Why We Need to Have Greater Appreciation for BET

I will be the first one to admit that BET has made some very questionable programming decisions over the last couple of years. Many people would argue that BET is contributing to the dumbing down of the African American community. That being said, BET is to be commended for their Gospel music programming, more specifically Celebration of Gospel.

I’m surprised by the number of people that had issues with the most recent edition of Celebration of Gospel. It seems that people really wanted BET to show those spirit driven moments of the program. By many accounts, there were moments where the presence of the Holy Spirit could be felt in the theatre. If you watched the broadcast on TV, you were not able to see these moments, because they were edited out.

Initially, I was a little critical of this decision. Now that a day has passed, I realize that I was wrong. BET is a business, not a ministry. There is a difference. Whether network executives are willing to admit it or not, the purpose of Celebration of Gospel is for-profit entertainment. That show was not created to minister to the masses. It was created to make BET money.

We can try to be critical of the host, the selection of artists, and the editing. The bottom line is that BET has to make decisions that please the sponsors of the show. The network has the task to create a TV friendly event that transitions seamlessly and is entertaining to its audience.

Celebration of Gospel is not designed to attract the hardcore Gospel music fan. It is designed to attract the casual fan that mostly listens to Gospel music on Sunday. BET has to create a show that attracts a large audience and generates revenue. Unfortunately, praise breaks do not pay the bills.

Again, BET’s goal is not to display ministry. If we want ministry on TV, then we should look to networks like TBN and The Word Network.

Even though BET’s focus is not on ministry, the argument can be made that it has done more to promote Gospel music than any other network. Think about it, the longest running show on cable TV is a Gospel show on BET (Bobby Jones Gospel). What other network has a large, non awards show, event 100% dedicated to Gospel music? (Celebration of Gospel)

Let’s make sure we all understand this. BET doesn’t make a commitment to Gospel music out of the kindness of its heart. If a show doesn’t get ratings it won’t last long on the network. A perfect example of this is 106 & Gospel.

As a Gospel music consumer, I must commend BET for their efforts over the years. Even if I only get see Gospel related programming on Sunday, it is better than nothing. I can respect the fact that the network is true to itself. Look at the alternatives, the Gospel Music Channel airs programs like Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman and Sister, Sister. Think about that and tell me which network deserves more criticism.

What do you think? Who is BET trying to attract with their Gospel programming? Are they obligated to show us those intimate moments when the Holy Spirit enters the atmosphere?

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