E.T. i think of 106 & Park” bit, that aint EVEN good by far, and i stopped watching that network when they got rid of Big Tigger and Julissa, and y’all know how long that’s been, because they were the best damn host (to me) that they had due to them being so down-to-earth and cool and weren’t stuck-up, weren’t self-centered and didn’t think it was all about them just because they had a hosting gig on television, unlike their successors, primarily their current successors, who i cannot stand to even lay eyes on or the sight of due to their uppity, bitchified attitude, who are hosting presently. smh at them reducing my boy down to one day a week though. get it together 4real, B.E.T.! T.J. is one of the few positive black bruthas out there that is only trying to bring awareness to us, as a black people, on specific issues that needs to be addressed, and in most situation and with a prayer, rectified. smh at y’all like on a serious tip, B.E.T. and for Christ’s sake, can y’all, as a supposedly black entertaining network, stop playing over and over and over the same movies, like there aren’t any other new movies out there? if y’all need some references, hell, go to netflix or a source of that nature, scroll through their 1000s upon 1000s of movies, choose and air them, my gosh, man. like seriously, get it together in all aspects.

  14. Joseph K Gordon

    November 16, 2012 at 4:54 pm

    TJ HOLMES is the REAL DEAL! I am so glad the network decided to let the show go for a hour as oppose to the half hour it once was. Its because of TJ I watch BET and it porgramming.

  15. Say What

    November 16, 2012 at 3:04 pm

    Dr. Boyce, now that you’ve stoked the fire, what’s next? You stated, “In order to make progress, you must be willing to embrace the struggle necessary in order to move forward. If you say you want something better, but aren’t fully prepared to make that investment, then your actions have told us everything we need to know.” That’s good talk, Dr. Boyce. So, what about the walk? We can’t continue to complain without making an effort to take action for change. Where’s the petition? Your blog is a great vehicle to mobilize change. Use it.

  16. Opal

    November 16, 2012 at 1:13 pm

    Ditto for me Janice Edwards.

  17. black jones

    November 16, 2012 at 10:23 am

    THIS SHOW NEEDS A LITTLE HEALTHY “FIRE” PEACE!!!

  18. karen

    November 16, 2012 at 10:00 am

    Finally an article worth reading and thinking about, now let’s stop complaining like always and do something about it. How about turning to another channel…….

  19. Michael Adams

    November 16, 2012 at 9:50 am

    BET is not the only media outlet thats pushing garbage through the ears and eyes to the brains of our people – essentially programing them to be dominated as a subculture (negative at that) for generations to come. We get awarded in the entertainment industry for disgusting character traits, ignorant music, Step and Fetch it type political agendas – virtually a deracinated type life. Have you listened to any black radio stations, watched the Grammys, gone to the movies etc… Every super Hero blockbuster film I’ve seen has shown a healthy male female relationship of white men as Gods that take white women higher in their quest for a mate – so you can imagine what their offspring would be like. Our first black male super hero was an alcoholic formerly married to a white woman Goddess – married to an average white male who is controlling the image of the black super hero bachelor – you know which film I’m talking about – Greatness in the making Huh.

  20. BARBBF

    November 16, 2012 at 9:48 am

    BET has not been a Black owned company for many years. Many say the programming has disintegrated since the sale in 2000. I very rarely watch it now. I had hope that the new “Don’t Sleep” program would be more than just a 30 minute commercial for the re-election of Obama. The host was particularly insulting and down right rude to Republican and conservative guest who did not love Obama. Maybe that changed. I gave up watching after 4 shows.

    http://www.freedomforum.org/templates/document.asp?documentID=3526

    Black-owned media giant BET sold to Viacom

    By The Associated Press,Freedom Forum Online staff

    11.03.00

    Printer-friendly page
    Debra Lee, president and chief operating officer of Black Entertainment Television, presents Lifetime Achievement Award to Luther Vandross during taping of “BET’s 6th Annual Walk of Fame: A Tribute to Luther Vandross” Oct. 14 in Washington. The show aired Oct. 24.

    NEW YORK — Black Entertainment Television, the nation’s biggest cable channel aimed mainly at African-Americans, will be sold to Viacom Inc., the media powerhouse that owns CBS, UPN and the MTV and Nickelodeon cable TV channels, under a deal announced today.

    Viacom is paying about $2.3 billion in stock for the privately held BET Holdings II Inc. and will assume $570 million in debt, according to the announcement.

    The sale would unite BET cable, which features music videos for much of its programming, with Viacom’s MTV, VH1 and Country Music channels, creating opportunities for cross-promotion and joint advertising sales.

    It would also unite the dominant black-oriented cable television channel in the U.S. with Viacom’s Showtime pay-TV channel, which produces made-for-TV movies about black history, and the UPN over-the-air television network, which has been successful with black-oriented comedies. Those shows, including “Moesha” and “The Hughleys,” are more popular than “Friends” and “Frasier” among African-Americans.

    The sale would result in the disappearance of the second-largest black-owned media company. BET Holdings ranked sixth in the latest rankings by Black Enterprise magazine of the all black-owned industrial and service companies in the U.S., with an estimated $225 million in revenue in 1999. Only Chicago-based Johnson Publications was larger, with $386 million revenue last year.

    Robert L. Johnson, the founder of Black Entertainment Television and majority owner of BET Holdings, will remain as chairman and chief executive of the operation after the deal, as will Debra Lee, BET’s president and chief operating officer.

    “It is a great day for Bob Johnson, but it is a significant loss for African-American ownership,” said Cathy Hughes, who founded the largest black-owned radio group, Radio One, in an interview with The Washington Post. “It changes the identity and changes the perspective.”

  21. Deloris

    November 16, 2012 at 9:39 am

    I have not watched BET in years. Do not know where to find it. But do not miss it because it is a waste of my time.