Did BET Discriminate?
Talk show host Reuben Armstrong was so upset with the way he was treated before BET's Hip-Hop Awards show that he didn't even stay for the main event.
"We didn't get the same access that CNN and The Atlanta Journal Constitution got," Armstrong claims. "When I complained, I was told if I didn't like it, I could pack my bags and go back to Louisiana."
That's exactly what he did. Now the headline on Armstrong's website reads, "Black journalists were treated unfair at the 2006 BET Hip-Hop Awards."
"That's unfortunate," says BET's Senior Vice President of Corporate Communications Michael Lewellen. "We are the last to discriminate against Black media, because we are black media," explains Lewellen, who is reportedly planning to leave the company soon.
Armstrong, says BET didn't give him access to the red carpet, and grew frustrated when organizers didn't arrange sit down artist interviews with him. He also believes that BET supplied some outlets with the results of the winners, but didn't give the information to others. Armstrong returned home Saturday, the awards show was taped Sunday night.
"I talked to other black journalists and they told me the same thing," Armstrong says.
"That's not true," according to Lewellen. He says that media outlets had to pre-register in advance, and there was limited space available on the red carpet.
As far as releasing the results to some outlets, over others he says, "Unlike the big show which is live, the Hip Hop Awards is taped, so we we're not releasing the winners prior to Wednesday night."
Lewellen also explained said that the artists willing to be interviewed made themselves available to all media in the press room, but BET never planned to coordinate one on one interviews with specific news organizations.
As Hip-Hop moguls, and celebrities filed across the red carpet Sunday, a variety of media organizations including dozens of Black outlets interviewed celebrities and snapped pictures. During the show, BET provided a live feed in the media room where journalists could see and report the results.
"BET goes out of the way to allow not just A-list media, but B-list and C-list media as well, and most of the other awards shows don't do that," Lewellen says.
As far as telling Armstrong that he could "pack his bags," Lewellen says he told him, "You're certainly free to go back to Louisiana, but we'd like you to stay for the show."
These are my personal observations:
Local Atlanta TV news crews were inside the media center, just like everyone else. BET allowed groups of five crews at a time to tape the Saturday afternoon rehersals which included Ludacris, and Young Jeezy. Most of the organizations represented Black media, however, I met several people who work with CNN and it didn't seem like they were being treated differently. Some people complained because they weren't credentialed for the red carpet, but my associate producer, and myself had no problems with our passes, or access. There were numerous opportunities to interview artists, and celebrities on the red carpet. Once the event started, BET provided a live feed inside the media tent, and Snoop Dogg, T.I., and Flavor Flav were among these that answered questions. That evening, BET also provided a release of categories and winners not presented in the show which include:
Hip-Hop Track of the Year:
Yung Joc - "Going' Down"
Element Award: Best Hip-Hop Dance:
Best Hip-Hop Movie:
"ATL" - Chris Robinson
Hip-Hop CD of the Year
T.I. - "King"
Element Award: Vido Director of the Year:
BET Mobile Hot Ringtone Award:
Young Dro f/T.I. - "Shoulder Lean"
Best UK Hip-Hop Act: