St. Charles Herald-Guide

Group wants BET to clean up its offensive programming

From staff and wire reports - October 4, 2007

WASHINGTON (AP) _ A church leader has begun a series of weekend protests, demanding that media outlets and corporations stop portraying blacks in demeaning and offensive ways, with a demonstration at the home of Black Entertainment Television's chief executive.

More than 500 people demonstrated peacefully outside the home of Debra Lee in her usually quiet, stately neighborhood. They held signs and wore shirts that said ”Enough is Enough.” Several security guards blocked three gates near the home.

The Rev. Delman L. Coates of Mount Ennon Baptist Church in Clinton, Md., led the protest with members of the newly formed Enough is Enough Campaign.

The group is calling on corporations to divest from programming and popular culture that sexually objectifies black women and portrays black men as “pimps” and “gangsters.” Protesters said they plan to return every weekend until Lee addresses their complaints.

Members of the National Organization for Women and the head of the National Congress of Black Women joined the protest.

Lee was not home during the nearly two-hour demonstration. She said she would have met with the group if they had brought their protest to BET's corporate headquarters in Northeast Washington.

“I believe in freedom of speech, but if you really want to have an impact, the best way is to have a conversation _ not to protest in front of someone's house,” Lee said. “I'm always willing to talk to our viewers.”

Coates, 34, said he requested a meeting with Lee in an Aug. 23 letter but got no response until last week. Lee said she received the letter only after she read about the protest in a news release.

“Her people made a meeting conditional upon canceling the rally at her house,” Coates said.

BET was founded in Washington 27 years ago by businessman Robert Johnson and is now owned by Viacom Inc. It has recently been criticized for such programs as “Hot Ghetto Mess,” which had its name changed to “We Got to Do Better” in response to complaints.

The network plans to launch 16 “balanced” shows by year's end, Lee said.