BET Starts a Weekly News Program

AP, August 13, 2008

BET starts a weekly news program on Friday described as a cross between Keith Olbermann and Bill Maher with a black perspective.

Called “The Truth with Jeff Johnson” and airing at 11 p.m. on Fridays, the program stars a BET personality who has also been an activist for the NAACP and People for the American Way. Its debut is timed for the Democratic National Convention.

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On the four nights of the Democratic convention, BET will run news specials focusing on how ex-convicts can’t vote, on the top 10 issues facing black Americans, on the key moments leading up to Obama’s nomination and on whether Obama could be considered a manifestation of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

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The networks’ focus on Obama is understandable given polls showing overwhelming support for the Democrat among black Americans. (A poll taken in June for The Associated Press and Yahoo News found blacks favoring Obama by a margin of 90 percent to 3 percent, with 6 percent unsure.) But is it necessarily fair?

Paul Porter, a former BET program director and news anchor who now runs the Web site Industryears.com, said it isn’t fair. He also believes the networks’ coverage decisions are being made for financial reasons, not journalistic ones.

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