Token Gestures and Table Scraps

Is Reverend Al ready for his close up?

From Media Bistro’s TVNewser:

Cenk Uygur was thrust onto the MSNBC schedule in January, when Keith Olbermann‘s departure set in motion several host changes on the progressive channel’s lineup.

Now TVNewser hears Uygur may be moved out of the 6pm hour, possibly to be replaced by Al Sharpton. When the host changes happened earlier this year, the 6pm hour was simply known as “MSNBC Live,” a telling sign that MSNBC was trying out Uygur.

Sharpton has hosted the 6pm show for the last two weeks. This past week, the hour was second, to Fox News, in A25-54 viewers Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

IF true, that’s great for Rev. Al.  Cornel West won’t be as happy for the “dear brother,” but even if I’m not a Sharpton supporter it’ is a step in the right direction to get some color on the television.  A good start is ALL it would be though.

This would still be just another non-journalist media “celebrity” receiving a TV show based upon their name recognition instead of their years of experience, training, ability and talent.   Hooray for popularity but for a veteran and seasoned Black journalist who deserves a shot at a show, they still have to go begging.

But this is what happens when we always go begging to the White man with our empty bowl and say, “Please throw us a crumb.”   If Al Sharpton gets a show at 6:00 pm, that’s cool, but it’s NOT primetime where Blacks and Asians and Hispanics are invisible on ALL the cable news channels unless they’re guest analysts trotted out to be the “Black authority” on a race-based issue.

Television executives have learned how to brush aside complaints their programming lacks diversity.  They find a Black personality willing to play ball with them, stick them outside of the prime time peak viewing hours and the minority pressure groups go away temporarily satisfied with the token representation.

Why not sweat the HNIC’s at TV One and BET to step their game up and switch out yet another “Fresh Prince” rerun for something like ONE news program during weekdays?   Why do they always get a pass when we have these debates about the lack of Black representation on cable?

I’m tired of the strategy of the National Association of Black Journalists and other pressure groups dogging out the execs at Fox, CNN and MSNBC saying’  “Please, baby, baby,  Please” but for Alfred Liggins and Debra Lee we won’t say shit even if we have a mouthful of the televised dung TV1 and BET programs.  What about Oprah Winfrey who has an entire network named after her?  What is there on the Oprah Winfrey Network that reflects Black life (and no, a talk show for Oprah’s gal pal, Gayle King does not count).

Once upon a time BET did have news programming such as BET News with Ed Gordon, BET Tonight with Tavis Smiley and BET Nightly News with Michelle Miller and Jacque Reed.  BET dropped most of its news and public affairs programming in 2000 and BET Nightly News in 2005. Viacom purchased BET in 2003.

With Viacom’s money behind BET there is no question the dollars exist for some news and public affairs programming, but where is the will for it?  It’s one thing to talk about the hot mess the BET Awards are, but its something else to remain strangely quiet about the lack of news on BET, TV One (with the notable exception of Mr. Roland Martin’s Washington Watch program) and the most powerful woman in the media, Oprah Winfrey and the OWN Network.

Meeting with the head of CNN to ask he consider giving an African-American some consideration for a program is cool.  But why should Black executives get a pass from the same scrutiny NABJ submits White executives to?

It’s cowardly to demand White men like CNN President Jim Walton do a better job of representing African-Americans while ignoring the Black folks like Liggins, Lee and Winfrey  who barely even acknowledge they exist.    The days when Blacks were supposed to feel a sense of pride when we got “one of our own” in a place where there were no Blacks at all has passed.  If accountability means anything at all, it applies to out-of-touch Black executives as well as White ones.

At what point do we demand the so-called “Black” cable channels provide more than music videos, award shows and bad reality TV instead of always pleading to the White man for a few hours of face time?   It’s past time we start building up our own networks and news channels to give us something more than the same safe, brain-numbing, unambitious crap.

The Al Sharpton Show would be great if it happens— for Al Sharpton.  For everybody else it changes nothing much at all.   Token gestures and table scraps are not enough and never were.   A real and systemic  adjustment needs to made in how  a job ALL the television networks represent Black people.  That won’t change until change is demanded by those who make the decisions whose stories are told and whose are ignored.
If you never ask the question the answer is always “no.”  I’m not asking BET, TV One or OWN to take on CBS, CNN or Fox.  I’m just thinking it’s not too presumptuous to ask for something more enlightening than another 30-year-old rerun of “The Flip Wilson Show.”

Oprah's network represents White women, not Black people.

Bangin’ on BET (Butts Every Time)

BET (Butts Every Time)  has been in the Hall of Shame of Suck for so long now that it’s not even worth bangin’ on them anymore.

But they’re such a big, fat target I can’t pass up a chance to do it one mo’ time.

Fortunately I was at work the other night when the  BET Awards show was on so I missed out on how horrible it was.   Strictly amateur night, but what would anyone expect from a network with a budget of $100 and a coupon for a bucket of extra crispy Kentucky Fried Chicken?

I’m all for supporting Black businesses, but I’m not supporting anyone or anybody that serves up garbage, the worst of stereotypes and just general buffoons and coons as entertainment.   When BET was just a shuck and jive piece of crap owned by Bob “Bobcat” Johnson, I could just hate on it for him being too cheap to invest in decent programming.   But BET is part of the Viacom empire and if anything it sucks even harder than it did when it was Black-owned.

When Bob Johnson launched his feces factory of a network his formula was to program a lot of videos because they were cheap and canceled television shows like Benson because they were almost as cheap.   BET soon became the place to go to see ugly, mush-mouthed rappers wearing chains big enough to tow trucks pouring “champagne” in slow motion over some video ho’s ass.    Every now and then they might mix in a news show or some public affairs program like the critically acclaimed “Teen Summit,” but Johnson’s heart and soul was always in the gyrating butts and bump n’ grind of bad rap videos.

Activist, writer and unsuccessful Congressional candidate Kevin Powell told the New York Times in 2006,  “I’m on the college circuit a hundred times a year, and people always ask me what is wrong with BET. We have to stop participating in the one-dimensional portrayals of ourselves. And BET as the premier television network for black people has to take the lead on that.”

There were some vague hopes when Johnson took his billion dollars from Viacom and shuffled off to show he knew as little about putting together a good NBA franchise (Charlotte BOBcats) as he did programming a television network, his right-hand woman, Debra Lee might be an improvement.

Meet the new jigaboo.  Same as the old jigaboo.

Meet the new jigaboo. Same as the old jigaboo.

That was three years ago.  Ain’t a damn thing changed.   Except that BET  became even more unwatchable.

The line-up for Tuesday, June 30, 2009  features such fine television as the following:

  • Two hours of Smart Guy, a sitcom starring Tahj Mowry that ran two seasons and was cancelled ten years ago.
  • Two hours of The Game, a sitcom starring Tia Mowry Hardict, Taj’s sister.   The show was canceled by the CW network and BET picked it up.
  • An hour of Judge Hatchett, a reality “law” show.  One episode is entitled, “Your Orgy Party Made a Mess of My Home.”
  • The BlackBuster Movie:  Beauty Shop.   Miss it at 8:00 pm and you can catch it again at 11:30 pm.
  • 106th and Park.   A video clip show.  I say “clips” because even though the show is 90 minuts long you don’t expect them to show complete videos do you?   The show also features the singer Ashanti to talk about her Broadway show, “The Wiz.”   Immediately followed by…
  • Access Granted:   “Tune in for a BET all-access behind the scenes look at Ashanti and her role as Dorothy in the Broadway musical, “The Wiz.”

The rest of the day’s programming consists of lousy reality shows,  another Black-themed flick,  and two hours of religious programs from 4:00 to 6:00 in the morning.

That’s all you get from BET.  No news.  No sports.  No public affairs.  No health, business, politics or lifestyle programs.    Just 24 hours of  the same old numb, dumb bullshit EVERY DAMN DAY.    Wash.  Rinse. Repeat.  Just how raggedy do you have to be in 2009 when there’s a Black president not to offer one minute of news or politics?

I got a reality show for Debra Lee’s tired ass.  Hey D.L.  check this out:

What do you think my chances of getting “Big Pimpin’ with Barack” on BET?

Another mind warped by watching BET.