For decades, BET (Black Entertainment Television) has been the main source for young African-American targeted programming. But today, there seems to be a slow-creep towards a turn-around. BET-Jazz was the initial spin-off of BET in 1996, and with its new outlook and name, Centric TV serves as a variety channel, targeting the elder audience of the past BET generation. But the hottest sensations on the horizon is the recent newcomers in the past ten years of Cathy Hughes’ TV One, Oprah Winfrey’s OWN, Martin Luther King III’s Bounce TV and the projected projects of Kin TV, Black Heritage Network, and now, Diddy’s REVOLT.
The most important aspect of them all, is that they’re offering a variety of programming. Most of which fulfills what many African-Americans and other viewers have felt an absence of since the dramatic BET changes in 2005. These included the cuts of Comic View, Video Soul, Teen Summit, Rap City: Tha Basement and BET Nightly News to name a few.
TV One, for instance, has two new programmings that have hit major with its audience. These include “Unsung” and “Find Our Missing”. “Unsung,” a music documentary television show, highlights the greats of soul, contemporary r&b, and hip hop mostly from the 1950s to 1980s. And “Find Our Missing” focuses on missing African-Americans who are rarely covered in local and international news.
Oprah Winfrey’s OWN network is starting to kick up speed as well, after initially lacking in ratings following the disassembling of her popular daytime talk show. Just recently, OWN has taken the step to “target” larger African-American audiences after its successful reality show “Welcome to Sweetie Pie’s”. Keeping in diversity with “The Rosie Show”, “Our America With Lisa Ling”, and Suze Orman’s “America’s Money Class”, the network is also picking up with “Oprah’s Life Class”. With great programming, the issue is faced in finding the perfect target audience to keep the momentum afloat.
Bounce TV, which launched this past September, currently showcases everything from”HBCU Basketball” to “Judge Hatchett”, “Speed Dating”, and “Teen Kids News”. Black Heritage Network (BHN) is slated to launch some time this year, with anticipated programming dedicated to original programming detailing historical archives of athletes, leaders, and influences from all walks of life. And Kin TV is slated to be the next best mix of lifestyle, drama, comedy, mystery and local news.
Meanwhile, Sean ‘Diddy’ Comb’s REVOLT network has peaked an interest in many because of the decline in actual music television programming. Other than BET’s famed “106 & Park,” other music shows such as MTV2’s hip-hop programming and Vh1’s early morning Pop-Up Video, a variety of videos are hard to find at any given time of the day. In fact, videos have been taken off of Music Television’s (MTV) programming entirely, and reality television and scripted works have taken precedent on BET, MTV, and Vh1 alike.
Soon, no one will have a reason (other than monetary) to complain about a lack of available (and dignifying) Black programming on television. Even if African-Americans continue to be overlooked on the long-standing traditional channels, the first step in changing the rules is creating your own. Pave the way for yourselves, and support the leaders in front of you, if they’re properly guiding the way.
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BETBlack Heritage NetworkBounce TVCathy HughesCentric TVDiddyKin TVMartin Luther King IIIMTVOprah WinfreyOWNSean Combs