NAACP to give networks diversity goals, deadlines

Mfume to hold hearings this month, could call boycott during Feb. sweeps

November 04, 1999|By Erin Texeira | Erin Texeira,SUN STAFF

The NAACP is demanding that the four major television networks meet diversity hiring and business goals by year's end and has threatened to boycott at least one network during February sweeps if the goals are not met.

At a news conference in New York yesterday, NAACP President Kweisi Mfume also announced that he will hold hearings on the issue in Los Angeles later this month.

Mfume said that on Monday he will give the networks "a set of verifiable goals and timetables that, if adhered to, will significantly enhance equality of opportunities for people of color in the areas of executive, production and talent ranks."

He added, "We have found no evidence to date that suggests that the networks have any such goals and timetables in place themselves."

If no movement is evident, Mfume said, he is prepared to call a national boycott of FOX, ABC, CBS or NBC.

Network executives declined to respond specifically to Mfume's comments yesterday, but each stressed their commitment to diversity.

At CBS, "we recognize there is more work to be done," said Dana McClintock, a spokesman for the network. "We believe we have been responsive to the NAACP, and we are open to further dialogue."

A spokesman for ABC said, "ABC takes the issue of diversity seriously and it is something we are committed to addressing. We will continue to exchange points of view and work with the NAACP and others as part of this process."

The spokesman said he could not comment further because the NAACP has not presented its specific diversity goals.

John C. White, spokesman for the Baltimore-based National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, declined to detail the goals, but said, "We're not asking for quotas. We're just asking for some movement.

"If they came up and said, `This is our goal to increase the number of minorities we have working as writers, producers and directors,' or `Our goal is to do X number of dollars in business with minority vendors,' that would be one thing. We just want to see some good- faith effort toward a plan."

White said the networks have had months to begin increasing diversity in their ranks but have largely failed.

In July, at its national convention, the NAACP lambasted the networks for excluding minority characters in new fall television shows. Mfume called it "a virtual whitewash."

Since then, Mfume has met with each of the networks in sessions that "were characterized as being good," White said. "All four networks admitted they have a problem and intend to do something about it, but nothing in hard, concrete results came of it."

Each network has also sent information regarding minority employees, but it has been vague, he said. "Nothing in the detail that we wanted on hiring, procurement and businesses practices with minority vendors," White said. "ABC seemed to be the most cooperative in terms of trying to supply data."

Mfume also has requested the support of more than 75 national organizations in connection with the possible boycott, including the National Bar Association, the National Urban League and several African-American fraternities and sororities.

On Nov. 29, Mfume will hold hearings on the issue in Los Angeles, he said.

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