BET Networks Submits Proposal to NTIA to Expand African American Broadband Access, Usage and Literacy Partnership with the National Urban League, the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, and others aims to close the 'digital divide' among key demographics

WASHINGTON, April 19 /PRNewswire/ -- BET Networks announced today its submission of a proposal to The Department of Commerce's National Telecommunications Information Administration (NTIA) for a grant under the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) which is a part of the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.  BET proposes to increase the adoption of broadband technology amongst African Americans through its National Sustainable Broadband Adoption Project (BETN-NSBAP) which will provide compelling reasons for new households to adopt broadband and will directly address three problems: (1) increasing the awareness of "the promise" of broadband technology; (2) increasing the relevance of broadband technology to marginalized African Americans; and (3) increasing the digital literacy of those who have been "left behind" in as many targeted communities as possible.

(Logo: http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20070716/BETNETWORKSLOGO )

BET's approach for the BETN-NSBAP is to partner with best-in-class organizations to provide specific components to ensure successful execution of the project's purpose in local communities throughout the US. BET's coalition of partners for this proposal includes the National Urban League, the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, HealthCentral, Kaplan Ventures, MedHelp.org, One Economy Corporation, and Tutor.com.

"BET Networks is proud to have the opportunity to create a public-private partnership with such a strong group of organizations on such an important campaign impacting African Americans," said Debra Lee, Chairman and CEO of BET Networks.  "Our proposal clearly communicates a comprehensive plan to increase the adoption of broadband technology among some of the most vulnerable within our community and specifically addresses meaningful opportunities for them in health, education, and employment."

Only 59% of African Americans have adopted broadband in the home compared to 67% of the overall US population (OBI Working Paper Series No.1, FCC, Feb. 2010). That means nearly 16 million of the 39+ million African Americans have not adopted broadband.

Further, the adoption rate for African Americans within specific vulnerable subpopulations is dramatically lower: low income (45%); ages 50+ (36%); and high school dropouts (27%) (Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies Report on National Minority Broadband Adoption, Feb. 2010). Yet it is these communities those that would most benefit from the life-improving features of broadband.

Critically, non-adopting minorities cite lack of interest as the primary reason they do not have broadband (Joint Center). This finding is underscored by the FCC's call for a national outreach and awareness campaign targeted at minorities in its National Broadband Plan released on March 16th.

BET will execute an aggressive 2-year broadband awareness and adoption campaign targeting African Americans using all of the network's media platforms. The media plan will include traditional advertising spots, public service announcements, on-screen graphics, in-show integrations and dedicated TV shows on the BET and Centric cable networks and digital properties. A significant portion of the campaign will incorporate the "I Am Connected" messaging from the National Urban League's 100th anniversary "I Am Empowered" campaign.

BET will deploy a LIFE PORTAL featuring best-in-class broadband applications, information and communities tailored to the specific needs of African Americans. It will focus on three areas of critical need among African Americans:

Health and Wellness: The LIFE PORTAL will provide African Americans with tools, applications, information and communities that will enhance the users' ability to manage and improve their health. BET's e-health offering will include valuable broadband features such as chats with certified medical professionals; communities that provide information, advice and support; and health information management applications targeting conditions disproportionately impacting African Americans.

Education: The LIFE PORTAL will provide broadband education and distance learning applications that will improve educational performance in the African American community. Key offerings will include accredited online classes across the full range of subjects for grades 6–12 and online tutoring services for students in grades 6–12. These broadband applications will allow African Americans, and in particular, the most vulnerable segments of the African American community, to continue and/or complete their education, even if it has been interrupted by life circumstances.

Jobs & Training: As African Americans experience twice the unemployment rates of non-African Americans, the LIFE PORTAL will provide training certifications in high-demand fields, career management applications, and job postings.

The Digital Connectors program will be deployed in targeted Congressional Districts in partnership with National Urban League and One Economy. These programs identify talented youth, immerse them in technology training, and provide them valuable workforce and leadership skills. Using a combination of structured lessons, experiential learning, and on-the-job experiences, the Digital Connectors train and employ young people to promote and support the adoption and use of technology among families and individuals in their communities.

About BET Networks

BET Networks, a division of Viacom Inc. (NYSE: VIA, VIA.B), is the nation's leading provider of entertainment, music, news and public affairs programming for the African-American audience and consumers of Black culture around the world. The primary BET network reaches more than 90 million households in the United States, Canada, and the Caribbean. CENTRIC is a new 24-hour entertainment network targeting African-Americans between the ages of 25-54. BETN maintains the largest collection of digital media properties targeting the African American consumer and includes BET.com, a leading Internet destination for Black entertainment, music, culture, and news; BET Mobile which distributes video content, games, and ringtones to wireless devices; and BET OnDemand which is available in over 20 million households.  BET International is distributed in 53 countries across Europe, Africa, and Asia.

SOURCE BET Networks



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