by Dr. Boyce Watkins
Thirty years ago, with $15,000 dollars in seed money and another $500,000 in bank loans, Sheila Crump Johnson and her ex-husband, Bob Johnson founded Black Entertainment Television. Since that time, the couple has earned over $1 billion dollars from their tiny investment, and BET is a household name. They sold the company to Viacom in 2000 for $1.3 billion, making them richer than Oprah Winfrey.
Now, the 60-year old woman who founded the company with her husband says that she is ashamed of the channel:
"Don't even get me started," says Mrs. Johnson. "I don't watch it. I suggest to my kids that they don't watch it... I'm ashamed of it, if you want to know the truth."
Johnson goes on to admit that BET may be contributing to the spread of AIDS in the black community by promoting raunchy, unprotected sex in rap music videos.
"When we started BET, it was going to be the Ebony magazine on television," Johnson told The Daily Beast. "We had public affairs programming. We had news... I had a show called Teen Summit, we had a large variety of programming, but the problem is that then the video revolution started up... And then something started happening, and I didn't like it at all. And I remember during those days we would sit up and watch these videos and decide which ones were going on and which ones were not. We got a lot of backlash from recording artists...and we had to start showing them. I didn't like the way women were being portrayed in these videos."