BET commonly refers to Black Entertainment Television, a Washington DC based cable channel founded by Robert L. Johnson. BET founded in 1980 originally was envisioned as a channel for a core audience of urban African-Americans, but has grown in popularity over its twenty-seven year history and now encompasses an audience best characterized as an urban global minority presence. Because the demographic was untapped and therefore an unknown entity and BET's founding investors, chief among them the USA network, were unsure of its marketability the channel consisted of a weekly two hour block hosted on the satellite feed of its investor - the USA Network. On the strength of new investment three years later by Home Box Office (HBO), BET was able to add an additional hour of programming as well as an additional music segment known as BET Video Soul. The new programming catered to the African-American sports enthusiasts and would again introduce a "new" market to the prevailing advertising behemoths. By 1989 it was a full channel in its own right with its own distinct broadcasting signal and would wield its strength in a new direction. BET started Emerge magazine in the fall of 1989. Emerge sought to cater to the African-American news purveyor. Within a year of launching Emerge, BET would produce YSB (Young Sister and Brothers) a lifestyle magazine for African-American teens and it would purchase Arabesque Books a publisher of African-American romance novel.
If the 80s were about acquisition for BET, then the 90s represented consolidation and proliferation. Since its beginning BET has built a presence within the gospel community through The Bobby Jones Gospel Hour and in the nineties it would take this core programming and spin it off into its own channel - BET Gospel. It would do likewise with its jazz programming (BET Jazz now known as BET J)and later with its hip hop programming (BET Hip Hop). During this period it also entered into the pay-per-view market with BET Action and partnered with STARZ to produce BET Starz! which later would be known as STARZ InBlack.
BET like hip hop has always had a keen sense of trend recognition, and specifically within the minority community. Because the African-American and more importantly the minority community was a none recognized viewer block, MTV in its early days focused predominately on rock and pop videos and created its original programming around the corresponding demographics - a overwhelmingly white demographic. BET's early recognition of the minority community as a viewing block led it to create its music programming around more traditional African-American music forms such as gospel and R&B. As a natural extension from its R&B programming it began to show the then burgeoning music of rap artists. MTV would not begin to have a presence within the rap genre until late 80s with Yo! MTV Raps - years after BET. BET's relationship with the hip hop community has not always been a smooth relationship. BET has been 'chastised' by the larger minority community for its heavy rotation of videos, specifically hip hop videos, that use derogatory terms for African-Americans and depict women in overly sexual connotations. As a response in recent years BET has begun to censor its videos in regards to the showing of guns and gunplay gesters, the representation of women and with the use of the "N" word. With the changes BET has found itself criticized from the hip hop community writ large, as many artists feel they are inturn being asked to self-censor their music in hopes of having airplay on BET's key original music programming shows such as 106 & Park.
BET grew into an alternative to the juggernaut Music Television (MTV) channel begun around the same time period. Ironically BET's founder, who left the station as one of only five African-American billionaires in the US, would sell BET in 2000 to MTV's parent company Viacom. Mr. Johnson left BET as it had begun to make bold overtures to the Caribbean community with original programming centered on the Reggae, Dancehall, and Soca music scenes. With Sean Paul's breakthrough 2002 album Dutty Rock, BET's foray into the Caribbean music scene would prove once again astute in grasping an under represented demographic and converserly a new market within the larger US market. --Brooks215 11:49, 13 May 2007 (CEST)