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In the first sweeping move since its purchase of Black Entertainment
Television in November, Viacom Inc. fired about 40 to 50 employees from the
African-American-targeted network late last week.

BET officials would not confirm the numbers, but they did say the move was
part of a 'work-force reduction. In an examination of strategic efficiencies, we
found some issues on the staffing front that needed to be addressed,' vice
president of corporate communications Michael Lewellen said.

'This can be a normal course of business, even when things are going well,'
he added.

Many of the dismissals came from the network's Washington, D.C.,
headquarters, but several also came out of its New York and Los Angeles
offices.

Most of the dismissed employees came out of the affiliate-marketing,
administration and public-relations departments, but BET officials said the move
was spread across other departments, as well.

Lewellen added that the company doesn't anticipate any more layoffs in the
future.

Viacom purchased BET in November for $3 billion.

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.