OnScreen Summit 2011: Cain Interview to Kickoff BET's 2012 Election Coverage

BET will ramp up its coverage of the 2012 Presidential elections with an interview with besieged Republican Presidential Candidate Herman Cain that's expected to air within the week, BET CEO Debra Lee announced Thursday in New York.

Lee, speaking at the OnScreen Media Summit here Thursday afternoon, said Cain approached BET to do the interview. "Herman Cain is someone our audience is interested in and we think that it's important for our audience to hear from both democrats and republicans," said Lee.

Cain, once considered the leading Republican Presidential candidate, has been under scrutiny for alleged inappropriate sexual behavior toward several women. Most recently, Cain has been accused by an Atlanta businesswoman of having a 13-year extramarital affair.

Emmy-Award winning journalist and former KTLA anchor Emmett Miller conducted the interview, which Lee said will air "within the next week or so" but would not give a specific date.

"There'll be questions about his view of being an African American; how he thinks that has impacted the media's coverage of him on other networks; how he thinks that has impacted his campaign; what things are important to him and how does he position himself as an African American Republican to our community," Lee said. "I think the questions will be very different, and from what I hear [from the interview] he has embraced his Blackness, and he has very pointed views about how his politics fit into our community and how he wants to be perceived by the African American community."

The interview is part of BET's coverage of the 2012 elections, which Lee says the network's target 18-54 audience wants to see more of. "We're not a news channel but we do it because our audiences want it from us," Lee said. "Given the last election, which featured the first serious African American candidate for President we spent a lot more time on the campaign following Obama and encouraging people to register to vote. With this election now that we have an African-American president, we'll be even more involved."

On the entertainment side, Lee said the ratings success of its hit series The Game - which garnered 7.7 million viewers in its January 2011 debut - has helped move BET from a niche service to one that appeals to general audiences. "Often times advertisers and cable operators think of BET as a niche network, but I would say The Game [changed that thinking]," she said. "We're a broad targeted network - we focus on African-American programming but we want all people to come and watch. If we provide our audience with high quality original programming, they will come and so will others."

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.