The Oprah Winfrey Show is in its 25th and final season. On January 1st, 2011, the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) was launched on cable television. Like any new 24 hour television network there are challenges. Newsweek ran article in its February7th edition titled, “Is Oprah’s Network Too White?” The article speaks to the concerns expressed by some African-Americans about the lack of diversity on the Oprah Winfrey Network.
By close observation of the hosts on Oprah’s network, there is one African-American (Gayle King), an Asian-American (Lisa Ling), a Turkish-American (Dr. Mehmet Oz), and an abundance of Caucasian hosts which include and are not limited to Dr. Phil McGraw, Suze Orman, Peter Walsh, Dr. Laura Berman and Cristina Ferrare. Is Oprah’s OWN not black enough?
The Newsweek article noted the drop in OWN’s viewership after the premiere week from 1.1 million viewers to 287,000 in recent weeks. As recently as May 6th, the CEO of OWN was fired because of the network’s dismal ratings in its four months of existence. According to news reports, the channel has been a letdown for the Discovery network. After Discovery invested about 100 million into the channel, there is an expectation that the network would re-evaluate its strategy. Women in the mid 20s to 30s seem to have lost interest in the network.
In contrast to BET’s The Game which netted 7.3 million viewers, the article begged the question as to whether OWN has failed to reach out to the African-American demographic. Some African Americans, according to the article seem to adopt the view that the network should produce more shows that will appeal to all Americans. On the other hand, the article asks the question “Is it fair to hold Oprah to the responsibility of diversifying television and the media?” Can Oprah do more to diversify the media?
It is a serious feat for Miss Winfrey to embark on this new journey and she should be applauded. In this celebrity-driven society, there are so many expectations laid at the feet of the famous person. Celebrities are viewed as superhuman because of their towering influence on everything that moves in the universe. My mind is drawn to the vast array of expectations that were placed on the shoulders of our first African-American President Barack Obama. That is a psychological process which seems to be inculcated in our minds from the moment we attach ourselves to someone graced with celebrity status.
Any avid viewer of The Oprah Winfrey Show would have realized by now that Oprah addresses issues that affect every strata of society. There have been many episodes that address matters pertaining to race, sexual orientation, religious persuasions and politics. The problem is that some persons think that she is not being true to her ethnicity. For some people she is just not black enough.
Why is there an onus placed on OWN to bridge the racial gap? It seems rather unfair when there is an obvious dearth of shows on the Big Three (ABC, CBS and NBC) which appeal to the African-American, Hispanic and Asian and Native-American communities. When will we see a person of color taking the lead on shows such as The Bachelor and The Bachelorette show on the Big Three networks? Why not appeal to those media outlets instead of turning the focus to a blossoming network? Diversifying the media cannot be the responsibility of one person. It is incumbent upon all who have power and influence in the media to allow for the fair distribution of diversity in entertainment.
Do you believe that this expectation of media diversity at Oprah’s OWN network is fair? What do you think should be done to make the entire media diverse?