Johnson: Ask Tough Questions


New York -- Diversity organizations such as the National Association for Multi-Ethnicity in Communications should not be afraid to ask serious questions of industry leaders regarding diversity and should seek resources outside of the industry to achieve their goals, according to Black Entertainment Television founder and CEO Robert Johnson.

Johnson -- who received NAMIC’s “Mickey Leland Humanitarian Achievement Award” Tuesday at the organization’s annual conference here -- said NAMIC should ask tough questions of the industry regarding the lack of minority ownership of systems and cable networks without fear of retribution from the very companies that provide organizational funding.

“There are questions that you should not be afraid to ask [of industry companies] irrespective of how you’re funded,” he said. “We should not be sitting here five years from now asking these same questions.”

Johnson also implored NAMIC to tap outside diversity organizations such as the Congressional Black Caucus and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, as well as activists like the Rev. Al Sharpton, for both moral and financial support to reach its goals.

Johnson -- who is retiring at the end of the year after 25 years at the helm of BET -- said the industry gave him the opportunity to thrive and succeed in creating BET, and it should provide the same opportunities for others.

“It should not be a victory of one, but of many,” he said. “You have the responsibility to make sure that you can change the paradigm of [industry ownership] and be part of the economic development of the industry. There are talented individuals out there who simply need an opportunity.”