Peacock network embraces color

Diversity: NBC plans to increase minority representation both in front of and behind its television cameras.

January 09, 2000

ON WEDNESDAY, the NAACP and NBC unveiled an agreement to open more jobs at the network to minority writers, producers, directors and contractors. The agreement came after Kweisi Mfume, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, threatened a minority boycott of the four major networks because their fall lineup included 26 shows without a minority performer in a leading role.

NBC was the first network to announce a deal with the NAACP and on Friday ABC became the second. Fox and CBS are expected unveil similar agreements this week.

NBC's agreement does not set quotas, but it does call for the following:

By March 1, NBC will establish a minority recruitment and training program, working with the NAACP, educational institutions and community organizations.

An associate program will be created to establish 25 yearlong training assignments within the news, entertainment, sports and stations divisions for minority professionals. The program will aim to prepare these individuals for professional positions in the media.

The network will ensure that a substantial number of the approximately 90 individuals who serve as NBC pages each year will be minorities. It also will provide six NBC Minority Fellowship scholarships for graduate studies in broadcasting, communications and business; and will turn to minority-journalist organizations (African-American, Hispanic, Asian and Native American) to identify job candidates.

NBC will use local job fairs, working with local colleges and organizations, to identify minority candidates for positions; and will increase the number of its relationships with urban universities to bring candidates into NBC internship programs.

The network says achieving diversity goals will be a key measurement of employees' compensation reviews. It also says four prominent business executives who are minority members will serve on NBC's board.

And, effective immediately, NBC will strive to increase NBC's deals with African-American and other minority-owned production companies, and will conduct reviews to ensure that such deals are commensurate with compensation levels in the marketplace.

Here is an abridged version of the transcript of Wednesday's announcement featuring comments by Bob Wright, NBC's President and CEO, and Mfume.

Voice for change

WRIGHT: For more than 90 years, the NAACP has been a powerful voice for change and an unceasing advocate for political, economic and social equality for people of color.

The recent efforts to increase diversity in network television represent another long line of struggles to open up the doors of opportunity and to unleash the potential of every American, regardless of color.

At NBC, we have a track record we are proud of on the issue of diversity.

In recent years, prime-time shows such as "Homicide: Life on the Street," "ER," the Hispanic Heritage Awards and one of our new shows this season, "Third Watch," are helping NBC continue its legacy of creating strong minority roles in our programs.

Today, more than one in five NBC employees are minorities, and more than 40 percent are women. While we are proud of the progress that these figures represent, NBC has come to realize that we can and must do more. Kweisi, the NAACP and a coalition of minority organizations have pushed us to do better .

NBC has devised a series of aggressive initiatives that, I believe, will effectively widen the pipeline of talent and raise greater awareness about diversity. In February, NBC will host a seminar that emphasizes our desires to achieve diversity in all areas of writing, directing and casting and all levels of production on network series. In addition, NBC will begin funding an additional writing position on the staff of every second-year show to help create more diverse writing teams.

And NBC will be issuing instructions to network creative executives, production studios and executive producers that NBC does not and will not participate in the practice of racially identifying directors, writing trainees or writing samples for network television series.

On a corporate level, NBC is undertaking a number of initiatives to cultivate the next generation of diverse professionals in the broadcast and media business. In the past, our news associates program has been one of NBC's most successful tools for minority recruiting. News associates work on NBC shows such as "Dateline" and the "Today" show, and more than 85 percent of the program's alumni end up staying with the network. This year, we will be expanding the program to include entertainment, sports and stations divisions, and establish 25 yearlong training assignments for these new employees.

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