Networks flunk diversity goals

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Minority leaders say there were unimpressed by efforts from the major
broadcast networks to improve diversity on and behind the screen and are once
again threatening boycotts for the fall.

Leaders of the Multiethnic Coalition, which reached unprecedented diversity
agreements with ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox a year ago, held a press conference in Los
Angeles Thursday-where they handed out letter grades for each network's planned
fall schedules and said the Big Four are 'failing' to make good on their
promises.

ABC received the lowest grade from Latino, Asian American and American Indian
organizations-a D-. CBS was given a D+, Fox a C- and NBC the top grade among the
Big Four with a C.

'This is not good news, we would have hoped by this time to have upgraded the
performances of the networks simply because of the discussions that we have been
having, because of the memorandums of understanding that we signed,' says
Esteban Torres of the National Latino Media Council.

'However something doesn't seem to be moving. We are moving and they are not.
This is going to require some action.' The Coalition says they may take legal
action or pursue boycotts against the networks or advertisers in the fall.

The NAACP did not participate in the press conference, but the organization's
President Kweisi Mfume released a statement backing the Coalition's efforts.
Mfume said, 'We remain very committed to increasing both diversity and
opportunities in network television. At our July national convention, we will
release a detailed assessment that takes a broad look at every aspect of the
television industry.'

Actor Bill Cosby and attorney Johnny Cochran also participated in the press
conference.

CBS put out a press release Thursday claiming that the network has 'nearly
doubled' its primetime diversity in the last two years. 'We are proud of our
early achievements in presenting diversity on CBS,' says Josie Thomas, CBS's
Senior Vice President of Diversity.

An ABC spokeswoman said, "We are disappointed that the Coalition has misrepresented ABC's record. Our record for the season of 2001-2002 reflects a 47% change in on-air diversity for African Americans and a 57% change in Hispanics. Furthermore ABC strongly believes that its ethnically diverse lead characters should be portrayed as positive role models, we consider that critical towards promoting true diversity and we are proud to have shows that reflect that." The ABC spokeswoman also said the network will be adding more minorities in a number of its new shows debuting in the fall.

In a statement, NBC said, "We are very pleased that every one of the new shows on NBC this fall has minority representation. This is one sign of our measurable progress and we intend to build upon this as we move forward. In addition, we have implemented several programs designed to give minorities the experience needed to obtain meaningful careers in the industry, both on-air and behind the scenes."

Fox responded with a statement of their own, saying, "The Fox Broadcasting Co. is proud of the significant strides we have made in diversity both in front and behind the cameras in the past several months. Many of our series feature people of color in prominent roles."
- Joe Schlosser

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