Contributions and all that good stuff aside, it has been [for lack of a better term] perplexing the opportunistic journey upon which the producers of OWN have been since its inception back on January 1st, 2011. From the lackluster shows and ratings, to the network only being available on premium cable, to the saturation of self-help topics, which were dare I say it “stuffy” and veered off the beaten path of what we had become accustomed to seeing from the often boisterous, never really subdued O.
What irks me most about OWN’s descent into a place of near extinction are the mechanisms that are being used to salvage it, which by the way they’ve achieved this year by witnessing its viewership increase by 25% in recent months. But should African-American popular culture be attributed for the network’s steady ascent back into the limelight?
Let us just have a quick flashback, shall we? When Whitney Houston passed on back in February, the O landed herself in the coveted position of being the first journalist to interview Whitney’s family to unveil just how they had been coping with the untimely passing of a beloved sister, mother, friend, mentor and legend to many. Subsequent to the Houston interview that attracted the network’s highest ratings to date – an impressive 3.5 million, the O has ventured out some more to interview the likes of Rapper Fifty Cent, Singer Rihanna, and more recently Olympic Gold Medalist Gabby Douglas, with Rihanna raking in the network’s second highest ratings to date with 2.5 million viewers. It’s all fine and dandy that the OWN network has added all of these interviews their roster. However, the question to ask is: Are these interviews being conducted solely for the purpose of gaining viewers for her network or is OWN genuinely interested in so doing?
Many may recall a time back in the days of the Oprah Winfrey Show when the media mogul came under fire for refusing to allow rappers onto her show – claiming that she was against all of the misogyny and harsh lyrics that rappers often espouse in their songs. Fair enough. The O was entitled to her opinion. Though rappers, namely Ice Cube came out against the O by hinting at the irrationality behind allowing murderers and rapists onto her show, while refusing to entertain rappers in her studio. The O’s decision to ban rappers appeared to have been set in stone. Who would have thought that the O would later revoke her own decision by inviting rapper Fifty Cent onto her new network for an interview? If that ain’t opportunism at its finest then I don’t know what to call it.
While I have never considered the O to be a spokesperson for Black America, nor do I believe that she should be, my greatest concern is that she and her predominantly White, middle class production team have – by all accounts – begun to tap into a market that was previously deemed unpalatable to them. Be things as they may, it just does not sit well with me that what was useless before has all of a sudden become useful to OWN because their agenda is now fixated on a ratings increase.
What are your thoughts? Do you think OWN is being opportunistic with their journalistic prospects?
Nikki is an educator and writer, whose musings cover a broad range of topics including but, not limited to: politics, love, education and cultural criticism. You can follow her on Twitter @artculturemusic