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CBS Is a Good Citizen, Says Its Own Report

10/05/2003 08:00:00 PM Eastern

CBS Television was showing off its good actors last week, and it didn't mean Joe Mantegna and Mary Steenburgen. The network released a 44-page "Social Responsibility Report" detailing the public-service and diversity initiatives of its various divisions.

CBS Chairman and CEO Leslie Moonves said in the forward: "We at CBS make every effort to be responsible citizens of our nation and our communities. … In this report we hope you will find that CBS has been vigilant, attentive, responsive and dedicated to achieving those goals."

The report came a day after FCC Chairman Michael Powell announced the agency will go on the road with a series of public hearings on how well local broadcasters were meeting diversity and public service commitments (see page 1). But the network says the timing was entirely serendipitous.

"This document has been in the works for quite some time and may be responsive to the chairman's concerns, but it was by no means initiated by it," said CBS spokesman Dana McClintock.

The timing may have been an accidental, but the report is clearly intended to win friends and influence critics. It is being sent to civic and ethnic groups, including some that have been critical of network diversity efforts. Capitol Hill would also appear a likely target. The report was not pushed to policymakers last week, said McClintock, but he would not rule that out.

The report outlines efforts across the company, including community-service campaigns and projects at the 39 Viacom TV stations, from broadcasting parades and public-service programs to food drives and telethons.

It also points to efforts at CBS Entertainment, News and Sports and at co-owned UPN. Those include $175 million in contributions to the Quetzal minority investment fund dating back to 1999; $211,961,863 worth of network PSAs; closed-captioning and video description; and talent showcases for Latino Americans, Native Americans and African-Americans.

While touting its diversity efforts, the network also emphasized the "broad" in its basic mission: "As broadcasters, we by definition do not cater to niche audiences or special groups. Our product is offered to everyone, from Miami to Spokane, from Presque Isle to San Diego."

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