BET loses out on anti-drug money

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The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, abandoning efforts to reach agreement with cable network BET on a new pact for anti-drug ads, reallocated its $800,000 BET buy mostly to two TV program syndicators.

Black Pearl Entertainment, which syndicates several programs in a joint venture with WB Network and Time Warner, and the African Heritage Network last week received much of the anti-drug ad money initially headed for BET.

The $800,000 was originally supposed to fund a year of BET ads, but instead will support six months of ads in programming from the two syndicators.

REFUSAL TO PARTICIPATE

BET has refused to participate in the anti-drug program unless the buy for its TV network and associated magazine properties was raised from last year's $750,000 to $5 million (AA, Jan. 17).

"You snubbed your nose toward us with tokenism," Louis Carr, BET exec VP-broadcast media sales, wrote in a letter to the White House anti-drug office early this year, complaining that African-American media weren't getting enough of the anti-drug money. He noted that Hispanic networks were getting higher spending.

The drug office at the time said the $5 million in spending BET sought would have given it more money than MTV, and that the network's efficiency in reaching African-Americans didn't warrant that much additional spending.

Michael Johnson, associate media director of Muse Cordera Chen & Partners, Los Angeles, which buys minority media for the drug office, said the two syndicators "are a viable alternative to BET."

EXTENDING PENETRATION

Noting that BET is a cable buy while the two syndicators represent broadcast TV, Mr. Johnson said the buy "can extend our penetration into the community."

Mr. Carr last week said that BET supports the objective of reducing drug abuse and will continue its programming efforts aimed at that goal, as it has been doing since before the White House program existed. But he still feels the office's BET allocation wasn't "adequate or sufficient enough commitment to the network and the community that we serve."

He called BET the network with "the most credible and the strongest emotional relationship with the community."

Since September, when BET and the drug office began sparring, the drug office has made no TV buys specifically aimed at African-Americans. The drug office spends $25 million of its total $152 million annual media budget specifically toward minorities, but also weights its main ad program handled by Ogilvy & Mather, New York, toward minorities.

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