As someone who has been critical of BET for many years, it surprised many that I would leave my post at HipHopDX last year to take a position at BET. But it was an opportunity I absolutely had to take. I could no longer be critical of this company without accepting the opportunity to change it when given.
Although I was hired to bring about change, I was systematically shut down. I wasn't hired to make noise, I was hired to be silenced. The truth of the matter is that everything that you thought was wrong with BET is true.
Over the past year, I've seen a lot to reinforce my position that BET is too far gone in the negative to turn into a positive. We have all always thought the worst, but to actually see it in action is another thing in its entirety. The unprofessionalism, the tomfoolery, the favors, the misappropriation of resources, the bad ideas that reinforce negative stereotypes, the emasculation of men, the meetings that break down in full-fledged cursing battles, the unpaid overtime, the tears from employees scared for their underpaid and overworked positions and ultimately the unwillingness to change are all harsh realities that I've witnessed firsthand.
That is not to say that there aren't some good people who have sat in the offices of BET. Unfortunately, the good people are not in positions of power to instill any change. Instead, they work their fingers to the bone just to keep their jobs in this harsh economic climate. The other good people ran out of the door as soon as an another employment opportunity presented itself. To say BET was a revolving door would be an understatement. I came in with a plan to provide balance and to deliver good music to the masses and help make BET relevant again -- at least in the dot-com world. Those attempts were shut down by out-of-touch executives who run a dot-com but could barely turn on a computer. By those who judge their metrics by page views over absolute unique visitors (that's ad sales talk). By those who simply don't understand the Internet.
They brought me in because of my track record but never once took a look at my body of work. If they did, they would have known that I was the pen behind editorials such as "BET's Coon Picnic" or were aware of the many times I have been critical of their award shows and programming. All they knew is that I played a major role in making a once-unknown Web site into a online media outlet that surpassed theirs, and they wanted a piece of the action. Too bad they never researched who I really was.
During my tenure, I worked long hours and sometimes succeeded at bringing in decent content to try to reflect the change I wanted to achieve. But it wasn't without opposition. While some interviews and content initiatives were able to make it through, many others were either shut down or met with ridicule. I offered ideas to incorporate the blog world and to spotlight new talent before MTV did. Those ideas were met with comments such as, "This isn't HipHopDX" or "You don't know what you are talking about." BET is not about the quality of your work. Rather, BET is about the relationships you have with powerful people within the company. BET is not about challenging. Instead, BET is about accepting and saying "yes."
If you have known or followed me over the years, you would know that these are things that simply are not in my character and ultimately resulted in my removal. For the artists and labels that I have worked with for years, I tried. I did whatever I could to achieve that balance many of us wanted to see happen. To the writers who wanted to write for BET, I made an attempt but was never given a budget to work with.
Upon my arrival, I was told I would be given a staff. Not true. I had a staff of one to carry out daily operations on a Web site. I fought tooth and nail to accomplish the minimum (an embeddable player and a site people could navigate) and was constantly brushed off. It was a position that was set up for failure. But I endured as long as I could.
Alas, I have been removed from my position after infiltrating the system, and the timing was perfect. I wasn't let go because the site's numbers were down. Not because I didn't work hard. Simply because of a personality clash with an individual whose proverbial ass I didn't kiss enough. Again, not about the work you do but about the relationships you keep and the sides you take.
I'd like to thank BET for covering the cost of my relocation to bring me to the great city of New York/New Jersey. I'd also like to thank them for putting me in close quarters with people who think like me and will hopefully work with in the near future. I'd also like to thank them for providing me enough controversial content that I observed firsthand and will make for many tales to be told.
I said it and I meant in: One year to either make changes or move on. I left HipHopDX on Sept. 16, 2008. Today is Sept. 8, 2009. Eight days short of a year. Most thought I wouldn't even last that long. But in that year I've had, my greatest fears about Black Entertainment Television [were] affirmed.
There is so much wrong with BET that I'd rather not break it down in a single e-mail. It is pretty good fodder for a book, don't you think? As of today, Andreas Hale is a free agent.
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
An e-mail to media types from BET's former executive editor of music, Andreas Hale: