Does the end of the Black Family Channel signal the demise of Black TV?

The fight for Black entertainment more-positive-than-the-joke-that-is-BET is bracing itself for a serious blow. The Black Family Channel is close to being bought out. Unless something extraordinary happens, there will be two major, 24-hour “Black” channels left: TV One and [my least favorite,] BET (purposely not linking to website). What is the future of Black Entertainment?

I personally liked the concept behind the Black Family Channel (BFC). I even know someone that does work with them. I was really happy that I got both it and TV One [way out here] in Seattle. Channels that showed Black folks doing more than dancing. It’s sad that that is something that I have to seek out.

I said yesterday that both messengers and messages matter. Black-owned media is good for everyone. It is especially good for Black people for the following reasons:

  • It gives Black people a chance to control their own image
  • It gives other people a chance to see Black people as Black people see themselves

In the media, ownership = control. This is the reason why deals that say that those being bought out “will retain control” are B.S. That’s what they said when Viacom bought BET. That’s what they said when Comcast bought Barden Cablevision in Detroit. The one with the money is the one that makes the decision, and no place is this more true than in the media (well, maybe politics, but that’s another discussion).

The second point is relate to the first one, but is worth calling out on its own. The reason that BET was so damaging before it got bought out is because someone could look at that depiction of our people and say, “That must be what they really think of themselves. That is their network.” It is this carelessness with our image and culture that leads to ignorant idiots like Don Imus, and others who used what was promoted on BET as a crutch to support their own racism. Why give the opposition ammunition?

Sadly, the reason that channels/stations/networks get “absorbed” is because they are not making money. BFC had 16 million subscribers, and, according to the article:

Despite its star power and its unique positioning — along with BET and TV One — as a national network targeting African-American audiences, BFC was unable to secure significant cable and satellite distribution to continue to fund the network, according to sources, thus leading to the Gospel negotiations.

This tells me that nobody wanted to advertise on the network. Maybe we were too busy supporting businesses that advertised during 106 & Park. I would love it if we decided to be more conscious and deliberate with our consumption and spending habits. Maybe then we would be able to avoid stupid conversations led by some people that decide to put band-aids on band-aids instead of stopping people from getting cut as well.

There is a future for non-exploitation-based Black entertainment. There is an audience for it too. In order for it to survive, we have to be about the business of supporting that programming and growing that audience.

Black folks are masterminds at creating demand from scratch (where exactly do you think Hip-Hop came from? It didn’t just show up and instantly become mainstream or popular.). Let’s put those minds to work on creating positive TV.

One Love. One II.

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About Garlin Gilchrist II

I'm from Detroit. I created Detroit Diaspora and am a National Campaign Director at MoveOn.org. I currently live in Washington, DC with my beautiful wife Ellen. After graduating with degrees in Computer Engineering and Computer Science from the University of Michigan, I became a Software Engineer at Microsoft. By day, I helped build SharePoint into the fastest growth product in the company's history. On my personal time, I sought out opportunities to connect my technical skills with community building efforts across the country. This led to my co-founding The SuperSpade: Black Thought at the Highest Level, a leading Black political blog. I served as Social Media Manager for the 2008 Obama campaign in Washington, and then became Director of New Media at the Center for Community Change. Today I work at the crossroads of traditional political organizing and online activism. I speak before diverse audiences on empowerment in revolutionary new organizing spaces, increasing civic engagement & participation though emerging technologies and protecting civil rights in the age of the Internet.

2 responses to “Does the end of the Black Family Channel signal the demise of Black TV?”

  1. I got something to say! says :

    I think this is complete bullshit! The whole racism crap needs to stop. Black people are not enslaved anymore, and they need to stop blaming modern day, white people for there ancestors problems. We as Americans today , do not bring black people down or think of their nationality as anything different than a freaking caucasian. That is the point of living in America, everyone is equal and has the same rights. I am not racist at all, I actually have a lot of different ethnics in my background, and my family is expanding with with many different nationalities all the time. The fact that black people feel like having their own shows is a way to give people a chance to give black people a real image and see them for who they really are is stupid. You are who you are. It does not matter if you are mexican, black, white, or asian. If you are a good person people will see that and except you for who you are. If they don’t that is their problem, and they obviously don’t belong in America, because that is what being American is all about. And obviously no one has done their history homework. I am Irish- Italian and they were treated just as bad as black people, maybe even worse. You don’t see them complaining all the time and trying to have their own channel to help their image and feel excepted. They moved on with the world. It is time the people who feel racists against move on too. Life is too short to sweat the small stuff, especially the stuff you were not old enough to even be apart of. And honestly, if you can can fight back and say you were imprisoned and enslaved, I would love to hear it. But most of the people who had this problem are old, or probably dead. As much as we can feel bad for them, there is much more important things to be so passionate and angry about. Look around we are in a second depression, and in what we can call World War three. Think about it, do you honestly think having a black television show is as important as trying to get through this war and terrible recession, I can’t even get a job! Fight for America not against the people in it!

  2. Tiiz says :

    PRO Black does not = racism. Quit throwing the word around!!! This is NOT an issue of racism. Every OTHER culture is allowed to be PRO and non-racist…Jews, those of Irish descent, Indians, Chinese, even Germans! and the list goes on. They are allowed to uplift their culture with NO dissent. They even have their own schools and towns (ie. Chinatown, Little Italy). Why do Black people shoot themselves in the foot when we decide we want to work together? With that said there are still those majority African Americans who do not have good role models in their home and only have maladaptive dysfunctional figures as their role models. Does this make it right? No. Until we start reaching out next door it’s the way it is.

    @Anonymous-I’m glad you enjoy multi-ethnicities in your background but why are you scared of us who don’t and who choose to recognize a system that is still flawed. Slavery is not only through chains but slavery was created systematically so that a group of people who built this country still can’t join in the wealth of this country. How many African-Americans own any industry in this country? (ie. steel mills, fishing, rail roads- we built them were allowed to work in them but we don’t own them b/c they have a history that goes back to slave times when free labor was used to gather wealth for generations to come. Well those generations are here. Wealthy families with grandchildren look up Rockefeller, Carnegie, and Vanderbilts) Until we own part of this country — we are not as well off as you think.

    Give a dog a bone…he won’t worry about the meat.

    If that still doesn’t resonate with you try this: Black women are still afraid to wear their hair as God created them. Why? If that’s not slavery in its worst form (teach a man to hate himself), I don’t know what is.

    Please don’t knock others who want to take pride in their culture, their heritage, and give homage to the past by seeking better.

    ~All in love

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