Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Communication Studies


Communication Studies

First Reader/Committee Chair

Fong, Mary


This paper explores the general attitudes of African Americans towards the programming disseminated on the BET network past and present (pre-Viacom/post-Viacom). The mass media company Viacom acquired BET from African American founder Robert L. Johnson in 1980. BET under Johnson took pride in its ability to provide sophisticated, value-driven, and positive programming for African Americans. This study looks to see if the cultural values at BET have changed via its programming since Viacom’s purchase. This study utilized social media to survey 100 participants who were born prior to 1984 who identify as African American or mixed African American and are familiar with BET. This paper uses social identity theory to examine the attitudes that the African American participants hold towards BET as they use their value-set to negotiate their social identity via their attitudes with the content shown on BET. This research reveals the importance of viewing cultures as heterogeneous as well as the importance of cultural groups such as African Americans controlling the dissemination of their own cultural messages and images. A paired T-test analysis revealed statistically a significant difference of participant attitudes of BET in the past (1980-1999) and the present (2000-2015). The participants therefore rated BET higher on the average in the past when BET was black owned (pre-Viacom), as opposed to the present now that BET is white owned (post-Viacom).