30 years ago, Sheila Johnson and her ex-husband Bob Johnson launched BET with very little money and big time investments. Media conglomerate Viacom bought them out 10 years ago making the Johnsons, before Oprah, America’s first black billionaires.

BET’s turn for the worse is no secret to many of us.  In a 2008 interview with CLUTCH, Sheila Johnson reinforced her disappointment with the network–particularly it’s degradation of women. According to The Daily Beast, Sheila Johnson is not only disappointed, she believes the network possibly contributes to the AIDS epidemic.

The philanthropist who focuses her energy on raising awareness on the AIDS crisis in D.C. says, “Don’t even get me started. I don’t watch it. I suggest to my kids [a 20-something daughter and a college-age son] that they don’t watch. I’m ashamed of it, if you want to know the truth.”

Johnson produced The Other City, a documentary directed by filmmaker Susan Koch about the AIDS epidemic in Washington D.C. The film premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival this week. Johnson who has no connection to BET reportedly says the network makes matters worse, and potentially contributes to the spread of AIDS by promoting promiscuity and unprotected sex in racy music videos.

But Johnson like many of us remembers the glory days of BET– shows like “Teen Summit” that inspired our generation. Johnson shares, “When we started BET, it was going to be the Ebony magazine on television.” Womp. Guess it’s more like the Smooth magazine on television now.

Learn more about The Other City. Check out the trailer below.

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  • binky

    I so agree Jane

    Shelia needs to get off her high horse because if Viacom is responsible for the potentially contribution to the Aids epidemic then so is she and Bob for selling it in the first place for the almighty dollar what was it a BILLON dollars that she and her then husband and no problem of taking. BET is whack and I only watch re-run of the Game but other than that the network is trash. And we can’t place the blame of the failure that is BET on Viacom solely because when Bob and Shelia was heading it up they cancel many good shows from Travis Smiley, Video Soul, Bev Smith, etc. and LET’S NOT FORGET the so called racy and the promiscuity videos was under THEIR watch when they made the UNCUT show, showcasing all those so called racy videos in full so She needs to sit down and get off of it.

    It is easier to sit back and distance yourself from the problem when you are in your fancy furs, diamonds and manicured nails and manson and be angry at the brand you created and sold saying that it is a mess but you helped made it a mess and be worthy of shame

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  • …and my country, South Africa, with some of the highest AIDS rates in the world just THIS LAST WEEK (thursday) launched a new cable network package for lower incomes which includes BET. To say I am concerned does not begin to describe my feelings. We used to have BET on cable tv in SA before but it got cancelled about 5 years ago…and now its back, in its worst state. I grew up in the era of Teen Summit, The Cosby Show, A Different World and Wu Tang clan on TV. As a young South African I grew up around a ubiquitous energy of activism and constant brain activity from the youngest to the oldest. The further we go into this democratic dispensation, that spirit in the black community is sadly dying and its being replaced by paper chasing by the new black elite, MTV base and 106 & Park… are its soundtracks, and all kids do now is emulate Lil Wayne. Black entertainers in the Diaspora need to understand that the whole world is watching… its not just in America. They have a responsibility to all black people because all the kids are looking up to them. Yes, they are wearing mink coats and fake bling even though its hot as hell in Africa. lol. I keep jokingly saying that the 90s was the last time the music industry allowed conscious rappers to blow… and that was the last generation of teenagers that could speak well, think and spell… but it becomes truer by the second.

  • I can see someone accusing the network of perhaps not doing enough to incorporate solutions to the problem but “sex” in media is everywhere. At what point to parents [of ALL ages] stop looking to blame media for where they fail?