On Wednesday, a coalition of women’s groups will take their campaign to remove indecent lyrics and images from the airways to the leaders of one of the nation’s largest media companies — Viacom, the parent company of BET and MTV.
Janice Mathis, southern regional director of Rainbow PUSH, and E. Faye Williams, executive director of the National Congress of Black Women, both Viacom stockholders, will join with about 40 other women making a stand at the meeting at 10:30 a.m. in New York at the Millennium Broadway Hotel.
“There ought to be new standards of decency for our airways,” Williams told BlackAmericaWeb.com. She heads the organization formerly led by the late C. Delores Tucker, who began challenging the explicit content in videos and lyrics more than 20 years ago.
“We are for free speech, but we want decent speech. That line has long been crossed, and it’s time to do something about it,” Williams said.Williams had been raising the issue long before the Don Imus incident in April, when the former radio shock jock stirred a national tempest after referring to members of the Rutgers women’s basketball team as “nappy headed hos.”
Melanie Campbell of the National Coalition for Black Civic Participation said the problems with images and speech on the airways goes beyond Imus. “Imus was a wake up call for all of us,” Campbell told BlackAmericaWeb.com. “We have to call on Congress and media executives to look at the definition of decency on our airways.” Since the Imus incident, Campbell has been spearheading an effort among female leaders from coast to coast who meet in a conference call every Tuesday to plan the strategy for attacking the problem. ” We have to call on all the people of good will to come together,” she said.
The coalition includes sororities, the YWCA, National Organization for Women, Rainbow PUSH, the National Congress of Black Women, the National Coalition for Black Civic Participation and many more.
“We have to look at who’s making money off of these sexually explicit lyrics and videos,” Campbell said. Popular hip-hop singers and rappers would be replaced quickly if for some reason they dropped off the scene. “So that’s why we have to go to the corporate leaders,” she said. Viacom spokeswoman Kelly Andrew referred BlackAmericaWeb.com to the networks because they decide on programming. Attempts to reach officials with BET and MTV were not successful.
Both MTV and BET continue to be huge moneymakers for Viacom.
According to the company’s April letter to shareholders, MTV is the world’s largest television network and 2006 marked the 15th consecutive year for MTV as the number-one rated, 24-hour ad-supported cable network for young people ages 12-24 in the U.S. For BET, 2006 was a history-making year with strong ratings, the emergence of BET J, the re-launch of BET International and further expansion into broadband and mobile distribution. BET held its rank as the number one rated cable network in total day and in weeknight primetime among black households, according the shareholders letter.
Topping the list of hits was “American Gangster,” the critically-acclaimed series that profiles an infamous crime figure each week through the use of archival footage, photographs and interviews with people familiar with their various cases. It quickly grew to become cable’s number-one weekday original series among black households and blacks ages 18-34. Mathis of Rainbow PUSH, said she is encouraged by some of the recent signs of change.