An executive from BET says that denying credentials for famed Black photographer Bill Jones to cover the 2014 BET Awards was “an oversight on [their] part.” The network, MadameNoire was told, did all it could to give access to the many members of the media who tried to cover a crowded red carpet at this year’s event.
In an exclusive story published on The Huffington Post, Tanya Young Williams says “[i]t was terribly disappointing to learn that BET snubbed one of the most respected photographers in the business, and quite possibly the oldest Black photographer still working Hollywood’s red carpets.” Jones has photographed Muhammad Ali, Bill Cosby, Whitney Houston and countless others. His work has appeared in Ebony and Jet among many notable media outlets.
But he and a number of other outlets were denied credentials to cover this year’s BET Awards red carpet, which took place on June 29. And there are some who think that Black media outlets were disproportionately excluded. (MadameNoire’s fellow website Hip Hop Wired was denied coverage.) Speaking with Williams for a separate media outlet, Jones said, “I think there’s a problem when one of the largest networks, catering to African Americans, doesn’t show Black press the respect and dignity it deserves in doing its job effectively.”
Tracy McGraw, senior VP of communications at BET Networks, said that this year, there were fewer than 220 people (not outlets, but individuals) that could be accommodated on the red carpet, half the number from previous years. McGraw offered us a snapshot of the outlets that were credentialed, which included everything from Rolling Out to Vogue UK to AOL Black Voices to UPSCALE and Reuters. McGraw called the media list “perfectly balanced.”
“There were over 1,000 people that applied for credentials. There is an entire process,” said McGraw.
This year, the BET Awards were bigger than ever with 7.9 million viewers tuning in and 11 million tweets.
The network, according to McGraw, tries to make arrangements for those who don’t make it on to the red carpet to cover The BET Experience or some other aspect of the awards presentation.
“It’s a matter of spacing,” McGraw continued. “We try to accommodate everyone, to be frank.”
McGraw provided us with the instructions for applying for credentials, which states in part:
We receive such a high-volume of coverage requests and cannot guarantee that we will be able to accommodate everyone. We encourage you to submit appropriate materials supporting your outlet including your unique page views, target audience, and previous coverage of BET events. Once your application is submitted, you may be asked to provide additional or clarifying information.
McGraw says she’s spoken with a number of outlets that were upset about the credentials they did or did not receive, and told us that she has since spoken with Jones — “He’s always welcome on our carpets,” she said — and Williams.
“I’m open to conversation,” said McGraw.