INDUSTRY 101: BET's Steven Hill

posted June 01, 2004 12:00:00 AM CDT | 0 comments

Who would ever believe that a former high school teacher would be running Programming for Black Entertainment Television? Yes, you read correctly Stephen Hill, aka the taxi cab hailer, the LL Cold Cut Chili Cheese Whiz was a former high school teacher, and this is his story.

Hill grew up on the tough streets of Southeast, Washington, DC. Ever since he could remember he has always had a special relationship with music. As a young child, Hill and his close-and-play record player and portable cassette player were inseparable. Hill credits much of his success to his childhood passion of announcing various songs that he kept on his tape player.

When someone attends the Groton School and then Brown University graduating with a degree in mathematics and applied economics...many would expect that person to become a captain of industry or dedicated to academia or politics...But, not BET's Steven Hill, who is currently Senior Vice President of Music Programming...for Hill straying off the easy path has become a trademark.

"I've always loved of music," Says Hill "I grew up in Washington, DC and my.dad used to take me down to the record shops and we would listen and talk about music. He inspired my love of all things musical...especially Black and Urban music. I learned that it is always changing and evolving with the times...and the heartbeat of Black music...be it Gospel, Soul, R&B, Jazz, Hip Hop or Pop, it all begins in the streets."

Following his muse, Hill attended Brown University, where he studied economics by day and Deejaying by night. "I love math and I love music. I became a DJ and Programming Director for the school station and during the weekdays we played Rock and Pop hits." Remembers Hill. "But, on the weekends we jammed the '360 Degrees of the Black Experience in Sound'. I really loved working for the radio station...it excited me, but I didn't think that I would be actually be paid to have fun...so, in my graduate year I heard that a teacher was leaving my old alma mater at Groton School for Boys...so, I decided to become a teacher...for personal reasons. There weren't many Blacks there at Grotonespecially alumni who were also teachers, so I thought that I would set an example."

After teaching at Groton for a couple of years Hill found out about a vice president of programming position opening with BET. He applied, interviewed and was hired and has been with BET 5 of it's 24 years.

"When I came to BET it was to build a team and have fun." Says Hill "But as VP of programming, I became responsible for what the world sees on BET...my vision is simple. BET is and will remain the primary source of information and entertainment for Black Americans. We will always be focused on our audience, after all we are called 'Black Entertainment Television'. BET is no longer just about videos...we hope others will come on board with news, open mikes, voter registration campaigns and new programs like 'College Hill' that show Black College life how it really is."

But, there are those out there who feel that BET is just out to promote the "booty-popping" videos and promote the darker side of Hip Hop. "Those are people who don't watch BET..." Replies Hill. "There are video programs such as 'Uncut' where we show adults only videos as the artists wished for the videos to be shown...but, 'Uncut' is broadcasted at about 3 in the morning. Plus, we run a disclaimer before the videos air AND if kids up watching TV at 3 in the morning...BET isn't their main problem."

Usually it's not until an artist or act "of color" does something then the FCC really wants to react according to Hill. "I mean really...'B.J.N.' (Before Janet's Nipple), we have seen hundred of pixalated nude bodies on almost every channel on a daily basis. From Survivor to MTV's Real World...sex has sold. But, now everyone acts as if nudity is a shock and being real means covering up life."

When asked if he thought that this is what he would be doing after graduating with a degree in applied economics, Hill laughs and says 'No, not really...I'm 42 now and being around celebrities and parties is a big perk and perks are nice to have in a gig nowadays. But, working for BET has been more than a job...it's a daily experience of challenges. And for those who wonder how you get a job like mine, I can only say that it is a combination of three things...education, hard work and luck. If, you lock in on the first two...the third...Luck won't be so rare in your life. It's the 21st Century and all things are possible for those who are on the move and have confidence in themselves...it's just that simple."

Steven Hill, has become "The Man" to see at BET. Not only does he give the yea or nea on who gets airplay. But, he also is developing new programs aimed at Black Americans like the new BET reality hit "College Hill". Be on the look out for bigger and better things from Hill and BET this summer starting with the BET Music Awards in June.

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