Monday, September 17, 2007

BET Sucks and Enough Is Enough! Protest: Revisited

My post last week criticizing the validity of the protests at the home of BET CEO Debra Lee by DC group "Enough Is Enough!" got me lots, and I mean lots, of hate mail. Apparently lots of people think it's better to flood a brotha's inbox with greasy talk than constructively share their feedback in the comments section like reasonable and rational people do. But of course, I digress.

The protest did go off, without hitch this weekend. Thankfully, Lee (as I predicted, you know I got ESPN) wasn't home, and her neighbors didn't get antsy enough to call One Time.

More than 500 people demonstrated peacefully outside the Northwest Washington home of Debra Lee, Black Entertainment Television's chief executive, yesterday afternoon, demanding that the network stop airing what they call demeaning and offensive portrayals of African Americans. Led by the Rev. Delman L. Coates of Mount Ennon Baptist Church in Clinton, members of the Enough Is Enough Campaign said they will return every weekend until Lee addresses their grievances.

Lee was not home yesterday but said in a telephone interview she was disappointed that several attempts last week to arrange a meeting with the group had failed. Also, in a letter, she said BET plans to launch 16 "balanced" shows by year's end.

Several security guards blocked three gates around Lee's home in the 2800 block of McGill Terrace NW, while protesters marched and chanted for nearly two hours. Traffic on the otherwise quiet street, tucked into a stately residential area of Woodley Park, seemed largely unaffected. Police watched the protesters, who had been granted a permit, from the sidelines.

In an Aug. 23 letter to Lee, Coates requested a meeting. Lee said yesterday that she did not receive the letter until last week, after she had learned about the protest through a news release. Lee said Coates was told that if he brought the protest to BET's corporate headquarters in Northeast Washington, she would have spoken to him there. "I believe in freedom of speech, but if you really want to have an impact, the best way is to have a conversation -- not to protest in front of someone's house," Lee said. "I'm always willing to talk to our viewers."

Coates, 34, said yesterday, "Her people made a meeting conditional upon canceling the rally at her house."
As admirable as Delman Coates' idea is, it still strikes me as too little too late. Again, the real gangsters at BET ain't on New York Avenue. They're at CBS (it's no longer known as Viacom) headquarters in New York, and they don't care about anything other than ratings and ad revenue, and stock performance.

Trying to shame a corporate entity into being some socially responsible misses one huge piece of the equation: the word "corporate". CBS/Viacom is all about satisfying one audience: shareholders.

Don't believe me? Peep Viacom's Corporate Responsibility statement, ganked directly from their own website.
The Viacom Corporate Responsibility Council seeks to provide company-wide guidance and support to pro-social programs governed by our brands. While nurturing each business unit's distinctive identity, the Council collaborates on Company-wide pro-social efforts, as well as, projects at the business unit level. The Council educates employees and audiences about key pro-social issues to inspire, enlighten and ignite action in both the public arena and within our own employee family.

Our sub-committees are dedicated to the following areas:

Employee Involvement
Global Initiatives
Green Initiatives
Not a single note about teaching morals and social responsibility to your kids, promoting education over entertainment, upliftment of the black female image, or saving black music from Akon and T-Pain's vocoders. None of that. In fact, that's the entire text of the page cut and pasted right there. That's it.

Investor Relations on the other hand? Well, there's a freakin' NOVEL on that site.

Again, these folks are in the business of being in business. Period.

My entire point: "Enough is Enough!" is fighting a good fight, but it's against the wrong opponent. Sure, this might eventually result in BET scrapping (or in the case of Hot Ghetto Mess, simply renaming) one of it's more controversial shows, but in the end, videos will play, asses and tits will shake, and the show, with or without Debra Lee (who clearly chose a good weekend to go to the spa) will go on. It's called Capitali$m, folks. It's not a new concept, and it ain't stoppin' no time soon.

Here's a few solutions, just in case the fine folks at "Enough Is Enough!" can spare a few moments from flaming me with junk emails to consider some workable alternatives.

1. Organize an email campaign to convince people to cut off BET. If nobody watches the station, they have to change. Period. Viewers = Ads. Ads = Money. Simple enough.

2. Patronize the few good shows BET does air. Contrary to popular belief, there is good programming on BET. As I've told ya'll a million times, Meet The Faith more than atones for the past sins of BET UnCut. But there's probably a good reason it's stuck in an awful 11am Sunday time-slot. Just like Tavis Smiley, Ed Gordon, BET News, and Heart & Soul, BET's actual quality shows fail because people spend more time watching 106th and Park. Ratings speak, and this just reinforces BET's aim to "give the people what they want". The people have spoken, and they wanna "Crank Dat Soulja Boy".

3. Think smaller. Organizing 500 people to come out on a beautiful Saturday to protest in front of an empty house is impressive. But organizing those same 500 people to come out on a beautiful Saturday and tutor/mentor/coach kids in their own community is even more impressive. Sometimes, we as black people miss the forest for the trees. Sure, working with kids isn't exciting, doesn't get your name in the papers, and sure as heck doesn't have an immediate return on investment, but it's going to make more of a longterm impact on actual lives than simply getting We Got To Do Better cancelled. Drive-By Activism works in the short term, because it's easy and everybody can do it. But real change takes time, sacrifice, and dedication. Learn the difference.

4. Help ME - Since I love putting in free plugs, I'll mention once more that any black men in the DC Area interested in helping our kids can join me and dozens of other brothers in the University of Maryland's MIMAUE Mentoring Program. Help is still needed.

Either way, I wish "Enough Is Enough!" the best, and despite what some people might think, I'm not in any way against what they, or any other organization is doing. I just wish their great intentions were better directed.

Channeling Their Discontent : 500 Gather at Executive's D.C. Home to Protest Stereotypes [WaPost]

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