Sheila Johnson BET Co-Founder Is Now ‘Ashamed’ Of BET


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 in 2000 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 twentysomething daughter and a college-age son] that they don’t watch it… I’m ashamed of it, if you want to know the truth.”

Johnson was being interviewed at the Tribeca Film Festival about the premiere of “The Other City,” a searing, but ultimately hopeful documentary she produced about the AIDS epidemic in Washington, D.C. — an epidemic Johnson says BET is making worse, and potentially contributing to its spread, by promoting promiscuous, unprotected sex in raunchy videos.

“When we started BET, it was going to be the Ebony magazine on 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, 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.”

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 so far just so they can get eyeballs to 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 this over. Because with all the studies that are out there, this is contributing to an atmosphere of free sex, ‘I don’t have to protect myself anymore.’”


10 responses to “Sheila Johnson BET Co-Founder Is Now ‘Ashamed’ Of BET”

  1. The clusterfuckery that is BET has dropped in quality every year. I want a petition for BET to change its name as this is not what Black entertainment it. I feel, personally, that as a television station, it perpetuates every-single-stereotype that African Americans are fighting against. What has this show released that is empowering the black community and showing the intelligence that can be found within it? The black community is not monolithic. It is not Tiny & Toya. It is not The Mo’nique Show. It is not full of coons.

  2. philly says:

    I would have to agree. I remember growing up and watching teen summit, Donny Simpson and the others on BET-i loved it, hell I miss it! Kids today do not have great TV, and I’m not saying that they should be in front of it all the time (go out side and play/but that’s a another subject). However back in my day we had the Cosby Show, A Different World, Living Single, Martin and the list goes on and on. These were positive back figures on TV that made you think about your life and the direction you wanted to take, like a going to college(different world), starting your down business(living single), a supportive family (Cosby) and what true friend ship was (martin). Now they have reality TV, i.e. why we have some many of our young people with tats all over their faces, girls have dressed; boys’ hitting women and the list goes on……

  3. Tamara says:

    I can appreciate Sheila speaking about about BET’s programming or lack there of since the network’s inception. However I can’t help but think if she was so concerned over the direction of the programming why did she sell the newtwork and hand over the control. That’s what’s wrong with black entrepenuers, we build a successful company only to turn around and sell it to people who have no clue as to what the black community wants to watch and lsiten to. It also shows you what they really think of the black community at large, that all we want to see is raunchy videos, sitcom reruns and celebrity gospel programming. Sheila should bear some responsibility in the “New BET” after all she sold it and profited with ill regard to the future of the network programming. Did she voice that concern before or after depositing the check? They knew the BET landscape would change once they sold it, Way to go Bob & Sheila Johnson.

  4. Gideon says:

    This nothing more than our people selling out as usual. The positive message in music has gone down the drane. Honestly Mrs. Johnson has a valid point about everything but I think she choose the money enstead of putting forth effort to make a major change with black people. Now you have Viacom pertraying our women as whores and most of the rappers are pimps and hustler what does that leave for the youth

  5. Lee says:

    I really miss teen summit! I remember anticipating the next episode and being very upset if I missed one. Shows like this made you think and made you aware of the issues that were going on around you. Today, children really dont have anything that will edofy them or build them up there are no limits or boundaries to the shows and programming they watch. I think part of the problem lays with us as the parents and elders of the current youth. We need to speek out against the things that are occuring in television now and teach our children morals so that maybe they can be the ones to cause a change in this society. Until then I will be praying for the youth of today, and this nation as a whole as we will really need it in the days to come.

  6. Lee says:


  7. Speak! says:

    TVOne is where its at! Much better than BET

  8. The”jews” own viacom and we know once the “jews” get their hands on black networking outlets they not only exploit us as a people but they love promoting negative one dimensional images of us as a people.We as a black people have forgotten about our morals,principles,and ethics.Alot of us have a lack of self worth(too much consumerism/materialism and sex with multiple partners) and AIDs is on the rise. Like someone said before me,we use to have options on tv with the many positive black shows like those mentioned by PHILLY,but now even on tv one,they are just showing ru-runs of good times,martin,and some old movies that are boring and really are not interesting.

    Children also didn’t have all of this new technology(video games/computers/cellphones) that also contributes to a lack of physical activity which leads to obesity.We went outside and rode bikes,jumped rope,skated,and played recreational sports.

    We as a people are going backwards and images and music is very important.Parents are not being parents anymore and our community as a whole is to accepting of trash and bafoonery.Boondocks was cancelled when the last episode that didn’t air talked about BET destroying the mind of the black youth.The “jews” pulled the plugged on Aaron of the boondocks because he was speaking the truth.They kept the word black on that network but only show negative images of black people and many of us go for it.

    To many blacks have sold out and have no dignity.They value money and then want to speak out against something that could have been prevented.Did the powers that be force them to take that check or what?We must boycott these networks,artists,and radio programming until we unite our resources to create our own.

  9. bestbelieve says:

    I agree, Wemustgetinthestreets! I don’t think that us knowing about this is the problem. I feel that it is us know how to make it better is the problem. Many times, our people know what the problem is, but we have NEVER been given or have searched for the solution. They can play blacks in america all day and night, but they will NEVER EVER show us how to better ourselves and what solutions were brought to their communities to solve the problem.

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