BET Founder Offers Solution to Fix Oscar Diversity Problem

Robert L. Johnson BET
AP Photo/Mark Lennihan

Black Entertainment Television founder Robert L. Johnson weighed in on the furor surrounding the lack of minority nominees in this year’s Academy Awards race, suggesting the key to better outcomes in the future is encouraging both the movie studios and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to bring more minorities into their ranks.

Johnson did not comment directly on director Spike Lee’s call for a boycott of the Oscar broadcast on Feb. 28. Instead the BET founder, now chairman of RLJ Entertainment, laid out four reforms to improve diversity:

•Engage the studios to encourage the casting of more African-Americans in films with black themes. “For example, why were ‘Gladiator,’ starring Russell Crowe, or ‘Braveheart,’ starring Mel Gibson, both greenlit, but not films based on the true story of the African general Hannibal or the African chief and warrior Shaka Zulu?” Johnson asked, in a prepared statement. “If the answer is financial or there is a belief that there is a lack of cultural interest or identity in those stories, those issues need to be addressed with the studios.”

• Increase the number of voting members of the Academy by adding qualified minority individuals. Johnson said the new members need to demonstrate “sensitivity and knowledge of the creative process… equal to that of existing Academy voters.” He said the number of new minority members might be based on their percentage in the population or on the percentage of dollars minorities contributed to the box office. “The goal here is not to dilute an individual’s unique perspective as an Academy voter, whether they are diverse or not,” Johnson wrote, “but simply to increase diversity of voices and therefore choices.”

• Improve casting of minority actors and actresses in roles outside of black-themed films. “For example,” Johnson asked, “would films like ‘Pretty Woman’ or ‘Sleepless in Seattle’ [have] been less creative if the characters were interracial?”

• Encourage studio hiring of minorities in their creative and development departments, including executives with the power to greenlight films. Johnson said such changes in television had resulted in a number of Emmy nominations for minorities.

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  1. Stephen says:

    Where is the DIVERSITY at the BET awards? I never see European Americans at them.

    • KJ says:

      That’s sneaky Stephen. Comparing the industry awards started in 1928 with those of a cable network started in 2001. BET also is not just for movies at those awards. BET awards for R&B and Rap are more similar to the Country music awards.

      • jamiekins says:

        Doesn’t matter what the awards are for there’s no white people involved or receiving. IT’S RACIST!

  2. Andrew Moore says:

    Tired of them complaining and blaming white Hollywood. Will anything please these people like Jada. Here husband is not that good of an actor to begin with. B.E.T. is the most un-diverse company in Hollywood. They hire only black and the awards have very few whites if any…so why they complaining. Oh and Jada, Will and Spike are friends in real life. Don’t them fool you cause Will is a sore looser….I’ve lost all respect for will and Jada by the way is not a nice person. I’ve worked with her.

  3. NOTICE ! ! ! Every time someone mentions the word “diversity.” It always means black integration only.
    Never once does it refer to Asians or Latinos.

  4. Grizzly says:

    “but not films based on the true story of the African general Hannibal”

    Hannibal was not black. He was a Carthaginian, which means he was semitic.

  5. Anybody notice if the Congressional Black Caucus is integrated? If black conscientiousness demands a presence at the Oscars, shouldn’t the pinnacle of black political empowerment be expected to do the same?

  6. Hung says:

    Hmmm… this is coming from the BET guy correct? Has BET ever nominate anyone other then blacks for award? NO? Case close. So, basically he’s telling the Oscar how not to be racist yet his network is racist. I see where he’s coming from.

  7. Ann Hlushak says:

    “Increase the number of voting members of the Academy by adding qualified minority individuals.”

    I can hear it now:
    Staff: “Academy Main Office. How can I help you?”
    Caller: “Hello. I need information on how to become an Academy member.”
    Staff: “Wonderful! We have a few qualifying questions we need to ask you.”
    Caller: “Yes?”
    Staff: “First, are you white?”
    Caller: “Yes.”
    Staff: “Sorry! We’ve already reached our White Quota. Good-by.” [CLICK]

  8. Ted A says:

    After BET corrects their own racist problem with black only BET awards will I give a rat’s rear what they have to say about anything.

  9. Greg says:

    The MFer’s want be happy until they make America into Africa, period

  10. “African general Hannibal” Hannibal was from Carthage which was a Mediterranean civilization founded by the Phoenicians (Lebanon and Syrian coasts in the Middle East). It may have been on the coasts of what is now Algeria and Tunisia, but it was not “African” in the sense this individual from BET suggests.

    • maat says:

      by that measuring stick since america was “founded” by europeans, if white supremacy continues it will do it’s best to say accomplished black americans aren’t “African” either. read a book not written by a racist

    • naynay says:

      Yes we know of Hannibal through the Roman writings (White), but do you think that I believe anything that Whites write because throughout history they have made all history in their favor. All the people who were of great prominence was deemed to always be White and they do so today. A lot of their history is fabricated — they even claim that Jesus Christ was White (blonde hair, blue eyes). So not I do not see that whatever they write or perceive to be credible. Hannibal was not White, just like Jesus Christ was not White!!

      • You’re worse than a racist if you say Santa Claus isn’t white.

      • usagirl1 says:

        Is there a physical description of Jesus in the Bible? I have not read one. I have seen pictures of Jesus where is He was depicted as white, black and brown. In the picture where He was depicted as white He had brown hair and brown eyes.

  11. Tanisha A says:

    Reading these comments make me sad! “What do they want” “the whining bunch” I’m sure everyone on here making these comments are white and all represented in the Oscar Nominations! You can’t tell me that out of all the movies that were made not one Black actor DESERVED to be nominated??? No one is saying the White actors nominated didn’t deserve to be BUT the black actors were JUST as good but were pushed aside and denied a spot. Why? Why did that happen? And to all the not so smart people who keep bringing up the NBA and Football, if you look at the percentage of Coaches making the picks there are far more WHITE people making the selections than BLACK. They are the ones choosing the BLACK ball players over the whites. So maybe if you have such a huge problem with it then you should say something about that. In sports those folks are picking who they feel will win the game, so it is ludicrous to compare the two. And furthermore, the BET awards has most certainly awarded white Americans awards, its just that you all are not watching so you wouldn’t know that. Don’t speak on something you just assume. And just because you are starting to see more black faces and other faces of color on screens of all sorts, We should just be happy or satisfied; if they are never recognized and awarded for their talents like white faces are….then things actually haven’t gotten better. Someone just stuck a band aide on it to shut people of color up. and that my friends is Unacceptable! Be blessed P.S. If you feel like people of color are “Whining” to much, stop sitting at home typing on a computer complaining about it and help make things equal and better as they should be……because thats ALL that “WE WANT”!

    • Moon says:

      Since the Academy has primarily chosen popular/commercial films this year and I have often seen people mentioning Creed, Straight Outta Compton, concussion and Beasts of No Nations as the films that have been left out, in my opinion none of these films (except Beasts of No Nation which was not eligible for the Oscars) was so outstanding to make me say “what? they did not nominate that director/actor/film?” By the way, I am not from the US and I love cinema and regularly watch films from many countries. If the Academy would have included more indie films then yes. They should have nominated the actress from Tangerine, for example. Timbuktu was really good and I could go on. But they went for all-American commercial films so SOC, Creed and Concussion are not that great compared to the others. It is very simple.

  12. Michael B says:

    A non-issue blown out of proportion by the most racist of ALL Races.

  13. odlfart says:

    Lets start with pro football and basketball. lets demand that at least 1/2 of all players be white, then go the music industry and demand at 1/3 of all rappers be white and 10% be Hispanic and 5% be Asian

    talent should not be based on color or race,

  14. tom says:

    Lets start diversity with BET, Black college fund ,black schools, black neighborhoods ,black tv shows ,just to name a few

    • E says:

      Hey Tom, you ever heard of a little thing called segregation, Jim crow laws, redlining, etc. Why do you think black colleges or black tv shows exist…I mean come on, it’s not that hard to understand that people of color were blocked from participating in society. If people of color were not allowed to go to Harvard or Princeton..what should they do? What would you do?

      • tom says:

        Hey E you got it right the blacks are segregating themselves these days unless its a white neighborhood or school then they want diversity anything white , If they want to go to Harvard or Princeton guess what they need to make the grades because that’s what I would do make the grades study hard and not look for a handout and blame everyone else for their failures , , people of color are not blocked anymore its not 1900s, ,they need to stop the gang violence make a middle class neighborhood and school district then just maybe the black race will improve. they have no self responsibility

  15. Monty Clarke says:

    The whiny bunch is still at it.

  16. Richard says:

    I remember a week long TV series about Shaka Zulu. It HAS been done.

    Seems to me that this guy became a billionaire when he sold BET.
    Let HIM buy a studio and green light the movies he wants to be out there.
    Of course if he goes broke, that’s HIS problem.
    Studios are in the business of making money. If can make a film that will appeal to 50% of the nation
    or 10% of the nation, I need a compelling reason to do so since I will make less money.

    The problem with “black” experience movies is that they frequently present white people only in a bad light. For some reason they find it hard to have any positive white male characters, perhaps they fear
    it will detract from the story or that their peers will call them sell outs, etc.
    Now if you train a portion of the population to expect that they will be portrayed in a bad light, why would
    they bother to pay to see your movie? Is this not in fact the very argument they themselves presented
    to Hollywood decades ago?

    It’s great when you can diversity to a film as long as it does not poorly done.
    Making a film where the characters reflect the diversity of the population where the story is happening
    can only improve things. But you are going to have to overcome one last hurdle. Any time a white writer
    writes a line that comes out a white persons mouth they are not going to face the same scrutiny as if they
    gave the exact same line out of a non-white person’s mouth. Have a white actor do something stupid and you don’t have to worry about being called a racist, etc.

  17. Monty Clarke says:

    Why don’t he talk to all the black ball players who date and marry white women. Then once he fixes that he can bother us.

    • naynay says:

      Black athletes marry mostly Black women.The interracial ones are put in the forefront and televised all over the internet and magazine articles. Black couples are not publicized as the interracial ones with White women and those marriages with Whites are gold digger hoes after ignorant Black men who have a athletic contract. When the money is gone, usually, they are gone also!

  18. Monty Clarke says:

    We already gave them that. It’s called affirmative action. Enjoy

  19. Ed says:

    How many whites are awarded BET accolades?

  20. sam hain says:

    How about some white people being chosen for the Black Oscars, I mean BET awards?

    • SAM says:

      This is the kind of pervasive ignorance that plagues our society! There have been white recipients – Eminem, Justin T, Pink, etc. – of BET Awards, however it is an apples to oranges, idiotic thing to say. BET awards recipients in music categories in the hip-hop and R&B space. When white musicians make music in that space they are not systematically excluded. Further, when white artists move into space traditionally inhabited by black artists, there have never been barriers to entry. The BET movie and TV categories were added and are based on viewer nominations. Before making a comment, at least have a clue what you are talking about!!!!

  21. louielouie says:

    practice what you preach johnson

    • maat says:

      it’s obvious that folks who say this probably never watched more than 5 minutes of bet, let alone a bet awards show… Many people of other races have been nominated and won…. and it’s mostly for music anyway. tune in

  22. mindy glazer says:

    No one mentions the lack of older people in these awards.

  23. Willy says:

    This is getting tiresome. Black Lives Matter has come to mean “Blacks Exempt from All Laws”. Now it seems like blacks insist black actors should be nominated for academy awards just because they were in a movie.

    • naynay says:

      If that were so true that BLM means Blacks Exempt from All Laws, then the jail/prisons should be empties then. It is about fairness which Blacks do not have in this country at all!

  24. jwfire says:

    I want a WET channel on TV

  25. Al Sanchez says:

    How about you White Democrat liberals stop bending over at a snap? Blacks only represent around 13% of the population yet they want to be in every other commercial. The Obama years are just awful! He has knowingly or unknowingly encouraged Blacks to bitch, demand and revolt. It’s in your face. I have zero percent guilt. Enough with the White guilt already!

  26. Hoekom Jy My Haat says:

    Hannibal wasn’t black. Sure, he lived in North Africa, but his parentage was Phoenician and from Gaul. More revisionist history.

  27. The Carnivore says:

    It is entirely possible that no blacks were good enough this year to get nominated. That actually should be the topic for your next article.

  28. This whole boycott exercise will have a negative impact next year. How so? Every black nominated for an Oscar will be questioned: was this person nominated just to appease blacks, or did this person legitimately earn this nomination?

  29. Robert says:

    Yep, another POOR Black Millionaire that got rich just for being Black :-)

  30. David says:

    I am not surprised nor am I surprised at your comment Hugh. I do believe however that with regard to the NBA orr any other Sport the premise that Blacks were some how inferior was proven wrong with Jessie Owens ,Muhammad Ali and others. Hence, if it makes you feel better that these top caliber Black actors and actresses or not as good ,by all means keep drinking out of that juice box. All people are good at what they are exposed to or can be if exposed to repetitively. It is what it is; a group of biased white elites. Further, it’s not going to change for the same reasons I mentioned previously. There’s an underlying fear that Black people want the world. We don’t .We just want part of it and Respect. They said the Black man was too dumb to play Baseball too. I give you Jackie Robinson and Satchel Paige etc. How about another log on the fire while you sip that BS juice.

  31. Adrian says:

    More of the Religion of Race.

  32. Paul Jacobs says:

    OK, here we go again. Let’s make categories like Leading Black Male/Female in Movie, Comedy, etc. then Leading White Male/Female in Movie, Comedy, etc. Maybe that will appease the black community but very doubtful.

  33. @$$h0l3 says:

    Why not give all the nominations to Blacks? I am fed up with these people who thinks they are always being deprived of everything? There are a lot of race that are not nominated too…f$&@!

    • maat says:

      the argument is for diversity for all not just for blacks. racist only hear black when the word diversity is used because that is what they are most afraid of.

  34. Adrian says:

    Just have a separate Black Oscars, a trpe of BET for blacks only.

  35. Steve says:

    Here’s a concept. How about the black artists and actors do a better job and meet the standards for winning an Oscar.

  36. hugh medina says:

    I feel the same about the NBA could we have a few less black people? Wait if we do that the NBA would suck. Would that make me unfair to other people for me wanting more blacks? Is it possible in some cases it simply works out that some groups do have more talent in certain areas? If being racially open means embracing our differences shouldn’t that also include the differences that some of us are better at certain things.

  37. txn53 says:

    It’s time for blacks to check their entitlement at the door. Fifty years of set asides have allowed blacks to feel victimized than helped. Look at those blacks that are whining…rich, self-absorbed and overindulged.

    • NN says:

      It always amazes me how the most entitled people in the world complain about the entitlement of others. I say this as a white person. I see what I have, and it’s better than who you all are criticizing. I see self-indulgent whiners complaining that people who have less are whining. That’s the only way to hold on to your supremacy. It’s interesting to say that they have been whining for 50 years, do you considering protesting against segregation and legally sanctioned lynchings to be whining? What about rapes that were never punished, actual government attacks on neighbourhoods with high black populations, and deliberate syphilis infections? That seems worth bringing up? I suggest you get an education before you shoot your mouth off about topics you clearly don’t understand. Everything I just mentioned can be legally verified.

      Also, sports are not a voted field. They are based on merit. The Oscars are voted in, which means that it’s very easy for bias to creep in, whether it’s conscious or not. I do agree that a boycott isn’t a great idea, because it punishes the Academy for the voters’ error. I respect Mr. Johnson for not commenting on a protest that won’t solve anything, but actively suggesting solutions for the future. That’s the best way to influence change. He seems like a smart man.

      One thing I have learned over time is that the people who complain the loudest are the ones who typically have it the best. In this case, the loudest whiners in the comment section here are the white people who have it all. Enjoy your freedoms!

  38. Blaine says:

    You have got to be kidding! Is there a movie out there right now with out a Black in it? 13% of our population is Black but from watching TV and going to the movies you would think it was 90%.
    What do they want? Complete domination like Basket ball and foot ball? Just hang in there minorities as in another few decades the USA will be all Black and Brown and you can have what you want. The few white people got so disgusted they left!

  39. GiveMeMyAmericaBack says:

    Does he realize he just said that minorities would vote minority? You all fail to realize that there were plenty of whites who didn’t win or even get nominated, too. Is there some kind of privilege working against them, too? Do we just all need a trophy?

  40. yojoe smith says:

    He says, ” bring more minorities into the academy ” HUH !! What does that mean that they will vote color ( black ) rather then for ones talent ??

    • SJ says:

      Well, that’s happening already. Why is it okay when us whiteys do it, but not when other races do it? The idea is to create a diverse environment. I fail to see why that is an issue. It’s not just a race issue, it’s a gender issue. It’s a cultural issue. It’s time to get over this us vs. them nonsense.

  41. Dan says:

    There is not diversity problem with the Oscars, its a black supremacist problem. Blacks think they are the best at everything. You never see them complain about lack of diversity over all black events, and the all black events are far too numerous to list here. People want to see white actors, go create your own black studios with all black actors and see how little money you will make, have your own black Oscars.

  42. Josh Rook says:

    Bottom line Blacks want Affirmative Action at the Academy , yet they will continue with their Black Groups and Awards

    • naynay says:

      And so will the Hispanics with their Hispanic Groups and Awards. I am waiting for the Asians to follow suit! They are getting pretty tired of the stereotypes that they have been forced to play also!

  43. Gallo says:

    All blacks can move back to Africa, then they won’t have to worry about a diversity problem……

  44. Tracy Green says:

    Actors make nominations for each Oscar category and the body of the Academy, an estimated 6000 people, cast a complex vote for the winners from the nominations. RACISTS NEED TO CHANGE THEIR membership to include Blacks and all minorities in an equal scale to totally represent all races (Black, Latino, Asian and Indian) not 92% white. TO ALWAYS INCLUDE BLACKS AND OTHER MINORITIES IN ALL NOMINATION CATEGORIES, PERIOD or experience the strong voice and repercussions of Blacks (40 Million in US, 900 Million in Africa) and minorities worldwide. Do what is just and right. Do not be racist. Our Black voices will not be silent any longer. We will destroy racism which is a cancer of hate and demonic/satanic.

    • Paul Jacobs says:

      Oh holy sh*t.

    • Julie says:

      Tracy, please explain to me why Black History Month is not racist. Or Indianapolis’ Black Expo. Or the Black Movie Awards. Why is there no White History month? Cause people like you won’t allow it. “White Privilege” you scream. Well, WTF is this “white privilege” you keep jabbering on about? I’ve never had any kind of special treatment. Unlike many blacks I know. For instance…I worked for an airline for a number of years. I had a black written up for sexual harassment. Guess what happened to him? A paper got put in his HR file that was already 3 inches thick (filled with more than my harassment charge) and he was sent back to work without discipline. Another white employee harassed me a while later and, what do you know, he was fired. On the spot. Miss Thing, please please please tell me why this is fair?

      • Willy says:

        Where I live, my community has it’s annual “Black Family Day in the Park”. It would most likely cause death and destruction if someone tried to have a “WHITE Family Day in the Park”

  45. pilgrim says:

    get rid of the oscars?

  46. erichcheung says:

    Awards are irrelevant in theory. But they matter in at least two ways: exposure and financing.

    Therefore, in order to make good movies, filmmakers need both of those things. When awards are disproportionately* given to straight white male movies, it creates an even more unlevel playing field than before.

    * According to this study Page 8, Figure 9), non-white leads make up 10.5% of the total. It seems like statistically, there should be at least two non-white nominees every single year.

  47. ACTION BEYOND WORDS: Billions in lost dollars from selective movie ticket purchases. Not watching the Oscars on TV (cable) and online because the low ratings will be instantly registered. Not attending the Oscar ceremony. Then, how about: The Oscar Micheaux Awards — for diverse film actors, directors, writers, technicians, et cetera of color.

  48. DougW says:

    Really? It’s a “furor” now? I still want to hear who doesn’t deserve his or her Oscar nomination. Especially since almost all film awards, film societies etc pretty much picked these same actor/actresses as the best of 2015.

  49. This is coming from someone who sold BET to White people after he ran it into the ground.. SMH!!

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