Diversity On The Airwaves

Metro columnist Courtland Milloy today recounts the achievements of former Black Entertainment Television vice president of news Deborah R. Tang, who recently died of cancer. His commentary adds another voice to a debate that's been raging before the Federal Communications Commission in recent years over what if anything the government should do about the consolidation of big media.

Turn on the television news these days and you'll see history being made. A charismatic black man and a savvy white woman are running neck and neck to become the Democratic nominee for president. But despite the rich racial and gender implications of Barack Obama's and Hillary Clinton's candidacies, you won't see much in the way of news analysis by African Americans -- men or women.

It wasn't always like this. Not so long ago, you could watch news programs that featured a wide range of insight and perspective by black experts. The station to watch, believe it or not, was Black Entertainment Television -- that is, before the cable network was sold to Viacom in 2000 and most of its news programming was canceled.

Tang, Milloy writes, created the kind of news programming that gave gravitas to an otherwise juvenile-minded network. These days, however, her signature programs, "BET Nightly News," with host Ed Gordon, and "Lead Story," a Sunday morning political roundtable featuring black journalists, have been replaced with the most thoughtless fare.

She once told me, "There is no reason that the 'E' in BET can't stand for education as much as entertainment."

See his column.

By Dan Beyers  |  January 16, 2008; 7:47 AM ET  | Category:  Media
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