Sheila Johnson, the co-founder of Black Entertainment Television alongside her ex-husband Bob Johnson, was asked by The Daily Beast blog what she thought about her groundbreaking network since selling it to Viacom for $1.3 billion.
“Don’t even get me started,” says the 60-year-old Johnson, who has since divorced and remarried (charmingly enough, to the Virginia circuit court judge who presided over her divorce). “I don’t watch it. I suggest to my kids [a twenty something daughter and a college-age son] that they don’t watch it either… I’m ashamed of it, if you want to know the truth.”
“When we started BET, it was going to be the Ebony magazine of television,” Johnson told the blog. “We had public affairs programming, we had news… I had a show called Teen Summit, we had a large variety of programming…and then something happened, and I was not liking it at all.” “Our programming was so diverse, and then it just started just becoming videos all day long.” “I remember we would actually sit up and watch these videos and decide which ones were going on, and which ones were not, but then we started getting backlash from labels & artists…so we had to start showing them all.” ” I didn’t like the images, and the way women were being portrayed in these videos, I saw the way the industry was going as a whole, and that’s when we decided it was time to move on”
Johnson says she has absolutely nothing to do with BET these day.
“I just really wish—and not just BET but a lot of television programming—that they would stop lowering the bar just to get eyes on the screen,” she says. “I know they think that’s what’s going to keep programming on the air; that’s what’s going to sell advertising, but there has got to be some responsibility.” Somebody has got to take a stand, because a lack of morality in the media is contributing to an atmosphere of free sex,violence, and an irresponsible lifestyle.”