- Protestors picket home of BET president (FCN, 10-26-2007)
- What’s behind BET’s American Gangster? (FCN, 12-31-2007)
WASHINGTON (FinalCall.com) – Opponents of Viacom-owned Black Entertainment Television programming and web offerings have taken their fight to advertisers. While various groups and individuals have protested BET’s “soft porn” programming with letter writing campaigns, marches in front of the homes of key Viacom executives in New York and D.C., and targeting advertisers–the tactics are getting results.
“My focus is on the advertisers,” said blogger Gena McCauley. “BET.com is totally supported by advertisers.I was outraged at the juxtaposition of family supported advertisements and the anti-family photos on their B-girls site.”
“I knew the advertisers had no idea what was going on and where their ads were being placed. But BET had in essence created its own soft porn channel for women to upload their photos,” she said.
BET claims it was a strategy to drive traffic to the site. It largely featured Black women in bathing suits and lingerie. Complaints about booty-shaking videos and negative images of Black women have dogged BET for years.
Ms. McCauley, who is also an attorney, began an early January campaign on her blog to encourage readers to protest the family ads located on the “B-Girls” site and they did. Ms. McCauley provided contact information for her readers to write McDonald’s, Nissan Consumer Affairs, the U.S. Army and Navy.
Last year she helped push and lead the fight that ended with the demise of BET’s ill-fated and infamous “Hot Ghetto Mess” program, which featured Blacks in unflattering positions and attire.
According to media reports, Kraft Foods responded by calling placement of its ad on the page last fall, an “unfortunate juxtaposition.” McDonald’s representative told the media the content was aimed at young audiences and “different demographics and different audiences” require communication in varied ways.
“Family oriented companies were advertising on sites with degrading images of Black women. We’ve mainstreamed the degradation of Black women so they don’t even see the problem with it,” Ms. McCauley told The Final Call.
But enough consumers saw the problem and continued their outrage. McDonald’s changed its mind. In a statement the company said, it “reached out to BET to express our concerns and to ensure that this placement does not happen in the future.”
The company, which contacted BET via its media agency, also said the content “in no way represents the values of our brand.”
The page was also removed from BET.com. BET told the media the removal was planned and not connected to negative feedback from advertisers.
Ms. McCauley sees McDonald’s reaction to the “B-Girls” protest “reaffirms the fact that advertisers are the only ones that can keep BET in line. It only takes one. Every time we ask advertisers to recant they have,” she noted.
The “B-Girls” page is down, but the “Shine” section–where family oriented Chrysler advertises–features uploaded photos of men and women similar to a My Space or Facebook social networking site. The majority of the women are fully clothed but there is still a sprinkling of bathing beauties and lingerie-clad ladies.
BET representative Jeanine Liburd said “Shine” content is “not inappropriate” and not unlike what a contestant might wear on the CW network’s “America’s Next Top Model.” “A Black woman in her bathing suit is no different than what you would find on SportsIllustrated.com,” Ms. Liburd said. It’s “not limited to Black women in their bathing suits. It’s more about men and women’s personal style.”