BET Cuts Music Jobs, Plans Expanded Fall Lineup

Despite 50 layoffs, cable network adds new shows.

Black Entertainment Television has laid off 50 employees in relocating its music programs from Washington, D.C., to New York, even though the network plans an expanded fall lineup.

Some layoffs were the result of analog technicians losing their jobs because of the station going digital, according to Michael Lewellen, vice president of corporate communications.

"Being in New York, we'll have more production done by contract," Lewellen said. "At the same time, we are staffing up a full news production team in Washington, for BET News, and some of [those who were laid off] will be eligible for new positions," he added.

The network's transfer to New York also will make it easier to book performers on its programs, BET Chief Operating Officer Debra Lee said in May, when the company announced its planned move.

"We put BET right in the center of the music universe," Lee said.

The cable network programs shows for the black community. The entertainment division is centered in Los Angeles, the music division will be in New York and the new project, BET News, will be headquartered in Washington, where the corporate offices will remain.

Three new music-oriented shows are planned for the fall season, according to Lewellen. "AM at BET" is a morning show, while "BET Live in New York" and "106th and Park" (the location of the new studios) will feature appearances and performances by R&B and rap musicians. More information on the new shows will be made available later in the summer, Lewellen said.

"Rap City," which features such popular artists as 504 Boyz and Dr. Dre, will continue, as will the video show "Jam Zone." The latter show, which features such hits as Aaliyah's "Try Again" (RealAudio excerpt), will be renamed "Cita's World," after the animated character who hosts the show. "Hits: From the Street" also will continue, though it will continue to be produced in Washington, rather than New York.