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Michael Jackson-themed BET Awards draws record audience

June 29, 2009 |  4:46 pm

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Sunday’s BET Awards, hastily transformed from a regularly scheduled presentation to a tribute to Michael Jackson three days after his unexpected death, may turn out to be the highest-rated broadcast in the 27-year history of the black  oriented cable network. Yet, the show also provoked scathing reaction from bloggers and viewers who found some elements of the show, along with host Jamie Foxx’s constant self-promotion of his album and upcoming tour, distasteful and offensive.

The live broadcast, which was hosted by Foxx, drew about 10.2 million viewers, a 61% increase over its audience last year, according to Nielsen Media Research. An estimated 10% of televisions that were on at that time were tuned in to the ceremony, which Nielsen said was an unusually high number for a cable network. The ceremony featured several salutes to Jackson by Foxx, Ne-Yo and others. Highlighting the show was the first public appearance since Jackson’s death of his sister Janet, who walked on stage near the end of the show and emotionally thanked fans for their condolences and support. She was not joined on stage by her father Joe Jackson, who was in the audience at the Shrine Auditorium.

Despite the salutes by participants, many viewers and bloggers said they were offended by elements of the show, taking special aim at Foxx, who performed three numbers, hyped his tour and participated in a filmed sketch with Martin Lawrence. Tazz Anderson of TazzDaddy.com called the show “the swine flu of awards ceremonies.” Toyas-World.net said the show was a “terrible tribute.” BET executives could not be reached for comment.

— Greg Braxton

Photo: New Edition opens the BET Awards, Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times

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