Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Will Black Folks Ever Support Quality meida Programming?


Will Black Folks Ever Support Quality Media Programming?

“(Multichannel News) Making it official, Black Family Channel closed its deal to cease operations as a linear cable channel, shifting its distribution slots to Gospel Music Channel http://www.multichannel.com/article/CA6436052.html. As a result of the agreement between the two networks and a number of cable operators, Gospel replaced BFC in a majority of its markets, including New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Los Angeles, St. Louis and San Francisco. Gospel is gaining carriage on nearly 275 systems from Bright House Networks, Charter Communications, Comcast, Cox Communications and Time Warner Cable.” http://avid.broadcastnewsroom.com/articles/viewarticle.

How many of you have heard of or had access to The Black Family Channel via your local cable franchise? Probably not too many of you based on recent developments. If a cable channel is unable to gain access to distribution and viewers via the major cable systems in major markets in is highly unlikely the channel will be profitable or survive. This is what happened to The Family Cable Channel. The Atlanta based Black owned company was founded eight years ago by attorney Willie Gary, entertainer Marlon Jackson, former heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield, former baseball star Cecil Fielder and media man Alvin James recently announced it was ceasing operations due to its inability to gain access into the major cable markets. The network had sixteen million subscribers but was not able to penetrate into all the major markets or attract the type of advertisers that would catapult it into the black. the network plans to switch to Internet television.
It’ cruelly ironic that while Negroes were making a big issue over shock jock Don Imus and Gangsta Rap promoters like Russell Simmons who are putting mad dollars in corporate white boys' pockets a black owned cable programming company whose goal and mission was to produce and provide family oriented programming was being forced off the air because it could not gain enough exposure and access to attract viewers and advertisers to turn a profit. When BFC was launched it was touted as a programming alternative to the minstrelsy of Robert Johnson’s BET. Actor/Director Robert Townsend long a proponent of quality programming was hired to take charge of the channel’s production and programming. Their goal according to Gary was to provide programming that was family oriented, informative and entertaining.
My cable system the regional giant Comcast did not carry the BFC. Frankly I rarely heard anything about the channel in the Negro or conscious community media. While it is their responsibility to promote themselves, it’s as if the powers that be, the corporate conglomerates whose goal is to dummy us down decided to make sure BFC didn’t succeed. There are few if any Black folks that head a cable carriers like Comcast, Cablevision or Cox so we shouldn’t be surprised the BFC was not on more regional carriers. White folks want to keep us glued to BET because its’ programming fits their stereotypes of us. Sadly nowadays these stereotypes of criminality, hyper-promiscuity and immorality have been repackaged and taken to the absurd by a posse of Black folks like Bob Johnson and his successor.
According to the Associated Press, BFC’s parent company MBC has decided to pull the plug and seek to reinvent the network on the Internet via broadband Internet TV. BFC's demise is yet another example of Black folks not stepping up to support pro-Black or at least non-minstrel type programming. Recently Lionsgate Studio released the movie called PRIDE based upon the true successes of a Black man, Jim Ellis as a teacher, competitive Black swimming team coach and mentor. The movie starred Terrence Howard, Bernie Mack, Kimberly Elise, Tom Arnold and an excellent supporting cast. Sadly the movie only earned about 10 million dollars in theaters and was pulled after only three weeks. What does this say about our entertainment tastes? What does it say about us? Have we been conditioned to support the vilest forms of media while eschewing uplifting and inspiring stories and images of ourselves? When will we wake up, take responsibility and own up to the choices we make in our media consumption?
Why was it so easy for Black folks to jump on a Don Imus who was just doing what he got paid to do, while we stood by and allowed the BFC to go under? Don Imus will resurface stronger than ever, a few months from now, trust me. But what will happen to the Black Family Channel or film makers who want to make a movie like PRIDE? Is there a market for decent programming in the black community? Movies like PRIDE, Daddy’s Girls or Antoine Fisher didn’t do buffo business at the box office. That’s on us!! Those films weren’t made for white audiences, they were made for us! It was on us to support them. We are the ones who didn’t go to the theaters. Black folks were the ones who purchased the bootleg copies, thus depriving the studios, the actors, film makers and crews their just revenues. That in itself is a telling commentary on the values in our community.
Despite the recent Imus controversy cable channels like BET, MTV and VH1 are extremely popular with young black folks. Our children consume more media than any other ethnic group. But yet we won’t support conscious or positive black programming. Why is that? Have we been so conditioned to acquiesce and co-operate in our own debasement we refuse to break from the mold or engage in mental decolonization? We have accepted racist filth and junk from the media for so long, we seem to unconsciously say to our oppressors “We will always accept junk no matter who dishes it out”. Carter G Woodson said it succinctly when he observed, “If you can control a man’s thinking you do not have to worry about his action. When you determine what a man shall think you do not have to concern yourself about what he will do. If you make a man feel that he is inferior , you do not have to compel him to accept an inferior status, for he will seek it himself. If you make a man think he is justly an outcast, you do not have to order him to the back door. He will go without being told, and if there is no back door his very nature will demand one.” The Mis-Education of The Negro Page 84-85.
When you go to the BFC Website http://www.mbcnetwork.com/ You will see this message, “May 1,2007 - Black Family Channel is no longer on cable. Our slate of original, must-see, award-winning programs will soon be available free as a brand new, feature-rich broadband TV service. Close this window and visit our Corporate Page for more details.” While I was never able to view BFC's programming, if it was an alternative to the garbage on BET it had to offer at least some redemptive images and content for African people. But even if the owners of BFC go to the Internet where it will be free, unless we alter our consciousness, values and world view to demand quality programming, the BFCs of the world will never prosper.

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