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BET Co-Founder Sheila Johnson Goes Off On The Network...Again

by Sergio
October 14, 2012 1:19 PM
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Shiela Johnson

She's done it before and now she's done it again. That is, BET co-founder Sheila Johnson criticizing the very network that she created with her former husband, Bob Johnson.

Personally, I think it's an act of atonement, perhaps for those sleepless nights she's been having for worryng about what sort of evil she unleashed in the world. Then again that's just me.

Her criticisms this time came this weekend, when she was a speaker at the "Conversations and Encounters" program at the Carmel Art and Film Festival in Monterey County California.

Ms. Johnson talked about her early life and achivements and said that her proudest accomplishment at BET was the creation of Teen Summit , which ran on the network from 1989 to 2002.

About the show, she said that: "All those young people on the show became so successful because they had a voice. And we were talking about issues out there and they became leaders in life".

However, she's not too thrilled with the network now, which she said "reinforces negative stereotypes of young people, African-Americans in particular."

She went on saying that: "I think we squandered a really important cable network, when it really could have been the voice of Black America. We're losing our voice as a race as a result."

And she went on: "I'm really worried about what our young people are watching. There are so many young people who are using the television as a babysitter. We have parents who are not being parents and not monitoring what their children are watching".

O.K., all well and good; and granted, haven't we all heard that before? But considering who said it, do you think she's being just a tad hypocritical?

h/t to Candace Allen

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  • Fallon | November 17, 2012 10:53 PMReply

    no she's not being "hypocritical", she's speaking the truth! and if you had any sense you would know that. sheila johnson is right, parents are not being parents to their children. it's like they don't care what their child does or what they watch or what they listen to. they expect society to be a role model for their children because they are too lazy to be real parents. and BET is not the same as it used to be. it's total garbage now. but then again everything you see on TV is garbage.

  • starry118 | October 21, 2012 5:22 PMReply

    Also, I'm glad she's acknowledging how the programming reinforces negative stereotypes of young people, African-Americans in particular," and that she and her husband "squandered a really important cable network ,when it really could have been the voice of Black America," but what will she now do to change that? She's got the money, connections, and resources to help change that narrative, right? Will she put her money where her mouth is, and contribute to us finding our voice or is all her talk just rhetoric?

  • starry118 | October 21, 2012 5:14 PMReply

    BET was never balanced, sharp & smart in its overall programming. However, they did feature several positive, informative shows w/intelligent hosts. I was disappointed with the overall quality and content of programming at BET even while growing up.

  • LeonRaymond | October 17, 2012 11:24 AMReply

    She is 100% correct, way way way back in the day BET was exciting and smart and sharp and then the greed set in and then the sell out started and then the entire scope of the network changed, the show back then was diverse, you watched and it showed a diverse sampling of all people of color and programming to match and then the bottom fell out and gangster rap took the channel hostage cause Bob saw dollars signs while rolling millions of interested viewers with a healthy IQ under a huge bus tire. The word NIGGER was used over 27 thousand times on the network and that channel gave birth to Snooki and all those other horrors we call reality TV. They had a chance to be leaders in the industry and be shinning examples of good TV but they led alright, they led everyone into the wrong direction. People get hooked and young folks got hooked to what was so wrong. They dominated in peer pressure cause they sold bad images and made college kids and the youth think this is good and we accept it. NO!!! big mistake. Yeah BET didn't light the fire but they sure did bring an awful lot of fire wood to it!!

  • Ava | October 16, 2012 12:44 PMReply

    Boy this would've been a powerful critique...20 years ago!

    For me, personally I've not watched that channel in years and that was before I cut the cord! There is nothing on BET for me.

  • Lean6 | October 15, 2012 7:03 PMReply

    BET is forever a blocked channel in my house. Now, if we could get that ignant Tyler Perry crap off of TBS, we'll be going somewhere.

  • aliciafiasco | October 15, 2012 1:20 PMReply

    It's pretty obvious if you paid attention to the programming from the beginning of BET to what it is now, Sheila Johnson's absence is strikingly evident. It sounds like the writer is pretty uninformed about the regression that BET has gone through. She is absolutely right in her criticism of the network. It went from being a well-balanced platform to being the bane of African American media representation. Sounds like someone didn't do their research on this piece. Sheila was obviously an advocate for positive programming on BET. I mean, to call her a hypocrite when she's responsible for all the things that made the network good is pretty ignorant.

  • Donella | October 15, 2012 1:17 PMReply

    I look at that bling on her wrist, her finger, and around her neck that the booty-shaking of countless young Black women bought her and think... shut it Sheila!

  • Blackman | October 15, 2012 12:14 AMReply

    Boy, this writer is either IGNORANT or woefully misinformed about the things he choose to write about. BET was a SHINING GEM in the 80's. Like any CAPITALIST Bob Johnson is the EGOTIST you want to shoot your hatred and nasty looks. Then again, he is NO DIFFERENT than all the other entreprenueral capitalist. Search all those companies that WAS FORCED to sell out or get RAN OUT of business.

    Gosh you kinda stupid to me. on the real. Even your movie choices I find suspect. And the ones you denigrate, I kinda like.

    Therefore your words DON'T MATTER.

    I like the pictures though.

  • sergio | October 15, 2012 12:23 AM

    Oooooooh You really showed me. I'll never write and piece again. You have destroyed me forever. There's nothing left for me than to kill myself

  • CareyCarey | October 14, 2012 9:24 PMReply

    "sleepless nights she's been having for worrying about what sort of evil she unleashed in the world". Please Sergio, don't ttttt-take this aaaaaa-ass whooping ppp-personally but that implication was a dirty hollow bag of bones designed to buffalo the less-informed. And I am glad it failed to sway the more analytical and open-minded readers, such as QLF and OBSERVER. They stayed with the facts. That right, Sheila [did-always] object to the content and the direction of the network that her husband shepherded. Also, like Oprah, Sheila Johnson has contributed millions of her dollars and her time to causes that assist African Americans. Many of which few even dared to attack or even mention. And the facts are when she was an active part of BET, the programming was "better". Video Soul, with Donnie Simpson and Sherri Carter was a "positive" black image. Heck, Teen Summit ran for THIRTEEN YEARS! So Sergio, drop the hate banner. As Samuel Jackson would say "Wake The F*ck UP" y'all. The current plight of blacks in America is not Sheila Johnson's nor BET's fault. And truth be told, if one cares to look with an open mind, they've both done great things for the black community.

  • QLF | October 14, 2012 7:29 PMReply

    BET started as a small cable access network created and run by Bob Johnson. Sheila was a Piano teacher when the two married. She would later assist her husband in launching the cable network nationally. The network began as a news and entertainment portal for African Americans. At that time MTV had the lock on most music videos.

    Sheila was indeed personally responsible for Teen Summit and many of the other positive programs on BET. BET was not doing well as a cable network in the early 90's and Mr. Johnson bet on edgier programming to bring in the numbers by focusing primarily on Black music videos, many which glorified sexism, violence, and ignorance (not much has changed). Sheila objected to the content and the direction of the network that her husband shepherded. His belief was that this is a business and the bottom line for him was money. He believed it was only his duty to entertain not educate and he needed to grow his viewership, especially the younger audience. Bob was the majority owner of the network, not Sheila, and his say was the final say. She could have only objected to a point resulting in Sheila being fired by him. Bob sold (out) the only Black TV Network to Viacom for billions of dollars.

    The continued decline of BET, at its worst, was bankrolled by Viacom. Sheila divorced him and received her half.

    She has since been a major supporter of The Black AIDS Institute. She produced a brilliant documentary about AIDS in Washington, D.C. called The Other City which premiered on Showtime. This woman contributes to more philanthropic causes that assist African Americans than probably anyone making these ill informed comments about her on this page. We do more damage sitting behind our computer screens talking trash about one another while simultaneously doing NOTHING to help anyone.


  • Winston | October 15, 2012 12:54 PM

    "We do more damage sitting behind our computer screens talking trash about one another while simultaneously doing NOTHING to help anyone."-- @QLF . . . STFU. "WE" shouldn't have to do anything about the wrong's "THEY" are committing. "THEY" should listen to the complaints and change on their own. Why excuse their responsibility in the matter? You must be one of the Johnson kids.

  • IyaToyin | October 15, 2012 11:33 AM

    "We do more damage sitting behind our computer screens talking trash about one another while simultaneously doing NOTHING to help anyone." Lord, never a truer word has been spoken.

  • Anton | October 14, 2012 9:30 PM

    Agreed! Great comment, QLF!

  • reece | October 14, 2012 9:28 PM

    thank you for this! Brilliantly stated.

  • Ghost | October 14, 2012 7:14 PMReply

    She needs to worry about running her horrible basketball team that makes the Clippers look good. If she is so concerned about it-go get with Oprah & Tyler and get some shows on OWN. Create a studio (better than her husband's studio that gave us Whose Your Caddy) and fund new black shows that can follow Tyler's approach like we saw with House of Payne. Do the shows and sell them to a network. Stop ripping and start doing.

  • Vann Digital Networks | October 14, 2012 6:57 PMReply

    far as Sheila Johnson comments go, we done been down that road so i aint gon comment on it. as for BET itself, still aint gon argue with the fact it was a better network when her & her ex-husband was there. as for somebody that done said something about 106 & Park, having Bow Wow as a host just shows how thirsty Viacom done got for dollars pretty much.

  • Vann Digital Networks | October 15, 2012 12:00 AM

    Viacom thirsty for making the decision of putting Bow Wow on there thinking its gon put money in they bank accounts. Bow Wow thirsty for thinking he can relive his childhood (could be looking at it wrong) days by being 1 the hosts on there. you got a point tho, least Romeo got a fallback option if he ever figure out his time done been up far as music go. Bow Wow & YMCMB??? dont even get me started smh

  • Ghost | October 14, 2012 7:17 PM

    Is BET thirty or Bow Wow? The poor boy has tried everything to get attention and failed. He should have went to college like Romeo. Instead of wasting time with Cash Money who doesn't care for him.

  • ALM | October 14, 2012 5:42 PMReply

    This gets a HUGE CHILD PLEASE. The network was worse when she & her ex ran it, with the exception of: "Teen Summit", "Video Soul", "Midnight Love", "Planet Groove", "Lift Every Voice" and the one show they had with Dr. Ro and the fitness lady. Notice that 80% of the shows that I mentioned were music video shows that required no effort/work on Johnson or her ex-husband's part. Her comments are worthless. She has made her billion dollars. If she feels so guilty, why doesn't she donate her BET profits to charity? This reminds me of singers who release "secular" music, and then decide to sing gospel music only. Are they going to donate all of their past, current, and future royalties to charity? I doubt it.

  • Joia | October 14, 2012 5:30 PMReply

    Sheila Johnson is as hypocritical as they come. She's made her billion,
    and since leaving BET, what has she done to give back to the black community
    that made her rich? She gives millions to non-black causes since leaving BET,
    but like most nouveau riche blacks, have no interest in partnering, supporting
    or helping to enable the disenfranchised black community on any level other
    than making money off of them. She's looking for cheap publicity, that's about it.

  • Eric | October 14, 2012 5:24 PMReply

    I know this isn't saying much... but, let's see what happens next. Personally, I had no idea she felt that way. Hopefully she can walk the walk... Let's face it, BET has been apart of our lives whether we want to claim it or not. The world associate's BET with a human race... oh!!! But wait.. I know I just didn't come up with this.. #positive influences a must... Come on Ms. Johnson, Its never too late to change. But then again, You usually speak up around election season... So,,, kids, teens,,,, YOU HAVE TO MAKE IT HAPPEN. NO MATTER WHAT YOU MAY THINK OF LIFE NOW... AT SOME POINT YOUR GOING TO HAVE TO STEP BACK AND TAKE A LOOK AT YOURSELF... Either you will be happy, or you may spend the rest of your life crying. GET YOUR MONEY, START YOUR FAMILY, MAKE YOURSELF HAPPY, LIVE FOR Y-O-U! period dot

  • AccidentalVisitor | October 14, 2012 5:03 PMReply

    Lost respect for her after the antics she pulled when getting that current a-hole governor of Virginia elected. And she is terrible at running the Washington Mystics. But who can argue against her in regards to the horrible-ness that is BET ?

  • Jeni | October 15, 2012 12:44 AM

    AV, I totally forgot about her nonsense with Bob McDonnell...thx for that reminder of her helping Repubs in VA, who have chipped away at women's reproductive rights and gotten the state mired in the bassackwards culture wars of the '90s again. She needs to have a billion seats for that alone, never mind her convenient memory lapse on the trash BET churned out while she was there.

  • ash | October 14, 2012 4:12 PMReply

    she is no longer apart of it so her say doesnt matter

  • jeni | October 15, 2012 12:48 AM

    I forgot to add that BET is making some improvements. It aired episodes of "Luther" and recently, Ava Duvernay's "I Will Follow," so change seems to be afoot.

  • Winston | October 14, 2012 3:38 PMReply

    Funny she would call Teen Summit her proudest accomplishment, seeing how the show routinely featured many of the same musical acts who started this culture of "musical" degredation.

  • Observer | October 14, 2012 3:35 PMReply

    Sheila Johnson is correct and her statement does not come across as hypocritical because when she was an active part of BET, the programming was great. Video Soul (a sophisticated video show, Donnie Simpson and Sherri Carter were educated / did not have the dialect and demeanor of high school drop outs) aired the whole range of black music -- not just hip hop (I learned to love Chante Moore), Screen Scene was akin to Entertainment Tonight and helmed by two black professionals, and Teen Summit informed.

    BET has most certainly improved -- particularly with the new scripted series added to the network -- content is MUCH better and more aspirational. I like Let's Stay Together and Don't Sleep with TJ Holmes. However the new hosts of 106 & Park seem to be a step backward (Shorty da Prince??? Bow Wow?? A cast that does not use proper grammar nor look the part of someone who remotely cares about education?). Again, I go back to Donnie Simpson and Sherri Carter, I was a child when watching Video Soul and seeing someone who looked 'professional' certainly does something to your psyche.

  • Erika | October 14, 2012 5:21 PM

    I absolutely agree with Observer. Sherri Carter and Donnie Simpson were professionals. They could present the latest soul, hiphop, r&b with grace and aplomb. They had a very positive impact on me as a kid. I feel in love with all flavors of black music through Video Soul and Video Vibrations (Angelique Kidjoe, Celia Crue). It was this BET that expanded my world--made me want to see as much of it as I could. It was smart programming with informative news shows with journalists such as Ed Gordon and Tavis Smiley. It aired Black college sports and classic black cinema (Cabin in the Sky e.g.) It was a completely different animal back then.

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