NAACP sees little diversity progress

Threatens economic boycott against one of the Big Four, and signs point to ABC

Once again, the NAACP has said it is not pleased by the Big Four networks' diversity progress and threatened economic and advertiser boycotts against one of them, probably ABC.

Network executives signed ground-breaking diversity initiatives in 1999, after pressure from the NAACP and others. But NAACP President Kweisi Mfume says some of the networks have moved at a "snail's pace" since then.

Mfume singled out ABC for its lack of commitment and said, "It appears increasingly likely that the NAACP may vote soon to employ a massive, targeted and sustained economic boycott aimed at one of the four major networks and its major advertisers. We envision that such a boycott would last indefinitely, particularly during sweeps periods."

Mfume added that the NAACP may pursue a class-action lawsuit against the networks if more is not done to bring diversity to their executive ranks.

Under the guidance of ABC President Alex Wallau, who has met frequently with Latino, Asian-American, Native American and NAACP representatives over the past few months, the network believes it has made some progress.

In May, leaders of the Multiethnic Coalition handed out letter grades for each of the network's planned fall schedules, giving its lowest grade (D-) to ABC. Since then. the network has announced a number of new diversity initiatives, including The Casting Project, aimed at increasing the diversity of the talent pool at the network. Late last week, ABC announced that it is a developing a sitcom with Latino comedian George Lopez, and Mfume also recognized ABC's efforts. A network spokeswoman said, "We are pleased that the NAACP has acknowledged that ABC has taken notable steps, which indicates that the network's commitment to the issue has turned in the right direction."

In July, Mfume taped a talk-show pilot that may be syndicated by NBC. But, in a Los Angeles Times
story, he denied that his hard line on ABC is a conflict of interest. Indeed, Mfume also said NBC had made "little or no progress" on diversity issues.