Benny and Rafi Fine, the two creators behind the FBE (Fine Brothers entertainment) brand have come back into the spotlight today a year after they stepped back from FBE after former employees publicly accused them of racism and a “toxic” working environment.
In an investigative article by Insider, 26 former employees spoke out about their experiences working for FBE. The company’s former head of casting, Steve Caustey, revealed that the Fine brothers used a three-tier system to rank their “reactors”, and demanded that at least 33% of the people in their “react” videos involved people in the top tier before an episode could be made.
Causey told Insider that there were “more white people at the top” of the tier, which meant that episodes ended up being predominately white.
He said in an interview with them: “It was noticeable, but I don’t think it was intentional. I feel like it might’ve started as unconscious bias, but after a time enough people brought it up that it should have been addressed.”
A former researcher told Insider that FBE staff “profit from the idea that they’re diverse without valuing it authentically. They try to capitalize and commercialize on it as much as they can.”
FBE’s lawyers said to Insider that race wasn’t a factor in decisions such as tiers and video thumbnails, with a spokesperson adding that the Fine brothers “have always endeavored to feature a majority of underrepresented voices in FBE’s content.”
What happened with FBE last year?
In June 2020, a video resurfaced of a comedy sketch Benny Fine did with fellow YouTuber Shane Dawson, wherein Benny was wearing blackface. The footage went viral and led to the two founders receiving extreme backlash.
High profile members of their ‘React’ series, such as Kennedy Zimet, made the decision to leave the channel after the footage went viral, with Zimet saying in a statement shared to Twitter that they felt “blindsided and flat out used, especially since they have not owned up to their actions by apologizing publicly or to their black cast members.”
This led to Mark Plier, who claimed to be a former producer for FBE, to claim on Twitter that the Fine brothers “wanted to benefit from the “diversity” but not benefit diversity”, alleging that YouTube video thumbnails with more than one BAME person were frequently turned down by the pair.
He also claimed that they “would frequently ask for the person of color to be on the right of the thumbnail and not the left, our only conclusion as to why that would be is the left person is the first one you’d see and thus the first impression.”
In further Tweets, Plier alleged that “the culture was so entrenched and they were so unwilling to hear our demands for changes that employee turnover became larger than the company’s actual size in just the 3 years I was there.”
The brothers released a statement apologizing for their “terrible errors of judgment” and ultimately decided to take a step back from the FBE company following the backlash.