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.