Debra Lee
**FILE** Debra Lee (Courtesy of Fortune Live Media via Wikimedia Commons)

Debra Lee, the longtime executive at Black Entertainment Television (BET), announced Thursday she is stepping down as chair and CEO after 30 years with the company.

Lee was a driving force in BET’s move from music-based programming to scripted content and specials, culminating in last year’s “The New Edition Story” miniseries, which set viewing records.

During her tenure, she also oversaw the institution of the network’s award shows “BET Awards,” “Black Girls Rock” and “BET Honors.”

“In 1986 I joined BET Networks to be its very first in-house counsel,” Lee said in a statement. “As a young corporate attorney, I saw my role as the protector of the BET brand and its employees and today, more than 32 years later, I still see myself as the protector and defender of a brand that I have helped to grow as a top destination for audiences across the globe.”

Lee added that she has embraced the BET team as part of her extended family and that she is proud of the legacy of values she has helped to instill at the channel.

“My belief that we can do well and do good has been a guiding principle and one that I hope you will continue after my departure,” she said. “Together, we have built a world-class brand that connects with fans through the power of storytelling and we have attracted and nurtured top talent across the globe.”

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This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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