- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 12, 2007

LOS ANGELES

At least two companies have pulled ads from the debut of BET’s “Hot Ghetto Mess,” a series that critics say puts black stereotypes on display but the channel calls “a blend of tough love and social commentary.”

State Farm Insurance and Home Depot asked BET to drop their ads from the series that debuts July 25, trade publication the Hollywood Reporter said Tuesday.

Viacom Corp.-owned BET confirmed that sponsors asked to be removed from the show but declined to specify the companies involved.

Other advertisers remain in place, and there are no plans to change the series at this point, the cable channel said.

“Hot Ghetto Mess,” also called “HGM,” combines viewer-submitted home videos and BET-produced man-on-the-street interviews that the channel said in a release are intended to challenge and inspire “viewers to improve themselves and their communities.”

“Is my goal to discuss these issues in a format and context that makes people who don’t watch the channel comfortable or do it in a way that engages the 18- to 34-year-old viewer and makes them really think about these things?” Reginald Hudlin, BET entertainment president, rhetorically asked the Hollywood Reporter.

The six-episode series is hosted by comedian Charlie Murphy (“Chappelle’s Show”). It’s based on a Web site that features photos of men and women, mostly black, with extreme hairstyles and clothing typically linked to hip-hop fashion.

Hotghettomess.com was created by Jam Donaldson, 34, a black lawyer who’s also an executive producer on the BET show, the Hollywood Reporter said. On the site, Mr. Donaldson calls for a “new era of self-examination.”

On TV, “Hot Ghetto Mess” includes people of all ethnicities, a network spokeswoman said.

But the show and the Web site have drawn accusations of being demeaning to blacks from a number of critics including What About Our Daughters? (whataboutourdaughters.blogspot.com), a blog and audio podcast that focuses on how black women are depicted in popular culture.

The blog called for advertisers featured on a BET Web page promoting “Hot Ghetto Mess” to withdraw support of BET and its properties, and said it would complain to companies that sponsor the series.

“This is just a latest in a prolonged and consistent pattern of BET profiting off of promoting images that malign and degrade African Americans,” a posting on What About Our Daughters? said of “Hot Ghetto Mess.”